In September 1940 as WWII raged, plans were being made to transform the quiet, largely French-speaking farming village of Stephenville, Newfoundland into a flourishing American air base.
The transformation was to impact the whole area but it would have a direct impact on more than 200 people, living on a small parcel of land, consisting of 865 acres. These people would be removed from their homes; their properties were slated for expropriation.
Under its Leased Bases Agreement with Britain, the United States had obtained rights to build the Stephenville air base in 1940. A board of American army and navy personnel arrived in Newfoundland on September 20, 1940 to scout for possible base sites. The Americans quickly realized that Stephenville would be an ideal location for an air base. It would eventually become the largest US military base outside of the continental USA.
In order to build the air base the properties of local residents were expropriated by the Newfoundland Department of Public Utilities, Commission of Government, to provide sites for American military bases and installations under the Leased Lands Agreement and American Bases Act (1941).
The process of expropriation was documented and is now available at The Rooms Provincial Archives. This new online collection consists of 265 photographs (b&w) relating to claims for remuneration for expropriated property in the community of Stephenville. The images illustrate houses, fences, shops, sheds, farms, farm animals, vehicles, buildings, and household items.
Recommended Archival Collection: Department of Public Works Newfoundland Board of Arbitration records Expropriations claims: Photographs: GN 4.3, Series (Stephenville) Click to view the Stephenville photographs: http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=38234
Recommended Exhibit: From This Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea Where: Level 4, The Husky Energy Gallery, The Rooms: This exhibition showcases how the province’s peoples connected and are connected, and how different cultures shape this place. See in particular the exhibit cases “The Friendly Invasion.”
Recommended Reading: High, Steven. “From Outport to Base: The American Occupation of Stephenville, 1940-1945.” Newfoundland Studies 18.1 (2002): 84-113.