Sterling City, the county seat of Sterling County, is on the North Concho River at the intersection of U.S. Highway 87 and State Highway 158, forty-three miles northwest of San Angelo and forty-two miles southeast of Big Spring in the east central part of the county. It was named in honor of W. S. Sterling, an early buffalo hunter and Indian fighter in the area, when it became the county seat in July 1891. As virtually the only community in the sparsely populated county, Sterling City progressed in pace with the influx of settlers, particularly from Cummins, a mile east. The townsite was donated in January 1891 by R. C. Stewart and surveyed and platted in February by H. B. Tarver. By June a hotel and several businesses were in operation and S. R. and Frank Ezell had established the Sterling Courier. A post office was established later that year. The first school was built by 1892, and the first cotton gin in the county was erected in 1895. In 1896 the community had 300 residents, eight businesses, and three churches. The Santa Fe Railroad provided service in 1910 but was later discontinued. Sterling City was noted for its windmills, which at one time numbered 150. By 1914 the community had two banks, two hotels, other businesses, and a population of 900. The town was incorporated in August 1955. The population was 800 in 1949 and 854 in 1960, when Sterling City had six churches, a hospital, a bank, a library, and a newspaper. The number of residents fell to 780 by 1970, then grew to 915 by 1980. In the late 1980s the town remained the center for county ranching and derived income from county petroleum production. Jack Douthit published the weekly Sterling City News Record. The high school enrollment was ninety in 1985. In 1990 the population of Sterling City was 1,096. The population was 1,081 in 2000.
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