Land, Sea, and the Fishery
This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Stephenville Integrated High School and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.
People were first drawn to Stephenville because of the excellent fishing grounds and fertile soils. Since early history, many people have been attracted to this area. Some early settlers were the Vikings, Basque whalers, French fishing fleets and so on. The most important settlers of this area were the Acadians who settled here in 1844. These people came to Stephenville for two reasons. First, there was an epidemic of poverty and strife existing in Nova Scotia. Second, the area in and around Stephenville had fertile soil and excellent fishing grounds. Although the soils had a major role in attracting settlers, the primary reason for settling in the area was because of the abundance of fish.
It seems that the population density in Stephenville adjusted in proportion to the size and quality of the fish available. The early settlers in the Bay St. George area fished for a living and farmed for their own uses. In 1848, statistics show that at the time there were: 20 stores, barns and outhouses; 16 boats; 14 nets; 286 barrels of fish; 60 barrels of cured herring; 115 gallons of fish oil; 40 bushels of oats; 19 tons of hay; 359 barrels of potatoes; and, 200 pounds of butter; all produced in that year. This was obviously a successful year for the residents of the area.
At that time there were 32 fishermen who devoted their time to fishing, farming, hunting and trapping. Fishermen would get up at 2:00 A.M., walk to the beach to prepare their fish. Each morning a fishing vessel would leave Sandy Point and arrive at Stephenville around 4:00 A.M. to collect the fishermen's catch. This was known as the "pick-up." If the men were not ready at 4:00 A.M. their fish would not be picked up. The vessel would simply move on to Kippens and on down the Port-au-Port peninsula. From there they would head on back to St. George's and Sandy Point. For the next 90 years, fishing and farming were very prosperous to the settlers.