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.
The town of Stephenville, located on the north shore of Bay St. George 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 that name because of the resemblance of the face in the mountain. The name Stephenville was first introduced in 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. People were attracted to the area because of the excellent farm land and nearby fishing grounds. Strangely enough, only a few people know much about this era.
The Acadian Village was founded in 1844 by two English families. William Hunt and James Penney settled near the Blache River. They were from Margaree, Cape Breton and lived on their 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 worst 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 how Stephenville got its name. Some believe that a Stephen Gallant was the first person born in the area and the town was named after him. This has generally been accepted and has even appeared in print. However, some believe that a Stephen LeBlanc was the first born and that the town is named after him. To this day no one really knows for sure.
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. In 1998 it was the second largest community on Newfoundland's west coast. It is a community who's past American influence is still very evident. For example, underground ammunition depots, large airstrips, aircraft hangars and streets are named after American states. It is strange that no reminders exist of our past prior to the Americans presence. This speaks loudly of how great the impact of the Ernest Harmon Air Force Base was on this community.
The first census report in 1844 cited only 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.