He was born in Scarborough, Canada West and moved to Barrie with his family in 1860. With his brothers James and Thomas, he established a hardware retail business. Purvis came to North Bay in 1888 to set up a branch there. Their business also had branches in Sudbury and Webbwood. Purvis was the first president of the North Bay Board of Trade, serving from 1894 to 1905. He served on the town council in Barrie for five years and also served on the North Bay council. Purvis was a member of the public school board and the high school board in North Bay. He retired from business in 1908.
Purvis was a promoter of the Georgian Bay Ship Canal.
He died in North Bay at the age of 69.
- Gard, Anson Albert (1909). North Bay, the gateway to Silverland : being the story of a happy, prosperous people ... Toronto: Emerson Press. pp. 181–82.
- "David Purvis". Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947, North Bay, Nipissing, Ontario, yr 1914 cn 21944, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1861976. familysearch.
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