Located in scenic Bay St. George, the Town of Stephenville has a population of 6, 600 and is the service centre for a catchment area of 25,000. Stephenville has a sound economic infrastructure based on long-time commercial interests and industries. The Town has a 42- bed hospital, a thriving education system that includes the Provincial Headquarters of the College of the North Atlantic, and a multitude of recreational activities. In Stephenville, visitors will discover a wonderful blend of intriguing natural beauty, fascinating history, warm hospitality, and rich cultural tradition. The area is home to a a blend of French, English, Scottish and Mi’kmaq Indian ancestries, combining to form a unique mixture of culture and tradition.
This area was once known as the Acadian Village. From 1848 until 1870, Stephenville was called Indian Head, the name Stephenville was first introduced in 1874. The Acadian Village was a settlement which stretched along the coast from Kippens in the far west to Seal Cove in the far east. The Acadian Village consisted of a majority of Roman Catholics who fished and farmed to earn a living. The village was established because of poverty and strife existing in Nova Scotia and the excellent fishing grounds and farm land that western Newfoundland had to offer.
The Acadian Village was founded in 1844 by two English families from Margaree, Cape Breton. William Hunt and James Penney who settled near the Blanche River.
A year later, the family of Felix Gallant arrived. In the same year, on September 3rd, 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.
Since its beginning in May of 1844, Stephenville has grown. The first census report in 1844 cited 103 inhabitants in the area. Today there are over 6,000. Stephenville has grown into an efficient and vibrant community. Today, it is the second largest community on Newfoundland’s west coast. It provides an exceptional quality of life and has a high level of industrial activity.
In 1941 the United States obtained rights to construct an air force base in the St. George’s Bay area of Newfoundland. Stephenville’s past American influence is still very evident in the town today. There are remaining underground ammunition depots, large airstrips, aircraft hangars and streets named after the American states.
The air force base was originally referred to as Stephenville Air Base; however, it was renamed Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in June 23, 1948, in honour of Captain Ernest Emery Harmon. Harmon was a U.S. Army Corps ace who was killed in an air crash in 1933. On September 1, 1943, the Newfoundland Base Command transferred control of the Harmon Field to the North Atlantic Wing, Air Transport Command. The base became a part of the Northeast Air Command in October, 1950. Then in April of 1957, the Strategic Air Command assumed control. The mandate of the base was to maintain a tanker alert force and its capability to meet and refuel Strategic Air Command jet bombers on route to targets. The KC-97 was employed in this task. The base was also used as a refueling stop for transatlantic military flights. In addition, Harmon supported three Air Defense Command units.
In 1957, the Canadian Department of Transportation constructed an air terminal building to accommodate Trans Canada Airlines. 1966 saw the closure of the U.S. Air Force Base in Stephenville. The airport is now owned and operated by a local airport authority. Stephenville Airport was officially designated as an alternate in the Trans Oceanic Plane Stop (TOPS) program on July 23, 1970. On April 1, 1990, the airport was further designated for alternate use, fueling only, by international scheduled air transport and for international general aviation regular use. In recent years, Stephenville has become a favorite technical stop for international flights on route to Europe.
The following sources are hereby acknowledged as major contributors to the content of this web site:
“1200 Out For Stephenville Air Show.” The Western Star. 21 July 1996.
Brosnan, Father Michael. Pioneer History of St. George’s Diocese.
Cardoulis, John N. A Friendly Invasion. St. John’s: Breakwater, 1990.
A Friendly Invasion II. St. John’s: Breakwater, 1993.
Gale, Frank. “43-Year Dream Fulfilled by Americans at Crash Site.” The Western Star. 27 July 1989.
“Memorial Site is Refurbished.” The Western Star. September 1989.
“Harmon Field Day ’90.” The Georgian. 31 July 1990.
Lefevre, Charles. “Harmon.” Chaslef@syix.com. 21 February 1998.
Polenberg, Richard. “Lend-Lease.” Grolier Academic Encyclopedia. Lorimer, Lawrence T., ed. United States: Grolier International, 1991.
Mackay, W. H. “Harmon Corporation.” Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. Joseph R. Smallwood, ed. St. John’s: Newfoundland Book Publishers, 1967.
MacLeod, Malcolm. “Peace of the Continent – The Impact of Second World War Canadian and American Bases in Newfoundland, Part II : Social Impact.” The Newfoundland Quarterly. Spring 1986.
Morris, Don. “More Milestones in Stephenville History.” The Western Star. 30 June 1990.
“Newfoundland’s Acadian Village: Stephenville.” The Georgian. 1 July 1997.
Pratt, Christopher. “Strip Mined – An Essay.”
Ray, Wayne. “US Military Bases in Newfoundland, Harmon Recreation.” Newfoundland Military Bases: Ernest Harmon Recreation. Http://www.mirror.org/groups/cpa/recreatn.html.
“Returning Fighter Pilot Has Newfoundland Roots.” The Western Star. 6 July 1996.
Smallwood, Joseph R., ed. “Harmon.” Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. St. John’s: Harry Cuff Publications, 1994.
“Stephenville International Airport.” Stephenville International Airport. Http://www.publib.nf.ca/ CAP/west/Stephenville/air_corp/.
Stephenville Library Board & The West Newfoundland Folk Arts Council. Stephenville History & Stephenville Harmon Air Force Base: Vol. I. Port au Port/Bay St. George Heritage Association, 1978.
“Stephenville – Newfoundland’s Acadian Village.” The Evening Telegram. 23 September 1968.
“Sunday Air Show Will Be a Highlight.” The Western Star. 18 July 1996.
“The Town of Stephenville.” Atlantic Chamber Journal. January 1990.
[Further information, located in historical binders, has been obtained from The Kindale Public Library, Stephenville, Newfoundland.]