County Seat: Sterling City * County Population: 1,346
The Sterling County Courthouse was completed in 1938 in a Texas Renaissance style with Art Deco details.
The county’s first home, a two-story frame courthouse, cost about $1,800, while the second county capitol, a stone structure, was built for $25,000. The current temple of justice, partially financed by a $45,000 WPA grant, was valued at $85,000.
Both the county and the county seat of Sterling were named for buffalo hunter and surveyor W.S. Sterling, who came to the area before the Civil War where he camped and hunted for more than two decades. He eventually was killed by Apache Indians in Arizona where he worked as a U.S. marshal.
At one time, the number of windmills standing in the city boundaries was near 150, prompting the name, “The Windmill City.” While the number of windmills has diminished, they can still be seen throughout the rangeland and serve as an aid for ranchers of Sterling County.
During the fall of 1891, settlers conducted a fund-raiser known as “ball and supper” to establish Sterling City’s first school. Ladies put together boxed meals which were sold to the highest bidders. Dancing followed the auction and meal.
In 1910, the Concho, Llano, and San Saba Railroad Company completed a railroad line from San Angelo to Sterling City, and everyone was given a free ride to San Angelo. While the railroad was later discontinued, the Sterling City Railroad Depot still stands and has been renovated by the Sterling County Senior Citizens.
The area’s early settlers were lured by good grassland, prompting a substantial livestock industry. In the 1920s, oil companies sent geologists to do testing, resulting in only small amounts of oil. However, some believed oil was there for the taking, and in the summer of 1947, the Georgia Frost Well, cased and deepened to 25 feet, began flowing. Oil fever spread as every section of the county was tested. Production grew steadily, and oil and gas remain key pillars of the economy.
Today visitors are lured to the area in search of deer, quail, turkey and dove. The Sterling County Extension Service sponsors an annual Hunter’s Appreciation Dinner held at the beginning of deer season. Proceeds go toward the construction of show facilities for the local FFA and 4-H children livestock projects.
Other special events include:
Annual School Kick-off held at the city park, which includes a barbecue dinner and dance;
Sterling City School Carnival offering games, food, brisket dinner and bingo;
Christmas Stroll the second weekend in December; and
Sterling County Stock Show, usually conducted the weekend after the New Year.
Texas Almanac 2004-2005