History of Baddeck – Long

Welcome to Baddeck, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada


Mary Pinaud
(click here for a shorter version)

The picturesque little village of Baddeck, situated on the shores of the beautiful Bras d’Or Lake in the heart of Cape Breton lsland, is one of the world’s scenic gems.

The name Baddeck, according to some historians, is derived from the Mi’kmaq ‘Abadak’ meaning place with an island near. Before 1800, this mountain-guarded mecca of the modern tourist, knew only the splash of the Indian’s paddle on the shining waters on the tideless lake and the rustle of his moccasined feet trailing the forest.

The earliest visitation of the white man recorded is that of the French Catholic missionaries who came as early as 1629. Of these, the only one of whom we have any knowledge is the famed Abbe Maillard, who came from France to Louisbourg. He was a man of great culture and learning and devoted all of his time to his Indian flock, exerting a very great influence on them. He lived among them accompanying them on their migrations from place to place, and always their first duty was to put up a chapel and a wigwam for their beloved priest. Here he preached to them the gospel of Christ and also gave them a written language. He converted practically the whole Mi’kmaq nation, his secret being in labouring with them, sharing their joys, and enduring their hardships. After the fall of Louisbourg (1758) the Abbe retired to St. Jean Island (P.E.I.). Later he became Vicar General of Quebec. His last days were spent at Halifax where he became a great personal friend of the Rev. Thomas Wood, then rector of St. Paul’s. It is related that in 1762, when on his deathbed, he requested Mr. Wood to read ‘the office of the Visitation of the Sick’ in the presence of a number of French residents. He was buried by order of the Lieutenant Governor in St. Paul’s Churchyard, the office of burial being performed in the French language by Mr. Wood in the presence of all the gentlemen of Halifax and a large assembly of French and Indians. Among his pall bearers were the Speaker of the House and the President of the Council. Several books bearing his signature both in French and Mi’kmaq are now in the library of King’s College, Windsor and his memory is still revered by the Mi’kmaq.

About 1790, the first English settlers, Captain Jonathan Jones and his family arrived, having been given grants of crown land in the Baddeck River area. They were closely followed by other Loyalists and many immigrants from Scotland. Most of these settled in the Big Baddeck and Middle River areas and many of their descendants still reside in those locations.

In 1813, Lieutenant James Duffus, whose wife was a sister-in-law of Sir Samual Cunard founder of the Cunard Line of steamships, was given a grant of land which proved to be the island referred to in the naming of Baddeck. Here he carried on a mercantile business until his death more than twenty years later, during which time the place was known as Duffus Island. In 1833 a Mr. William Kidston, returning to Scotland from Halifax was shipwrecked off Cape North and found his way to Baddeck and the lsland. Here he met and married the widow of James Duffus, and the Island’s name was later changed to Kidston’s Island. The community owes much to Mr. Kidston. It was he who advised the separation of Cape Breton and Victoria Counties and gave the site of the present Court House to the village.

The Kidston business was moved to the mainland in 1840. It was later taken over by a gentleman from Colchester County named Angus Tupper. His wife was the daughter of the Hon. David McCurdy, and when her husband died, her brother Edward McCurdy arrived to help her with the business. The McCurdy family was later induced to settle in Baddeck and with their coming came further progress for the growing community. The Hon. Mr. McCurdy, head of the family set up a business and brought a young man named Thompson from Pictou County to start a Tin-smithing shop. A shoe making business was next started by a Mr. Procter which led to the establishing of two tanneries on the shore road. The McCurdy family contributed much to the growth and development of Baddeck. One of their direct descendants, the late Hon* J.A.D. McCurdy, former Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, made history on a cold day in February, 1909 when he made the first airplane flight in the British Empire at the wheel of his famed Silver Dart on the frozen Baddeck Bay.

The real history of the village proper began in 1839 with the settlement of two families on the mainland. One was that of Joseph Campbell, a native of Newry Ireland who built an Inn on a property near Indian Cove. The Inn also contained a tavern and a Post Office, and Mr. Campbell became Baddeck’s first Post Master. Mail was brought from Sydney by carriers an foot with the mail bags on their backs. Mr. Campbell later moved to the United States. The second family was that of Hector MacLean of Scotland who built his home on the property adjoining the old Knox Cemetery on the Bay Road. Between these two homesteads there were no other residences but the wigwams of the Indians along the shore of the Lake.

In 1841, Mr. Charles J. Campbell who in later years was known far and wide as the Hon. C. J. Campbell opened a store on the waterfront. He catered to the large Scottish trade in the area and across the lake in Boisdale, lona, Grand Narrows, and Washabuct. He swept all opposition before him for was he not a Highlander, speaking the Gaelic as his mother tongue. It must be admitted that it was the Hon. Mr. Campbell who was largely responsible for the growth of the village. In addition to his mercantile business he undertook shipbuilding and turned out many large ships between 1844 and 1881. He also developed the Kelly’s Cove coal deposits and built his home which later became the Hotel Baddeck which eventually burned down. He named it ‘Duntulum House’, a name now given to one of our streets and where now stands the Alderwood Rest Home. He also donated the land for the new cemetery and was one of the first to be interred there. The settlement of New Campbellton was named in his honor and for many years his face looked out from a plaque above the door of ‘Gertrude Hall’ which was destroyed by fire in 1939.

About this time a far-seeing resident named Hezekiah Ingraham took steps to educate his family. He hired a teacher and set aside a room in his home where the children of the neighbourhood were introduced to the three ‘R’s’. Though himself a Protestant, he made no religious distinction. This is surprising because at that time religious intolerance and bigotry was the rule, but more than a few Catholic children were among those receiving instruction. Soon the small room could no longer contain the numbers and so the first school in Victoria County was built. Later it was enlarged and from Baddeck Academy have gone forth men and women who were to distinguish themselves and bring honor to their homeland at the Bar, in the pulpit, in the medical profession, on the political platform and in business throughout Canada and the United States. Among the pioneer families who lived in the area at this time we find such names as Sparling, Leaver, Taylor, Robertson, and others many of which still remain throughout the area.

The first church built in Baddeck was erected on the Bay Road in 1841. It was removed in 1865 and a larger edifice took its place. In 1890 this was abandoned and Greenwood Church was built on its present site. In 1925 when Greenwood joined the union, a new Knox Church, the present structure, was built on Grant Street. A Methodist Church was built but was later domolished because of diminishing membership though the Rectory still stands and is used as a dwelling. In 1880 St. Peter’s Church of England and a Congregational Church were built. The latter was later purchased by Mrs. Dr. Bell and renamed ‘Gertrude Hall’. For a time it housed the Baddeck Public Library but was destroyed by fire in 1939 when only 1,800 of its 8,000 books were saved. The property was later occupied by Bethune’s Garage and now the ‘Needs’ convenience store.

The first Catholic Church was built on the present site in 1858 and was named St. Michael’s. It was lost in the big fire of 1926, but a new St. Michael’s soon rose from the ashes of the old one.

The first freight and passenger ship to come up the Bras d’Or Lake was called ‘Banshee’, which arrived in 1855. As the years went by, and more and more business opened up, more and larger ships arrived and an extensive export business was carried on with Newfoundland and the French Island of St. Pierre. Chief exports were cattle, sheep, and farm produce. New buildings went up, among them the Telegraph House (still operated by descendants of the first owners, Mr. and Mrs. David Dunlop) in 1860. Prominent among business names of that time were Joseph Hart and Son, MacKay and MacAskill, J.P. MacLeod, D.F. MacRae (White Store), John E. Campbell and others.

In 1885, Alexander Graham Bell, his wife Mabel, and their two young daughters, arrived by boat from the Strait of Canso. They fell in love with Baddeck and returned to build their beautiful home on Beinn Bhreagh. Thus began a new era for the people of the village. The Bells took them all to their hearts and their home and Doctor and Mrs. Bell did a great deal to promote culture, sociability, and industry among the villagers. In his lab on the mountain top, Doctor Bell conducted many experiments, built boats, and gave employment to many of the people; while Mrs. Bell did much to foster home industries, among them the hooking of rugs for which the village of Cheticamp is today so famous. Doctor Bell died at Baddeck in 1922. His life companion followed him in a few months and together they sleep at the top of their beautiful mountain under a simple boulder of granite.

In these early days Baddeck was an up and coming community. It boasted a newspaper, in fact three of them, viz.: ‘The Telephone’ edited by Mr. Charles Pippy; ‘The lsland Reporter’, Mr. W.F. McCurdy; and later the ‘Victoria News’ by Mr. Charles Gilman. It had five doctors, three lawyers, a drug store, two hotels, six stores, a chinese laundry, two merchant tailors, marble and granite works, a Brass Band and Band stand, a photographic store, plank sidewalks, and telephone facilities. The Court House was built in 1890 and the Yacht Club in 1902. The Home and School Association had it’s birth at Baddeck in l895 and the Public Library of 8,000 books was housed in Gertrude Hall.

The outlying sections at this time were all prosperous farms until the markets for their produce were lost. One can see today the ghost farms where once flourished stables full of beautiful horses and cattle. The homes were furnished with hand woven carpets, drapes, linen and bedding, and much of their furniture was made by hand, many of them being skilled craftsmen.

An agricultural exhibition was held at Baddeck on October 11, 12, 13, and 14 in the year 1880. Mr. W.F. McCurdy presided and prizes amounting to $2,575 were offered in competitions. Interesting exhibits included:

Cattle 69 classes Horses 72 classes
Sheep 24 classes Swine 17 classes
Poultry 18 classes Dairy Products 4 classes
Grains 24 classes Vegetables 4 classes
Fruit 30 classes Leather 17 classes
Implements 12 classes Woven Articles 29 classes
Indian Crafts 9 classes

The Village was not without traffic regulations in 1886. By-laws of the municipal council provided that “Any Person who shall ride or drive a horse at full speed or in a disorderly manner in the public street shall forfeit a sum not exceeding $5.00 or not less than $1.00 for each offence.”

In the 1900’s tragedy struck twice in Baddeck. In 1908 a terrible epidemic of cholera broke out, taking the lives of thirty-one persons in a short time. On the eve of Labour Day on a Sunday in 1926, a disastrous fire broke out in the general store of MacKay and MacAskill on Main Street. The fire fighters were hampered by lack of equipment and before dawn more than twenty buildings were destroyed in the holocast.

Today in 1997, Baddeck boasts a well-equipped Volunteer Fire Department, a large, consolidated school, a colonial styled Provincial building, a new hospital, a home for the aged, a beautifully constructed Museum built by the Federal Government to house the works of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell , a well-stocked Public Library and BookMobile, a world-class golf course, yacht club, excellent hotel and motel facilities, and a fine selection of eating and shopping establishments.

Each year thousands of tourists visit Baddeck and the vicinity.

But as we, its citizens, look with pride upon all these things which modern day living offers us, let our thoughts and our hearts go back through the years in humble gratitude to those early exiles who in their loneliness and hardship, but with faith and courage, carved from a wintry wilderness, this loveliest of all lovely spots, nestled between the mountains, on the shores of the shimmering ‘Arm of Gold’.

Revised – April 1997


  1. Joseph Madronero

    I assembled a 200 page study paper deriving from Bell records of the day, will be divided into 8 Blogs, representing Aerial Experiment Association & Canadian Aerodrome Company 1907-1910 at Baddeck.

    First Question, the village of Baddeck founded in 1908, in 1909 did it have a Mayor, and what’s his full name?

    I wrote as fallows:- The original registered documents of the day reveals: Canada Customs never prevented AEA’s aerodrome No. 4 Silver Dart, from entering Canada, or any brief incident with import duties at the border, occurred. The Mayor of Baddeck or Premier of Nova Scotia, George Henry Murray, never led Canadian authorities to vastly reduce the import tariff on the aerodrome. Bell’s press despatches, bulletins etc., declared Canadians would soon witness aviation history, Baddeck residents, and others “very anxious,” when cases of the flying machine arrived. This prompted Baddeck resident K.J. McKay a prominent, respected businessman operating the general store of MacKay and MacAskill on Main Street to cable, Hon. Mr. Patterson, Minister of Customs, Ottawa, Canada:— Citizens Baddeck very anxious that you allow free entry on experimental flying machine and apparatus for Dr. Graham Bell which arrived last night. The Minister hastily responded:— Have written Collector Baddeck respecting admission flying machine…. that there shall be no duty charged if machine is returned within two years.

    The latter part of my study paper. K.J. McKay K.J.+? J= Joseph? More info for those years on him.



    1. Marty Steiner

      Would like to contact you. I’m a published aviation historian Two reasons. your work with the Bell records and more important at the moment, any info on one of the US Navy NC seaplanes stopping at Baddeck in 1919? My email is: sanmar1939@yahoo.com.
      Marty Steiner
      PS Visited Baddeck about sixty (60) years ago !!

  2. Tamara Pinaud

    I see this article was written by Mary Pinaud very interesting article of Baddeck. I am also a Pinaud as well just wondering where the connection is. My Name is Tamara Pinaud my parents are Darrell Pinaud and Irene Pinaud (Nordin) My dad parent where Wifred Pinaud and Elizabeth Pinaud (Martell). My grandfather parents where Martin Pinaud and Anna Pinaud (Macdonald)I hope to hear from you it would be interesting

    1. V Bergmann (Post author)

      Tamara, I asked around locally and this is the consensus on Mary Pinaud:
      “Ralph Pinaud’s wife’s name was Mary. Ralph had “Pinaud’s Boat Yard” in Baddeck which is now Cape Breton Boatyard. Mary was a teacher, and they remember she was the invigilator during their Provincial exams.”
      So, the connection is: Ralph was a son of Walter Pinaud, who was a son of your great grandfather, Martin Pinaud.
      Hope this helps sort things out for you!

  3. Alan Low

    My great, great grandfather is Charles J. Campbell. His likeness is attached to the archway on the old stone post office which is now a museum. I visited Baddeck twice but could not locate is grave. His son JJ Campbell left home at 19 years old and ended up near Nelson BC working at the Hall Mine. His son Ian was injured during WW 1 with the gas attacks and died at 39 years old. I was born in 1944 in Nelson and now live in Red Deer AB.I enjoyed the article very much.

    1. Jennifer Stephen

      Hi Alan! I am also a descendant of C.J. Campbell. He would be my great, great, great grandfather. I grew up in the Sydney area but now live in Baddeck. If you are ever in the area again, I would be more than happy to show you his grave. He is buried in Greenwood cemetery. I have started locating other ancestors of ours such as C.J.’s mother Isabella and C.J.’s in-laws Jacob and Jane Ingraham. Jacob and Jane are buried in an abandoned cemetery in the woods just outside of Baddeck. The more I delve into our family’s genealogy, the more interesting it becomes.

  4. Jennifer Stephen

    Hi Alan! I am also a descendant of C.J. Campbell. He would be my great, great, great grandfather. I grew up in the Sydney area but now live in Baddeck. If you are ever in the area again, I would be more than happy to show you his grave. He is buried in Greenwood cemetery. I have started locating other ancestors of ours such as C.J.’s mother Isabella and C.J.’s in-laws Jacob and Jane Ingraham. Jacob and Jane are buried in an abandoned cemetery in the woods just outside of Baddeck. The more I delve into our family’s genealogy, the more interesting it becomes.

  5. Debi Parks

    Some of my husbands people are buried in the old cemetary down in Plaister Mine. His great grandfather, Murdoch and Christy Macleod are buried there, but we are having a hard time locating his father, Hugh and his wife Jessie Macleod and finding where they may be buried. Would there be any records in Baddeck that we could look through ? I don’t have any years of death for them. Any direction you can give us would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Richard MacDougall

    Samuel Cunard was a brother in law of James Duffus, not James Duffus’s wife.
    Lt. James Duffus son of William Duffus and Mary Niele married Margaret Ann McDougall, daughter of Halifax merchant Alexander McDougall and Catherine Buchanan. His half sister, Susan Duffus, daughter of William Duffus and Susannah Murdoch, married Samuel Cunard and Susan’s sister, Elizabeth Duffus, married Samuel Cunard’s brother Henry Cunard, while Susan and Elizabeth Duffus’ brother, William Duffus, married Catherine McDougall, sister of James Duffus’ wife, Margaret Ann McDougall. James Duffus died in 1833 after going to Halifax for medical treatment. William Duffus died in Cape Breton in 1830.

    Did James Duffus and later William Kidston have a role in the administration of Cape Breton other than as a land / business owner.? Family history / lore is that James Duffus went to Cape Breton as an “administrator” and after his death William Kidston was sent as a replacement administrator.

    Excerpt from history:

    2. HONOURABLE WILLIAM C.8 KIDSTON (WILLIAM RICHARD7, WILLIAM6, RICHARD5, WILLIAM4, JOHN3, ANDREW2, JAMES1)6 was born 1814 in Halifax ,Nova Scotia, and died 1885 in Whycocomagh, Cape Breton ,N.S.. He married (2) ANNE MACDOUGALL DUFFUS6 1833 in Baddeck, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, daughter of ALEXANDER MC DOUGALL. She was born December 06, 1799 in Halifax Nova Scotia,, and died 1887 in Boston, Mass. U.S.A..

    William of Cape Breton, was sent to Baddeck as an administrator when he was eighteen years old,He was at this time a Captain of Militia,and had been educated in Glasgow, Scotland. He was the second administrator for the area, the first one having become ill and passed away, after returning to Halifax for medical help.
    A short while after assuming his post he married the widow of the previous administrator, who already had two children. These children died young, but William’s new family did well.
    He ran a General Store on what is now called Kidston Island,at Baddeck. After a few short years he went into the lumber, and ship building business. According to records most of business in this line were with his grandfather,and his uncle A.G. Kidston of Glasgow. He was the first lumberman in Nova Scotia to use a steam power plant, for his saw mill. The steam mill was set up in Whycocomah,Cape Breton.
    He became the Member of the Provincial Parliament for the area,and was instrumental in the formation of Victoria County, he claimed that Richmond County was to large in area to represent properly.
    He was the M.P.P. for Victoria County and argued with Joseph Howe against Confederation at that time. He was also the overseer of the poor for Cape Breton, and the Quebec North Shore.
    ” Nova Scotia Archives, And a book titled, The History of Victoria Co.”
    He was also a writer of note.

    i. ARCHIBALD SCOTT9 KIDSTON, b. Abt. 1838, Baddeck, Cape Breton ,Nova Scotia.

    Children of WILLIAM KIDSTON and ANNE DUFFUS are:
    ii. ISABELLA9 KIDSTON6, b. Abt. 1836.

    iii. WILLIAM JOHN KIDSTON, b. August 25, 1837, Baddeck Cape Breton N,S,; d. August 25, 1901, Hudson,Mass. U.S.A..

    The North British Society in Halifax provided James Duffus with a bond of £400 in 1815 secured by mortgages and bonds. In 1817 this bond to James Duffus was secured by Messers Duffus and Cunard and carried on the books of the society until the bond was repaid in 1833. One of the roles of the North British Society was to assist the poor.

    Did the society through James Duffus play some support role in the Baddeck area? Or did society members (Halifax merchants,, etc) have large land interests in Cape Breton that were administered by James Duffus and William Kidston?


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