Dr. Duncan Paterson McPhail was born on the 4th of March, 1859 near Iona Station (Elgin County). He was the 6th of 10 children born to Hugh McPhail and the former Mary Paterson. His parents were farmers and his siblings were; Alexander McPhail, Daniel McPhail, Sarah McPhail, John McPhail, Eliza Ann McPhail, Christena McPhail, Hugh McPhail, Minnie Catharine McPhail and William Arthur McPhail (who died at the age of 17).
Dr. McPhail’s 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 reached the age of 17. Next he attended St. Thomas Collegiate Institute and St. Catharine’s Collegiate Institute. Dr. McPhail taught school in Elgin and Middlesex Counties before moving to the town of Alvinston (Lambton County) to teach school there. He was eventually made the Principal of the public schools in Alvinston. Dr. McPhail’s brother Alexander McPhail was known to be teaching school in Alvinston in 1886 which co-insides with the time Dr. McPhail was teaching there. While in Alvinston, Dr. McPhail began studying medicine with Dr. Marlatt who was the town physician.
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 re-elected in 1919 and again in 1925. According to the 1921 census, Dr. McPhail was a boarder with the Lambert family. He never married.
Dr. McPhail died in Highgate on the 7th of December, 1928 at the age of 68. He was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Dutton (Elgin County) Ontario.