Stephenville

Stephenville, NL, incorporated as a town in 1952, population 6719 (2011c), 6588 (2006c). The Town of Stephenville is located on the north shore of St George's Bay in southwestern Newfoundland.

Stephenville, NL, incorporated as a town in 1952, population 6719 (2011c), 6588 (2006c). The Town of Stephenville is located on the north shore of St George's Bay in southwestern Newfoundland. It was named for a Stephen (the anglicized name for Étienne, and it is in dispute whether he was a Le Blanc or a Gallant), the first child to have been born in the settlement then known as Indian Head. Transplanted ACADIANS began settling there to farm and fish in 1845 although 2 English families had already arrived a year earlier.

On the great circle air route between the United States and Europe, it was chosen as the site for the American-built Air Force Base, which opened in 1941, causing the small town to grow rapidly. Originally called Stephenville Airbase, the name was changed to Ernest Harmon in 1948. The base closed in 1966, with severe economic consequences for the region, but the Harmon Field airport was converted to a commercial air facility run by the Canadian Department of Transport to accommodate Trans Canada Airlines; the base passed to the provincial government and was administered by the Crown's Harmon Corp, formed in 1967 to attract new industry. In 1973 a $252-million linerboard mill went into production, but it closed in 1977. In 1979 the world's largest producer of newsprint, Abitibi-Price (now ABITIBI CONSOLIDATED), purchased the mill. It reopened in 1981, providing significant employment for the town for 24 years before closing.

Today, Stephenville is a regional service and administrative centre. It is also the home of the main campus of College of the North Atlantic. Predominately a French-speaking community until the arrival of the air force base, there are now only vestiges of this cultural history.