(ScStr: dp. 5,660 (n.) ; l. 284'0"; b. 37'0" (wl.); dr. 22'6"; s. 11.0 k.; cpl. 80; a. 4 6-pdrs.)
The first Sterling was purchased in 1898 from the Black Diamond Transportation Co.; and was commissioned on 16 April 1898, Comdr. R. E. Impey in command.
Through the remainder of the Spanish-American war and until 1899, Sterling operated along the eastern coast of the United States and in the Caribbean area as a collier. On 1 March 1899, she was placed out of commission at Boston. By 1902, she was again active carrying coal for the Atlantic Fleet.
Her name disappeared from the Report of the Secretary of the Navy between 1904 and 1907. She was probably out of commission during that time, because her name reappeared in 1908 with the notation that she had been in reserve at Boston since 13 May 1908. The 1910 Report indicates that she was still out of commission, berthed at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard. In 1912, she was at Norfolk, Va., undergoing a repair survey. She was still assigned to the Norfolk Navy Yard on 1 January 1914, but was recommissioned on 2 February 1916. She served with the Atlantic Fleet Train until 9 January 1918, when the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) was established.
As one of the original ships assigned to NOTS, Sterling spent the remainder of World War I supplying American bases and ships with fuel to maintain a steady flow of men and materiel to the battlefields in Europe. On 6 May 1919, Sterling was reassigned to the 3d Naval District for decommissioning and disposal. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 7 July 1919, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 3 August 1919. On 15 September, her hulk was sold to F & H Starr, of New York City.