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Our History

Richmond County is the gateway to the Bras d’Or Lakes.  Here you can experience the Atlantic Ocean coastline on sandy beaches or on the water in a kayak or sailboat.  Journey through St. Peter’s Canal or go overland to the Bras d’Or Lakes and explore the waters and shores of Canada’s inland sea.

These waters still influence the Acadian, Irish, Mi’kmaq and Scottish heritage that built Cape Breton.  Enjoy fresh, local seafood in a place where the fishery is part of our heritage.  Camp by historic St. Peter’s Canal, walk, cycle or kayak to a lighthouse, learn about the past at our museums, visit one of our 19th Century churches, or build your own in the sand on one of our beaches.

The history and heritage of lighthouses, sailing ships and fisheries, the balance of French Acadian and English languages, and the relaxed island lifestyle inspire the musicians and artisans who live and work here.

St. Peter’s began as a fur-trading outpost in 1650.  Its story parallels the fortunes of the Fortress Louisbourg and includes Mi’kmaq, French, English and Irish history.  St. Peter’s Canal, opened in 1869, is a Parks Canada National Historic Site.  Isle Madame’s heritage is bound by water.  The Acadian community of Petit de Grat owes its names to the fishery: ‘grat’ is a word of Basque origin meaning ‘fishing station.’ Bras d’Or means ‘arm of gold.’  Soldiers Cove was once known as ‘Laugh the Yankees.’

The village of Samsonville got its name from the first post master in the area, Leon Sampson.  The surveyor who came with is people to settle this part of Cape Breton in 1826 name Lock Lomond because it reminded him of the lakes in his home land of Scotland.

With a boulder as his pulpit, Father Maillard said the first mass on Chapel Island in 1742.  The first chapel was built on the island in the early 1750s.  Poulamon comes from the Mi’kmaw word meaning ‘Tom Cod’ and is the name of a community on the north side of Ilse Madame.

Another Isle Madame location, Cap la Ronde was named after the Marquis de la Ronde, a grand-nephew of Nicolas Denys.

The vibrant Acadian villages of L’Ardoise and Grand Greve were once called Maglakachk (the place of the geese) by the Mi’kmaq.  It became known as L’Ardoise, French for slate rock, after the French settled there.

Johnston was given its name in 1903 to honour the memory of Father John MacDougall who was the first pastor in that area.

Electricity was brought to Point Tupper during the Second World War.  Because everything was rationed, people were allowed to have only one light bulb in each room.

Richmond County boasts many accessible lighthouses and prominent churches.

Louisdale and Johnstown each house a Catholic shrine.