Lyle, Hilliard

Rank: Major
Branch: Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry

Hilliard was born in Allenford, Ontario on December 21, 1879. He graduated from Northern Business College in Owen Sound, then went west. Hilliard joined the Lord Strathcona’s Horse during the Boer War, and later served in one of the Mexican wars. In 1904, he won an Olympic gold medal in lacrosse in St. Louis, Missouri. Hilliard married Mary Alberta Coates on December 4, 1907 in Winnipeg. They had a son named Hilliard, born September 5, 1908 in Chicago.

Hilliard joined the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in December of 1914; Mary and Hilliard Jr. were living in Vancouver at the time. Hilliard suffered from shrapnel wounds to the back in 1915. After being wounded, he went to Pittsburgh as an instructor. He later returned to England and joined the intelligence department of the Imperial Army, and served with distinction on the Italian front. Hilliard was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in June of 1917.

After the war, Hilliard went to Owen Sound; he was well-versed in political and economic affairs, and was very charming. He once again went west for a short time, then came back to Ontario. It was well known that Hilliard was in financial straits (and in debt to some of his close friends), and that he had a drinking problem.

On June 29, 1929, Hilliard married Gertrude Tennyson Sloane at her sister’s house in Owen Sound. Gertrude had not informed her friends of the marriage and the intended move to Beaverlodge, and had apparently been advised against marrying Hilliard. Gertrude had a three daughters from her first marriage; Wilhelmina, the eldest, was at college in the United States, but the younger two, Helen and Colles, lived with their mother and stepfather. Soon after the wedding, the Lyles moved to Beaverlodge where Hilliard filed on NE 1-69-13-W6 and SE 12-69-13-W6; however, he canceled both homesteads and instead bought a business in Beaverlodge, likely with his wife’s money.

On May 21, 1931 Hilliard shot his wife and then himself in their home in Beaverlodge. Due to domestic issues, Hilliard had been living in a Beaverlodge hotel for almost a month prior to the murder. It is also noted that “as a result of financial offsets caused by extensive credit, Colonel Lyle had been ousted from the managership of the Beaverlodge store” before this time.

A May 25, 1931 report says that Helen (19) was present when her mother was murdered. She was upstairs when she heard her mother and stepfather loudly discussing financial matters and heard something about a gun. She went downstairs and heard him say, “I want some answers to the questions I am going to ask, and if you don’t give them I’m going to shoot.” Gertrude responded, “I’m not afraid of a gun.” She attempted to grasp the .32 calibre rifle (borrowed from a friend) from Hilliard’s hand, who threatened to shoot her if she took a step closer. She ran toward him anyway, and he turned and shot Gertrude in the chest just as Helen reached him. A struggle ensued, and eventually Helen shoved him down the stairs, then slammed the door to the basement and bolted it shut. She ran back to her mother, but found her dead. Daughter Colles (12) had been upstairs and ran outside for help when she heard what was happening. Knut Knutson arrived shortly after Hilliard had been locked in the basement, and heard a shot. He went down and found Hilliard dying from a self-inflicted wound. The shooting happened at 8pm on a Thursday.

Hilliard Jr. was living in Winnipeg in 1931, and Mary, Hilliard Sr.’s first wife, was thought to be in Calgary.

Sources: Pioneers of the Peace p. 44; Grey Roots Museum & Archives, Owen Sound, Ontario; Grande Prairie Herald, May 29, 1931, pp. 1 & 5