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Sterling County is a county located on the Edwards Plateau in the state of Texas. Based on the 2010 census, its population was 1,143, making it the ninth-least populous county in Texas. Its county seat is Sterling City. The county is named for W. S. Sterling, an early settler in the area.
W. S. Sterling, an early rancher, buffalo hunter, and Native American fighter
County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts
Original native Plains Indians included Comanche, Lipan Apache, Kiowa, and Kickapoo.
The region had a number of violent encounters between the Comanche, local ranchmen, and Texas Rangers. A deadly skirmish occurred in the 1870s between area ranchmen and the Comanche on the Lacy Creek on the present day Campstool Ranch. 'The Fight at Live Oak Mott' is an account of the events as written by W.K. Kellis, in the Sterling City News-Record, and later published in Frontier Times by J. Marvin Hunter. In 1879, the last significant battle between the Texas Rangers and the Comanche occurred on the "U" Ranch, at the time the ranch was owned by Earnest and Holland. The Comanches, led by the Quahada chief named Black Horse, left Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on May 29 with a group of 19 braves in a search for buffalo, and by June 29, they had yet to find any buffalo, so they killed a horse on the "U" Ranch, near the headwaters of the Concho River in Howard County, and an ensuing battle with the Texas Rangers soon followed. (I claim that this entire "raid" was probably not by Comanches—possibly by Apaches—but most likely non-Indian horse thieves. It was a cover-up of the mysterious killing of a Texas Ranger. And for the first time in Ranger history several of them were fired for cowardice. --Doyle Phillips)
The county was established and organized in 1891 from Tom Green County. A competition developed between Sterling City and Cummins for the county seat. Sterling City won, and most of the Cummins population moved to Sterling City by the end of the year. Cummins became a ghost town. The county is named for W. S. Sterling, an early settler in the area.
Handbook of Texas Online
When the county was established and organized in 1891 from Tom Green County, it already included eight or ten small communities, several of which had post offices and schools. A spirited contest between Sterling City and Commins (Cummins) for the county seat was fueled by the local newspapers, the Sterling Courier and the North Concho News. When the county's voters chose Sterling City as the county seat, Cummins did not survive. As the 1890s progressed populism became a contentious issue in county politics; according to one source, the population was almost evenly divided between Populists and Democrats. In spite of their divisions on other issues, however, the voters could agree on the necessity to prohibit the sale of liquor in the area; in 1898 the county was voted dry. By 1900 there were eighty-six farms and ranches, encompassing 425,655 acres, in Sterling County, and 1,127 people lived there. Though small areas in the county were beginning to be cultivated, stock ranching dominated the local economy. Only 3,129 acres in the county was classified as "improved" that year. Meanwhile, 17,000 cattle grazed on county pastures. Sheep, introduced to the area about 1890, numbered 1,400 by 1900. Initial farming efforts were limited to growing sorghums, oats, and cane for livestock feed; there was also a little truck farming to satisfy local needs. Cotton was first planted in 1889, and Sterling City opened its first gin in 1895; others were established later. By 1900, 136 acres was planted in cotton, and by 1910 production of the fiber had expanded to 1,626 acres. When the Santa Fe Railroad reached Sterling City from San Angelo in 1910, there were 135 farms and ranches in the county, and the area's population had increased to 1,403. Hopes that farming in the area might blossom into a cotton boom faded, however, as it became apparent that county lands were most suitable for grazing. The cotton gins eventually failed; by 1920 only 650 acres in Sterling County was planted in cotton. Hundreds of people left the area in the 1910s, so that by 1920 only 1,053 people remained. More at
John Leffler, "STERLING COUNTY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hcs15), accessed January 24, 2016. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 923 square miles (2,392 km2), virtually all
of which is land.
Bordering counties are as follows: