History[ edit ] Cape Breton Island's first residents were likely Archaic maritime natives , ancestors of the Mi'kmaq. These peoples and their progeny inhabited the island known as Unama'ki for several thousand years and continue to live there to this day. Their traditional lifestyle centred around hunting and fishing because of the unfavourable agricultural conditions of their maritime home.
This ocean-centric lifestyle did, however, make them among the first indigenous peoples to discover European explorers and sailors fishing in the St Lawrence Estuary. John Cabot reportedly visited the island in The local Mi'kmaq peoples began trading with European fishermen when the fishermen began landing in their territories as early as the s.
As many as two hundred settlers lived in a village, the name of which is not known, located according to some historians at what is now Ingonish on the island's northeastern peninsula. These fishermen traded with the local population but did not maintain a permanent settlement.
This Portuguese colony's fate is unknown, but it is mentioned as late as These claims, and larger European ideals of native conquest were the first time the island was incorporated as European territory, though it would be several decades later that treaties would actually be signed no copies of these treaties exist. These settlements lasted only one generation, until Nicolas Denys left in The island did not have any European settlers for another fifty years before those communities along with Louisbourg were re-established in , after which point European settlement was permanently established on the island.
As the harbour at Sainte Anne experienced icing problems, it was decided to build a much larger fortification at Louisbourg to improve defences at the entrance to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and to defend France's fishing fleet on the Grand Banks. Siege of Louisbourg French and Indian War[ edit ] Louisbourg itself was one of the most important commercial and military centres in New France. Louisbourg was captured by New Englanders  with British naval assistance in  and by British forces in Some of the first British-sanctioned settlers on the island following the Seven Years' War were Irish, although upon settlement they merged with local French communities to form a culture rich in music and tradition.
From to , the island was administratively part of the colony of Nova Scotia  and was governed from Halifax. He spent his first winter using his upside-down boat for shelter, which is reflected in the architecture of the village's Community Centre. Although winter conditions prevented the freeing of the prisoners, the mission did result in the capture of the Mellish, a vessel carrying a vital supply of winter clothing intended for John Burgoyne 's troops in Canada.
The British began developing the mining site at Sydney Mines in Six French sailors were killed and 17 British, with many more wounded. Flag of the Colony of Cape Breton — In , Britain split the colony of Nova Scotia into three separate colonies: He succeeded Macarmick as head of the colony and served from to The mineral rights to the island were given over to the Duke of York by an order-in-council.
The British government had intended that the Crown take over the operation of the mines when Cape Breton was made a colony, but this was never done, probably because of the rehabilitation cost of the mines. The mines were in a neglected state, caused by careless operations dating back at least to the time of the final fall of Louisbourg in Large-scale shipbuilding began in the s, beginning with schooners for local trade moving in the s to larger brigs and brigantines , mostly built for British shipowners.
Shipbuilding peaked in the s, marked in by the full-rigged ship Lord Clarendon , the largest wooden ship ever built in Cape Breton. This development is one of the factors which led to large-scale industrial development in the Sydney Coal Field of eastern Cape Breton County. By the late 19th century, as a result of the faster shipping, expanding fishery and industrialization of the island, exchanges of people between the island of Newfoundland and Cape Breton increased, beginning a cultural exchange that continues to this day.
During the first half of the 19th century, Cape Breton Island experienced an influx of Highland Scots numbering approximately 50, as a result of the Highland Clearances. To this day, Gaelic is still the first language of a number of elderly Cape Bretoners. Many of the Scots who immigrated there were either Roman Catholics or Presbyterians, which can be seen in a number of island landmarks and place names.
The s were some of the most violent times in Cape Breton. They were marked by several severe labour disputes. The famous murder of William Davis by strike breakers, and the seizing of the New Waterford power plant by striking miners led to a major union sentiment that persists to this day in some circles.
William Davis Miners' Memorial Day is celebrated in coal mining towns to commemorate the deaths of miners at the hands of the coal companies. Following his successful invention of the telephone and being relatively wealthy, Bell acquired land near Baddeck in , largely due to surroundings reminiscent of his early years in Scotland.
He established a summer estate complete with research laboratories, working with deaf people—including Helen Keller —and continued to invent.
Baddeck would be the site of his experiments with hydrofoil technologies as well as the Aerial Experiment Association , financed by his wife, which saw the first powered flight in the British Empire when the AEA Silver Dart took off from the ice-covered waters of Bras d'Or Lake.
Bell also built the forerunner to the iron lung and experimented with breeding sheep. Marconi's contributions to Cape Breton Island were also quite significant, as he used the island's geography to his advantage in transmitting the first North American trans- Atlantic radio message from a station constructed at Table Head in Glace Bay to a receiving station at Poldhu in Cornwall, England.
Marconi's pioneering work in Cape Breton marked the beginning of modern radio technology. During World War II, there was a significant drop of Gaelic speakers due to a prejudice caused by Ireland's neutrality during the war.
The establishment of funding for the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts and formal Gaelic language courses in public schools are intended to address the near-loss of this culture to English assimilation. In the s, the Fortress of Louisbourg was partially reconstructed by Parks Canada.
A slow economy, in combination with out-migration has us on an unsustainable path. The truth is we welcome all, no matter the ideology. We have a beautiful island, a friendly people, a rich culture and a bright future As of 9 November , the day following Election Day , as well as Trump's victory, the offer still stands.
Cape Breton Island is composed mainly of rocky shores, rolling farmland, glacial valleys, barren headlands, mountains, woods and plateaus. Geological evidence suggests at least part of the island was joined with present-day Scotland and Norway, now separated by millions of years of continental drift.
Cape Breton Island's northern portion is dominated by the Cape Breton Highlands , commonly shortened to simply the "Highlands", which are an extension of the Appalachian mountain chain. The Highlands comprise the northern portions of Inverness and Victoria counties. The Cabot Trail scenic highway also encircles the plateau's coastal perimeter. Downtown Sydney is home to City Hall right as well as apartment complexes and hotels Cape Breton Island's hydrological features include the Bras d'Or Lake system, a salt-water fjord at the heart of the island, and freshwater features including Lake Ainslie , the Margaree River system, and the Mira River.
Innumerable smaller rivers and streams drain into the Bras d'Or Lake estuary and on to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Atlantic coasts.
Cape Breton Island is joined to the mainland by the Canso Causeway , which was completed in , enabling direct road and rail traffic to and from the island, but requiring marine traffic to pass through the Canso Canal at the eastern end of the causeway.
Cape Breton Island is divided into four counties: Cape Breton , Inverness , Richmond , and Victoria. The climate is one of mild, often pleasantly warm summers and cold winters, although the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream moderates the extreme winter cold found on the mainland, especially on the east side that faces the Atlantic. Precipitation is abundant year round, with annual totals up to 60 inches on the eastern side facing the Atlantic storms. Considerable snowfall occurs in winter, especially in the highlands.