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Archibald McLachlin was born in 1827 in Kilmichael, Lochgilphead, Argyllshire, Scotland, where he was educated as a school master, demonstrating a keen interest in chemistry and physics. He immigrated to Canada in 1843 with his aunt, Margaret Ferguson (nee Stewart Monro), and found a job teaching school in Bothwell, Ontario. He rose through the ranks and was later appointed the local superintendent of schools in West Elgin. In 1853 he married Mary Ferguson, daughter of James Ferguson of Southwold, Ontario. They had seven children together – three sons (Robert, James, and Charles) and four daughters.
While starting his family, McLachlin began to exercise his entrepreneurial ambitions. In 1857 he resigned from his position as local superintendent and opened a book and stationary business in St. Thomas, Ontario, and two years later, in 1859, founded the Home Journal, a weekly newspaper and forerunner of the St. Thomas Times-Journal. To start the Journal, McLachlin purchased the machinery and type from N.W. Bates, printer of the short-lived publication “Rough Notes,” and over time assembled a forceful editorial staff that championed Upper Canada’s Reform movement, positioning the Journal in opposition to the Tory-driven politics of its chief rival, the St. Thomas Weekly Dispatch. In 1876 McLachlin ceded ownership of the newspaper to his sons, Robert and James, who oversaw its operations until 1881 when it was purchased by William E. Westlake, Edmund E. Sheppard, and James S. Brierley. Prior to this, in 1878, McLachlin began construction on No. 1 Wellington Street, St. Thomas, also known as “Inverlorne,” which became a social gathering point for community leaders and visitors to the town, including the Governor-General of Canada, Marquis of Lorne, and his wife Princess Louise.
In addition to his work at the Home Journal (later the Canadian Home Journal then Evening Journal), McLachlin assumed the role of one of Elgin County’s most civic-minded residents. In the early 1870s he was instrumental in brokering an agreement with Canada Southern Railway that saw trains pass through St. Thomas as part of the company’s newly constructed route between Niagara and Amherstburg. In 1872 he served as the town’s mayor, and shortly thereafter used the Canadian Home Journal to champion a proposal to build a dam on Kettle Creek and a pump station in town to fight fires. He also advocated for an increase in sheriff salaries, was appointed registrar of deeds for Elgin County after transferring ownership of the newspaper to his sons, and later in the decade was made the Returning Officer for West Elgin, a position he held from 1878-1882 before becoming the Returning Officer for East Elgin in 1886.
A devout Presbyterian, McLachlin nevertheless was a founding member of Alma College, an all-girls’ private school formed by the Methodist Episcopal Church. Located in St. Thomas, the college opened its doors in 1881. McLachlin served as a member of its Board of Directors and its first secretary, guiding the college through its formative years including soliciting donations to fund an addition to the school’s west wing, later named “McLachlin Hall” in his honour. He died in 1888 from a malignant disease of the neck.