The Town of St. George’s (Incorporated in 1965) is located on the Southwest coast of St. George’s Bay. St. George’s (originally known as South Side or Little Bay) has its origins in the French fishery of the seventeenth century when the harbour would attract fishermen to spend the summer in the area and return to France for the winter months. Permanently settled in the eighteenth century, the community remained a fishing village for nearly 200 years until the advent of the railroad.
Sandy Point, a small uninhabited island a few hundred meters offshore from St. George’s has a great deal of historical significance to the settlers in St. George’s. In the 1700’s and 1800’s, Sandy Point was the commercial center of the West Coast of Newfoundland, until the railway went through in 1898. Because of the work that the railway created and the rapid transportation of goods, many people from Sandy Point settled at St. George’s around the train station (commonly referred to as The Tank). The new settlement of St. George’s rapidly became more prominent than Sandy Point.
St. George’s grew rapidly and soon became a major center. The town became the distributor of goods for the surrounding area and the Port au Port Peninsula, as supplies were being delivered to the peninsula by the St. George’s Steamship Company. The St. George’s Lumber Company and Captain Sam Butt’s Cooperage operation were strong local businesses. Fishing, lumbering, and farming were the primary occupations and lobster factories also operated there. A brewery/distillery operated at Man’O War Brook for a short time at the turn of the century. The community also became the seat for the magistrate for the area and a courthouse was constructed.
St. George’s was the most prominent town in the Bay St. George area until the early 1900’s. With the coming of the Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville in 1941, Stephenville eventually replaced St. George’s as the market center and Stephenville Crossing became the trans-shipment point for goods going to Stephenville by rail.