DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day

SYME, JAMES – Volume XI (1881-1890)

d. 18 April 1881 at Victoria, B.C.


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

ARCHIBALD, THOMAS DICKSON, businessman and office-holder; b. 8 April 1813 in Onslow, N.S., son of David Archibald and Olivia Dickson; m. first 14 Nov. 1839 Susan Corbett of Pictou, N.S., and they had seven children; m. secondly 10 June 1867 Elizabeth Hughes of Boston, Mass.; m. thirdly 2 June 1874 Maria Louisa Burnyeat (née Goudge) of Dartmouth, N.S.; d. 18 Oct. 1890 at Sydney Mines, N.S.

Thomas Dickson Archibald was educated at Pictou Academy and then worked in the office of the General Mining Association at Albion Mines (Stellarton) in Pictou County. In 1832 he moved to Sydney Mines and engaged in merchandising, mining, and shipbuilding, principally in North Sydney. By 1841 he had joined the firm of Archibald and Company, founded in the 1830s by Samuel George Archibald, his brother, and Peter Hall Clarke. Various Archibald and Dickson cousins were also involved in the firm, which acted as general and commission merchants, ship-brokers, agents for the sale of coal mined around Sydney, proprietors from 1861 of the Gowrie Coal Mines at Cow Bay (Port Morien), and agents for the North Sydney Marine Railway. Between 1841 and 1871 the company built 27 vessels at North Sydney, and engaged in shipping and in the fishery. In 1846 it opened a branch in Halifax as Archibald, Dickson and Company under the management of Charles W. Dickson. After 1853 Archibald and his cousin, Sampson Salter Blowers Archibald, were chief partners in the firm. Thomas Dickson Archibald himself became the agent at Sydney of one British and two American insurance companies and of the Bank of Nova Scotia.

In 1854 a seat on the Legislative Council of Nova Scotia became vacant, and as Cape Breton had only one representative in the appointed body at the time, the Cape Breton News supported the island’s claim to the vacancy. The Liberal government of William Young declared in favour of Archibald, who took his seat on 8 December. He remained in the Legislative Council until 1867, and was also a member of Joseph Howe*’s Executive Council from 3 Aug. 1860 to 5 June 1863.

In the upper house Archibald took a great interest in the arrangements made in 1857–58 to terminate the monopoly of the General Mining Association over the mines and minerals of Nova Scotia [see Richard Smith*]. Archibald’s special concern was that the Cape Breton families who resided on lands covered by the GMA’s former monopoly should be able to maintain the habit allowed by the GMA “of cutting the coal on their own lands with as much freedom as they use the water which runs before their doors.” The 1858 law sanctioned the practice. This law also made it possible for other companies to compete with the GMA in opening new coalfields. One such firm was the Archibalds’ Gowrie Mines, whose production rose from 2,800 tons in 1862 to 152,367 tons in 1891.

Archibald’s interest in Cape Breton led him in 1859 to criticize as a “flagrant injustice” a provincial bill for equalizing the elective franchise in certain counties, because it proposed that “the old and venerated Township of Sydney . . . be swept away and abolished” while other “pet” townships on the mainland were to be “spared from the pruning knife.” Other interests as a councillor were measures for the deaf and dumb and for education of the Micmacs at Shubenacadie, legislation on the currency, and the handling of public accounts. In 1860, defending Nova Scotia fishermen, he objected to a proposal which would have allowed French fishermen, who were subsidized by their government, to bring fish into Nova Scotia duty free. He was also chairman of a committee of the Legislative Council in 1861 which considered a bill to increase penalties for violation of the liquor licence law; Archibald considered the existing law “sufficiently stringent,” and added, “we need only go a step further and make the violation a hanging matter.”

Archibald favoured Nova Scotia’s entry into confederation during the debates of the mid 1860s, and in October 1867 was appointed to the Senate, where he supported the government of Sir John A. Macdonald*. Archibald maintained his connection with the family firm and in the Senate continued his businessman’s interest in commercial, industrial, and maritime development.

Charles Bruce Fergusson

PAC, RG 31, A 1, 1871 census, Nova Scotia. PANS, MG 1, 292; MG 4, 122; RG 1, 98: no.52; 214 1/2G; 214 1/2H; 361 1/2; 448–50. Univ. of King’s College Arch. (Halifax), Israel Longworth, “A history of the county of Colchester, Nova Scotia” (copy at PANS). Can., Senate, Debates, 1883. N.S., Legislative Council, Debates and proc., 1858, 1860–61; Journal of proc., 1854–67. Cape Breton News (Sydney, N.S.), 15, 22 April, 13 May, 17 June, 1 July, 2 Dec. 1854; 19 May 1855. Cape Breton Spectator (North Sydney, N.S.), 3 April 1847. Morning Herald (Halifax), 20 Oct. 1890. North Sydney Herald, 16 Nov . 1881. Presbyterian Witness (Halifax), 20 Oct. 1890. Spirit of the Times (Sydney), 19 July 1842. Canadian biog. dict., II. CPC, 1867–90. Hutchinson’s N.S. directory, 1864–67. Lovell’s N.S. directory, 1871. McAlpine’s N.S. directory, 1890–97. Wallace, Macmillan dict. M. J. Hart, Janet Fisher Archibald . . . some account of her ancestry, environment and a few of her descendants (Victoria, 1934). E. E. Jackson, Windows on the past, North Sydney, Nova Scotia (Windsor, N.S., 1974). Israel Longworth, Life of SGW. Archibald (Halifax, 1881). C. O. Macdonald, The coal and iron industries of Nova Scotia (Halifax, 1909). Thomas Miller, Historical and genealogical record of the first settlers of Colchester County (Halifax, 1873). J. P. Parker, Cape Breton ships and men (Aylesbury, Eng., 1967). C. W. Vernon, Cape Breton, Canada, at the beginning of the twentieth century: a treatise of natural resources and development (Toronto, 1903). A. W. H. Eaton, “The settling of Colchester County, Nova Scotia, by New England Puritans and Ulster Scotsmen,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., 6 (1912), sect.ii: 221–65.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Charles Bruce Fergusson, “ARCHIBALD, THOMAS DICKSON,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 18, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/archibald_thomas_dickson_11E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/archibald_thomas_dickson_11E.html
Author of Article:   Charles Bruce Fergusson
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1982
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   April 18, 2024