This town, situated far out upon the billowy prairie, remote from proves, and streams, and other attractions to the early settler, was one of the later-settled townships of the County. Its first inhabitant was Mr. Ezekiel Whitehead, who commenced a farm in 1851. A large portion of the land was at this time in the hands of the government ; but was entered, during this and the following year, by C. C. Shepard, H. A. Mix, Mark Howard, and other speculators, who have since gained great wealth by the rise in their value.
In 1854 the citizens of South Grove, which lies directly north of this town, petitioned the Galena Railroad Company, which had built the Dixon branch through the town, to establish a station for their accommodation; and after some months' delay, the company acceded to the request. The station once established, settlers rapidly filled up the township. It had been a part of the town of De Kalb, but in 1855, a sufficient number having moved in to give them a right to a separate town organization, a petition was presented to the Board of Supervisors, asking this privilege, which was granted; and the new town, under the name of Milton, embracing this township and one-half of that one south of it, was admitted into the Union. The village at the station was named Malta, and a thriving town rapidly grew up at this point.
The name of Etna was, soon after its organization, substituted in place of Milton, and this, a few years later, was changed to Malta, the name of its village and post-office.
The financial storm of 1857, which prostrated the value of every kind of property, and ruined the currency of the country, reduced the vitality of this ambitious little village, and gave it a blow from which it was many years in recovering. Building was stopped; houses were vacant and valueless; merchants and grain dealers' failed; every body grew poor, and multitudes left the country.
In 1857 a large steam mill was built, but it was never a profitable property; and four years later it was burned down, under circumstances that led to the suspicion that it was burned by the lessees. Suits growing out of this charge are still pending before the courts.
In 1867, aided by a liberal subscription of the citizens of the village, Mr. Abraham Peters erected another large and substantial steam grist mill, which is now doing a good business.
Toward the close of the great war, Malta again acquired a fresh increase of growth and prosperity. The high prices of grain attracted settlers, and gave increased value to her new prairie lands. Money became plenty, business increased, new buildings were erected, real estate doubled in value, and sales, which for many years were impossible, now became frequent.
Malta is now on the high tide of prosperity. The village is the natural center for a large extent of very rich country, which, filled up with the substantial farming population which now is rapidly centering there, will support a town of three or four times its present population.
The first census of the town was taken in 1860, when it was found to have 620 inhabitants. This number, in 1865, had increased to 849, and is now probably over 1200.
Malta furnished 94 soldiers for the war of the rebellion.
Its Supervisors have been :
For 1856, E. Whitehead ;
1857-58, T. C. Wetmore;
1859-60-61, Henry Madden;
1862-63-64-65, M. C. Dedrick ;
1866, G. W. Smiley ; and
1867, D. F. Pease.
In 18__ the Congregational church was organized, with Rev. _____as pastor. In 1867 the Baptist and Congregational societies each built handsome churches.
Among those from Malta who gave their lives in defence of their country, was Orderly Sergeant Edward Bridge, an intelligent, exemplary and patriotic young soldier of Company B, Fifty-fifth Illinois. He was severely wounded at Shiloh, but recovered and lived to fight the battles of Chickasaw Bayou, Arkansas Post, Haines' Bluff, Champion Hills, Black River, Vicksburg and Jackson, winning the highest commendation in his relation as a soldier and as a man, but he died of pneumonia at Larkinsville, Alabama, January 11th, 1864. Aged 21.
Source: History of DeKalb County, Illinois by Boies, Henry L. (Henry Lamson), 1830-1887
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