As in other parts of Cape Breton Island, the first people to settle here were the Mi’kmaq, members of the Wabenaki First Nation people, attracted to this beautiful, serene place by the abundant fish and excellent game. Baddeck, in fact, takes its name from the Mi’kmaq “Abadak,” meaning, “Place with Island Near”. That Island, just off the shore of Baddeck, was the home of British officer James Duffus, who received a crown grant of the Island in the late 1700s. He christened the Island “Duffus Island” and it was not until 1833 when William Kidston married James Duffus’ widow and settled there, that the place got its current name, “Kidston Island.”
Baddeck owes much to Mr. Kidston who, in addition to being an astute business man, was responsible for the separation of Cape Breton and Victoria Counties and it was he who granted the site of the present Court House to the Village of Baddeck.
For many years, only two families made their homes on the shores across from Kidston Island. But by 1881 the village of Baddeck was a thriving community that boasted a shipbuilding business, several hotels, its own post office, a druggist, two tailors, three newspapers, a marble and granite works, a photographic store, a laundry, five doctors, three lawyers and telephone services.
The sidewalks were planked, the roadways wide and tree-lined. Baddeck’s library contained over 8,000 volumes! Around Baddeck, in rural communities such as Middle River and North River, prosperous farms dotted the hillsides. Cattle, sheep, swine, goats and poultry were all raised here. Dairy products, fruits and vegetables, were all locally produced.
Twice in its history Baddeck has been struck by tragedy. The first incident was a cholera outbreak in 1908 that left thirty-one people dead. In 1926, on Labour Day, a fire broke out that could not be controlled and before dawn the following morning, twenty buildings had been destroyed.
Among our notables we count J.A.D. McCurdy, who made the first manned Canadian flight above the ice of Baddeck Bay in the famous Silver Dart in February 1909. Alexander Graham Bell and his wife, Mabel, made Beinn Bhreagh their summer home for many years. As they grew older, they spent more and more of their time at their Cape Breton estate.