Town History

PROFILE OF THE TOWN OF MALTA

T

he first inhabitants of Malta were the Mohawk and Mohegan Indians who migrated to summer hunting and fishing grounds on the shores of Saratoga and Round Lakes.  The earliest European settlement was in the southeast corner of the town centered on a malt brewery, bringing about the name Maltaville, and eventually Malta.

 
One of Malta’s earliest settlers was Michael Dunning who purchased a large plot of land in the area now known as Dunning Street around 1774.  Dunning set aside an open tract of land where the militia would train annually. These troops fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. When not engages in war, training was more of a social event where people could enjoy the company of their neighbors.
The Town of Malta was not officially established until 1802 when it separated from the Town of Stillwater.  On April 6, 1802, the first town meeting was held to elect officers and pass the first town ordinances. The minutes of that meeting are still in the custody of the Town Clerk.  Many significant events have occurred here. In 1837, Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union officer killed in the Civil War and a great friend of the Lincoln family, was born here. From 1898 until the late 1930s, Tommy C. Luther created the beautiful “Luther Forest”, a 7,000 acres private forest preserve that now is the site of over 1,700 homes as well as Global Foundries.  During the 1940s and 1950s, this same area was home to the Malta Rocket Test Station, where the rocket engines that carried America to the moon were first tested.
Throughout most of its history, Malta was a small rural town but this began to change with the construction of the “176 miles that changed everything” i.e. the Adirondack Northway or Interstate 87. Planned as part of the great post war interstate system, construction began in the mid 1950’s but did not cross the Mohawk until 1959 with the opening of the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge. By 1963 traffic was moving as far as Lake George and by 1967 on to Canada. But it was also moving to Albany and all points throughout the Capital District. People discovered that they could work anywhere within a fifty miles radius and still make it home in time to see their children’s baseball game. The great exodus from city to suburb was on.
Clifton Park may have been the first community along the road to feel its demographic effects but it was soon followed by Malta. While the 1960’s saw a whopping 229% increase in the Clifton Park population, Malta witnesses a more modest, but very respectful increase of 71%. During the 1970’s the percentage increase of Malta was actually larger than its southern neighbor (Malta 82%, Clifton Park 61%) though the numeric increase still leaned heavily in favor of Clifton Park. The 80’s saw this trend continuing with Malta’s population increasing by 67%. By 2000 both communities were witnessing a more modest and almost equal rate of growth; Clifton Park 10% and Malta 11% during the 1990’s. The 2000 census counted 32,995 residents in Clifton Park and 13,005 in Malta. The pre Northway population (1960 census) of Malta being 2223, the town has experienced an increase of 10,782 citizens (485%) in the near fifty year period that the road has passed through town.
The Village of Round Lake is a unique and historic part of our town. The area became popular in 1868 when several Methodist laymen purchased a tract of land on the west shore of the lake as a site for camp meetings. The Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad Co. erected a station nearby. The first week long meeting attracted 8,000 people while the second, a year later, drew 20,000. As the years passed, the meeting became more educational and cultural. Cottages were constructed to replace the tents that had housed the first visitors and an auditorium was built for the meeting site.  In 1888, the camp acquired a Ferris-tracker organ, originally built in 1847, and organ consorts are presented each summer. Property was owned by the Methodist Association until 1969 when the area was incorporated as the Village of Round Lake.