Originally part of the long narrow area called Voluntown, this northern section separated and obtained town privileges from the Connecticut General Assembly on the second Thursday of May, 1794. The name given was that of a temporary resident, Dr. John Sterling, who had promised the Town a library in return for the honor. Dr. Sterling failed to make good his promise, but a library was obtained by soliciting private donations. The first town meeting was held on June 9, 1794 at the home of Robert Dixon on Sterling Hill. The first post office was established as Sterling on October 1, 1809, the name later being changed to Sterling Hill. The American Manufacturing Company also known as Potter's Factory, was the first cotton mill in Sterling. It was situated on the Quandock River about the year 1800, followed by the Sterling Manufacturing Company on the Moosup River in 1808.
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Local industrialist William Pike pioneered in using chlorine as a bleaching agent for cloth and also established for the use of the dyer distilleries or sapworks that would extract the first pyroligneous acid made in this country. His son James discovered a process of coloring with a fast black that was superior to any then in use. With the advent of the first railroad in 1854, which connected Providence with
Hartford, this made the distribution of materials much easier than before and contributed to the economic base of Sterling. Oneco, as it is known today was named after Owaneco, son of the Mohegan Indian sachem Uncas, who had claimed ownership of large tracts of eastern Connecticut land in early colonial days. About the year 1820 Henry Sabin built a cotton factory here and named the village Sabinville. Smith and Williams began quarrying granite in this vicinity in the 1850's, an industry that is still active.
Erected by the Town of Sterling
the Sterling Historical Society
and the Connecticut Historical Commission