This year we are celebrating 50 years as the Town of Stephenville Crossing.
Town of Stephenville Crossing 1958 to 2008 Stephenville Crossing was incorporated as a town on October 23, 1958.
Research any community and there inevitably exists a basic reason for its creation. Stephenville Crossing is no exception. In the 1890's, this area was known as La Grange or The Prairie. There was a large camp accommodating laborer working on railway construction, erecting a wooden bridge at the gut, and cutting railway ties. When the line was completed in 1898, the Crossing became a regional headquarters for section men. The community began as a junction for supplies and a railway station was built. By 1908, mail was dropped off for delivery to Stephenville and the Port au Port Peninsula. It was a junction or crossing to points beyond, thus, the name Stephenville Crossing quickly evolved. In 1901, there were 112 citizens.
Besides the railway, people who settled here fished, farmed and worked the woods to produce lumber. Then, in the 1920's, it became a major depot for pulp which was shipped by train to the paper mill in Corner Brook. Most citizens had livestock for meat, butter, eggs, milk, cream and wool; there were even two creameries manufacturing butter and oleomargarine during World War 1. In 1941, Earnest Harmon Air Force Base started in Stephenville and the population of the Crossing increased to 925 in 1945.
Here are some vignettes that have evolved in our community over the past 107 years:
Our history records a number of “Firsts”. Bride Joy was a certified teacher with a grade 2 certificate. Joseph O'Keefe was a section master. Charles McFadridge established a general store and Antonia Nardini set up a lumber mill at the gut. Rev. Charles Jeffery was a minister of All Saints Anglican parish; Rev. J.C. Stoyles was a Roman Catholic parish priest of Our Lady of the Assumption. Both parishes had churches built by 1940. Under Commission Government, the Cottage Hospital opened in 1937. The old steel Gut Bridge was built in 1940. Constable Dermot Foster was a Newfoundland Ranger stationed here in 1947. In 1949, Newfoundland joined Canada. The Sisters of Mercy came here in 1950 and in 1951, the RCMP set up headquarters.
October 23, 1958, the town was incorporated as a municipality and its first mayor was William Hogan. In 2001, the town elected its first female mayor, Leona Webb. In 1962, Assumption High School opened; In 1964, the Vocation School opened. In 1972, the new bridge at the Gut was built. In 1975, St. Michael's Elementary Dree School opened. In 1975, the Bay St. George Long Term Care Centre opened. In 1977, there were 2500 citizens and in 2007 the population was 1963.
Long gone are the hospital, police station, Bowaters, C.N. Railway, commercial salmon, cod fishery and farming. Today, the Bay St. George Long Term Care Centre with its cottage system and congregate housing is the town's major employer. The Martin Gallant Campus of College of the North Atlantic offers 10 training programs, 7 of which are National training Red Seal Certified programs. Over the pas 12 years the town has developed into a major conservation site with over 12,000 sq acres. The Nature History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador cites 198 species of birds, 55 birds that are uncommon to Newfoundland, 26 very uncommon, 36 rare, 7 very rare, all at the Stephenville Crossing conservation site. In 2002, a rare Great Egret spent the summer here; in 2005 a very rare Western Reef Heron and a rare Snowy Egret also visited. It marked the first sighting of a Western Reef Heron in Canada and only the second sighting in North America.
Over the course of its journey, the town has withstood massive out-migration and continues to be relatively stable, due to people wanting to live, work and retire in the picturesque seaside community.
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