Dr. Duncan Paterson McPhail was the 6th of 10 children born to Hugh McPhail and the former Mary Paterson. He was born in Iona Station, Elgin County on the 4th of March, 1859. His siblings included; Alexander, Daniel, Sarah, John, Eliza, Christina, Hugh, Mary and William. His parents farmed and his father was a Justice of the Peace and a Township Councillor. Dr. McPhail, was educated in a one-room school house until he was 17 years old. He attended St. Thomas Collegiate Institute and St. Catharine’s Collegiate Institute. He taught school in Elgin and Middlesex County, before moving to Alvinston (Lambton County), to teach school there. He eventually was made Principal of the schools in Alvinston.
Dr. McPhail, began studying medicine beside Dr. Marlatt who was the town doctor. Dr. McPhail entered Trinity Medical College in Toronto and devoted himself to his studies, graduating M.D. in 1887.
Upon graduation from medical school, Dr. McPhail moved to Highgate and opened a medical practice. Dr. McPhail took post-graduate courses in New York, and returned to his patients in Highgate when the courses were completed. In 1890 he became a coroner and in 1897 he built an office and dispensary in Highgate. Dr. McPhail is listed in the Ontario Business Directory of 1892-1893 as practicing medicine in Highgate. Even though Dr. McPhail had built an office and dispensary, he is listed on the 1901 census as boarding with the Attridge family in Highgate.
Dr. McPhail was a member of the Masonic Lodge and attained the degree of Knight Templar. He was on the Public School Board for many years and served as the Secretary of the School Board from 1901-1918. The Village of Highgate was incorporated in 1917. Dr. McPhail was elected as the first Reeve of Highgate in 1918. He was the Reeve in 1919 and again in 1925. According to the 1921 census, Dr. McPhail was a boarder with the Lambert family.
Dr. McPhail died in Highgate on the 7th of December, 1928 at the age of 68. He was never married. He was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Dutton, (Elgin County) Ontario.