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Sterling City's History

Brief History of Sterling City, Texas

The area now known as Sterling City, was once occupied by Indians.  Captain W. S. Sterling, a buffalo hunter, rancher, and Indian fighter was the first white man to settle on Sterling soil for any length of time and whom the town was named after.  The Fort Worth Gazette, in its Semi-Centennial Edition in 1893, stated that Captain Sterling was an old frontiersman without fear and was distinguished for his unselfish devotion to the cause of justice and humanity. The Indians feared him for his cool courage and the deadly crack of his Winchester. Captain Sterling hunted buffalo in this area for years, but eventually left because of diminishing herds. He served as a United States Marshal in Arizona, where he was ambushed and slain by Apache Indians near Fort Apache, Arizona.

As the settlers moved into the area, Sterling City was established. The town site of Sterling City was donated in January 1891 by R.C. Stewart. At this time, Sterling City and two other small towns Montvale and Cummins, were a part of Tom Green County.  With transportation consisting of horse drawn buggies and wagons, trips to the Tom Green county seat of San Angelo became an ordeal. Early in 1891, a number of citizens met in Cummins to draw up a petition, asking the legislature to designate an area for a new county. On March 4, 1891, the Texas Legislature created Sterling County out of the territory of Tom Green County.  On April 10, 1891, a petition signed by 150 Sterling citizens requesting permission to be organized into a county, was heard in the Tom Green County Commissioner's Court. The court granted the petition and ordered that an election be held on May 20, 1891 to elect county officers and to determine the location of the Sterling County seat.

By June 11, 1891, about twenty families had moved into Sterling City, and the business houses consisted of one hotel, one restaurant, one dry goods and grocery store, one meat market, one feed stable, and one barber shop. There was also a lawyer, a land agency, and a newspaper, the Sterling City Courier. By July 1, 1891, the population was estimated to be one hundred.  

Residents of Montvale were slowly moving to Sterling City and eventually, Montvale disappeared leaving Sterling City and Cummins as the only towns in the newly formed Sterling County.  Both towns began to battle over which  would be better for the county seat. The editor of the North Concho News stated that Cummins was two miles nearer the center of the county, that the title to the land which Sterling City was located on was not clear, that Cummins had better natural drainage and Sterling City was likely to be boggy and infested with mosquitoes. The editor also stated that a dam, mill, and gin were under contract at Cummins. The people of Sterling City fought back by having a circular printed and distributed to advertise the advantages of Sterling City as the county seat.

At the election held on May 20, 1891 to determine the county seat, Sterling City received 94 votes and Cummins received 98 votes. An official count was made on May 25, and it was determined that some irregular voting had taken place. One box was thrown out because it had no poll list, and two others were thrown out because they had no instructions to judges.  At this point, Cummins and Sterling City both had 61 votes to become the county seat. A second election was scheduled for July 7, 1891, and Governor Hogg selected Soulard's Ranch house as the temporary county seat.  During the month of June, each town campaigned for the county seat. Both towns even donated a lot to anyone who would improve it before the election. The editors of the North Concho News at Cummins and the Sterling Courier at Sterling City engaged in a bitter battle over the disadvantages of the opposing town as the county seat. They argued over such things as the scenery, water supply, drainage, and elevation. They even argued over the depth to which a wagon wheel would cut into the mud of the opposing town. But forgetting their editorial warfare, the city of Cummins held a barbecue so that both newspaper editors could speak to the crowd on the advantage of their prospective towns for the county seat. The Sterling City editor complimented the Cummins people on the way the barbecue was handled.

At the second election held on July 7, 1891, Sterling City received 116 votes and Cummins received 103 votes. Sterling City was now the county seat of Sterling County. Within a few weeks of the election, businesses located in Cummins began to move to Sterling City and the population of Sterling City had increased from about 100 to 300. By the end of the year, very little was left of Cummins and the town disappeared almost entirely within the following year or so.

Sterling City, the county seat of Sterling County, was now the only existing town in the county.

(The information above was taken from Milling Around Sterling County, Staked Plains Press, Inc., Canyon, Texas 79015)