W. S. Sterling, buffalo hunter, rancher, and Indian fighter, settled on Sterling Creek in what is now Sterling County probably at least as early as 1858, when the creek was identified by his name in a surveyor's field notes. He is known to have camped in the area in the early 1860s while he hunted buffalo for hides, which he shipped to Fort Concho. In 1863 the Fort Worth Gazette 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." After leaving Sterling County possibly about 1881, he became a United States marshal in Arizona, where he was ambushed and killed by Apache Indians near Fort Apache. Sterling County, Texas, established in 1891, and its county seat, Sterling City, were named in his honor. The remains of a half-dugout, identified by other buffalo hunters as Sterling's abode, were an early county landmark for many years.
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Beverly Daniels, ed., Milling around Sterling County (Canyon, Texas: Staked Plains, 1976). Zachary T. Fulmore, History and Geography of Texas As Told in County Names (Austin: Steck, 1915; facsimile, 1935). Ira Lee Watkins, The History of Sterling County (M.A. thesis, Texas Technological College, 1939).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Sterling, W. S.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 30, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
July 1, 1995