Storied Shores: St. Peter’s, Isle Madame and Chapel Island in the 17th and 18th Centuries

Cape Breton Island has many claims to fame, yet far too few people are familiar with the rich and storied past of the coastal areas of Richmond County.

For centuries the Mi’kmaq, and later the early European explorers and settlers, shortened their journeys between the Bras d’Or lake and the Atlantic Ocean by means of the narrow isthmus at St. Peter’s. This portage area -eventually a canal – became a haul-over road in the mid-1650s. The portage area and the surrounding shores and waterways of Cape Breton were sites of early and prolonged interaction between the French and the Mi’kmaq during a time when dreams of expansion and empire among European nations, met head on with the realities of North America’s aboriginal peoples.

The busy corridor between Chapel Island, St. Peter’s, and Isle Madame was the backdrop for a colourful and intriguing era of our shared histories. Storied Shores presents a history of that time and place – the story of the promise of prosperity and the hope for new lives and the story of the ravages of greed, rivalry, and war.

A.J.B. (John) Johnston is a Canadian historian with many publications that deal with the histories of Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Acadia and Nova Scotia. He is a historian with Parks Canada, based in Halifax.