Archibald McColl Learmond Baxter, born on13 December 1881 at Saddle Hill, Otago, New Zealand, was the second son of JohnBaxter, a Farm Labourer, and Mary (Jane) Baxter (nee McColl), of Brighton, Otago.
His father, John Baxter, was born on 21 October 1852 at Rothesay, Scotland, and arrived in New Zealand as a young child on the Lady Egidia with his brother Archibald, his sisters Catharine and Isabella, his father, and his father's second wife. His mother was Janet McKellar who died in Scotland in 1855. His mother, Mary McColl, was born on 26 September 1858 at Ballachulish, Argyllshire. Mary came to New Zealand in 1859, when she was 9 months old with her parents on the Alpine. John and Mary married on 16 August 1879 at Winton, Otago.
Archibald’s siblings were John, Mark Learmond, Hugh, William, Donald, Alexander and Margaret.
Leaving school at 12, he worked on a farm and became Head Ploughman at Gladbrook Station. During the 1899–1902 Second Boer War, New Zealand sent troops to help the British. Baxter considered enlisting, but heard a Dunedin lawyer, possibly Alfred Richard Barclay, speak about pacifism before he did so and decided against enlisting. He read pacifist and anti-military literature, forming a Christian Socialist view. Baxter also heard Keir Hardie speak during his 1908 visit to New Zealand and concluded that war would not solve problems. He convinced six of his seven brothers that war was wrong.
With the introduction of conscription under the Military Service Act 1916, Baxter and his brothers refused to register on the grounds that all war is wrong, futile, and destructive alike to victor and vanquished.