The town of Stephenville, located on the north shore of St. George's Bay in southwestern Newfoundland is 48 degrees north latitude and 58 degrees west longitude. This, and its surrounding area, were once known as the Acadian Village. From 1848 until 1870, Stephenville was actually called Indian Head. The community got its name because of the resemblance of the face in the mountain. The name Stephenville wasn't first introduced until 1874. The Acadian Village was a settlement which stretched from Kippens in the far west to Seal Cove in the far east. This covered a total distance of seven miles.
In its beginning, Stephenville or the Acadian Village consisted of a majority of Roman Catholics who fished and farmed to earn a living. The village was actually established because of poverty and strife existing in Nova Scotia and the excellent fishing grounds and farm land that this land had to offer. Strangely enough, not many people know a lot of details about this era. It is almost like a lost memory which has been tucked away , even though it is a major part of Stephenville's
The Acadian Village was founded in 1844 by two English families, though the name would lead one to believe they may have been French. William Hunt and James Penney settled near the Blache River. They were from Margaree, Cape Breton, but due to poverty they were forced to relocate to Newfoundland. They lived inside the one fishing vessel until they could acquire lumber to build log huts.
A year later, Felix Gallant and his family arrived. They lived in a hut that had been left by visiting French fishermen. In the same year on September 3, they had a son and named him Stephen. The following year they revisited Margaree to have their child baptized. While there, they told their friends about this new "Paradise" where there was exceptionally good farm land and pleasant weather. He persuaded some of his friends to return to Newfoundland with him. Things were hard during the early years of the town. People did not have enough food or supplies to support themselves. The winter of 1846-1847 was one of the worse that they had experienced. The Gallants and other settlers faced many hardships from bad weather to food being scarce.
There is still some controversy over where Stephenville actually got its name. Some believe that because Stephen Gallant was the first person born in the area the town was named after him. This has generally been accepted as the case and has even appeared in print. However, some believe that Stephen LeBlanc was the first born and that it is after him the town is named. To this day no one really knows who the town was named after except a boy named Stephen.
Since its beginning in May of 1844, Stephenville has grown and continues to grow. It provides an exceptional quality of life and it has a high level of industrial activity. Today, it is the second largest community on Newfoundland's west coast. It is a community who's past American influence is still very evident in the town. Underground ammunition depots, large airstrips, aircraft hangars and the streets named after American states. It is strange, however, that no reminders exist of our past prior to the Americans. This speaks of how great the impact of the Ernest Harmon Air Force Base was on this community.
In the past few years the population of Stephenville has decreased due to the work force remaining relatively stable. The number of housing units has decreased. The first census report in 1844 cited 103 inhabitants in the area, while today there are 7,700. Stephenville has grown into an efficient town. Our culture is diverse and alive. Our citizens are friendly and our geographical setting is beautiful to the eye. It is difficult to imagine what Stephenville would look like if the Americans never landed here and established their Ernest Harmon Air Force Base.