Sterling Ranch Company, as it is now known, was 'discovered' in the winter of 1864, by Benjamin Franklin Stickney. He was a freighter or (as they were sometimes called) a bull whacker hauling freight from Fort Benton, Montana, to the gold camps on Last Chance Gulch along the Mullen Road in present day Helena.
Stickney was a young man that worked for an old peg-legged man who owned the teams of oxen and wagons. He left Fort Benton late in the freighting season and was one of the last to get to Helena with his goods. He thought he could make it back to Fort Benton before winter set in. As it turned out, winter hit hard one night when he was encamped, and his oxen left him to seek shelter out of the storm.
He was able to trail them across the frozen Missouri River and up a creek to where two forks of a creek met. There, Stickney built a small log cabin out of the cottonwood trees along the creek, to stay in for the winter. The cabin had no windows and only a small hole to crawl in for a door. There also was plenty of grass for the oxen to eat. So, this is where Stickney spent the winter of 1864-1865. The creek was later named Stickney Creek after him.
The people of Fort Benton told the old man that Stickney had run off with his oxen and that he would never see them again. The old man kept telling everyone that this wasn't the case, but nobody believed him. They were all fooled when Stickney came back that spring with the oxen and wagons.
The old man wanted him to stay on, but Stickney liked the area where he had wintered and decided to go there to settle. He later married, and with his family, homesteaded in the area adding to the land holdings.