As with much of Colorado, the area that would become Sterling was first home to Native American tribes who relied on bison and other animals of the high plains for sustenance. Trappers passed through in search of pelts and in 1820 Maj. Stephen Harrison Long led an exploratory expedition to the area. The 1869 Battle of Summit Springs near Sterling between Cheyenne Dog Soldiers and U.S. Army troops, was one of the final battles of the Indian Wars in Colorado.
The 1860s also saw the development of huge cattle ranches in the area, followed by clusters of sod homes and dugouts built by settlers in search of farmland. These few formed the first town of Sterling just north of the present town. In 1881 the scattered settlers learned that the Union Pacific railroad was planning a route through northeastern Colorado. Determined that their home would benefit, a community leader named Minos King hurried to a meeting with railroad planners, successfully promising 80 acres to house a railroad roundhouse.
King then bought the site of present-day Sterling for $400 and a railroad surveyor platted a new town there and lots were donated for churches, schools, public buildings and a cemetery – the basics of a real town.
Sterling was incorporated in 1884, a town based on agriculture and relying on the railroad to carry its products to markets. That model continues today, although the town’s economic base has expanded to include major employers like Northeastern Junior College, the Sterling Correctional Facility (the largest correctional facility within the Colorado Department of Corrections), and computer services company Sykes Enterprises.
• North Sterling State Park
Population: 14,777 (2010 Census).
Land area: 6.9 square miles.
County: Logan County (Sterling is the county seat).
Altitude: 3,954 feet above sea level
Climate: Warm summers, cold winters and abundant sunshine year-round. Annual precipitation of 15 inches, including average annual snowfall of 21 inches. Snow depth of 1 inch in January and February. January averages: high 39, low 11. July averages: high 90, low 58. More weather >>