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The nonpartisan Malta Enterprise began publication in May 1900 under the editorship of A.S. Godfrey; however, its origins date back to May 13, 1899 in Harlem, Montana, when Dudley Axtell edited the early issues of the Harlem Enterprise. Axtell offered this advice to readers in the first issue: “If you have trouble in the absence of a policeman, tell it to a printer. It will do as much good. If you have a new baby in the family, bring us a cigar and we will name it—if a girl after the president’s daughter. If a boy—after George Washington.”
From its earliest beginnings, the Enterprise promoted ranching, and homesteading. The completion of the Great Northern Railroad in 1887 attracted to Montana thousands of would-be farmers from the Midwest seeking “free land” offered by the U.S. government to families willing to live on and cultivate it for five years. The railroad platted towns along the Hi-Line (the northern rail line between St. Paul, Minnesota, and Tacoma, Washington), naming them for cities in Europe (Glasgow, Malta, and Havre), and also promoted dry land agriculture. In March 1908, the paper’s editor, R.M. Reichel, announced the arrival of homesteaders from North Dakota with four carloads of animals. The Enterprise also promoted a pamphlet published by the Great Northern entitled, “Scientific Farming in Montana.” In 1903, Congress authorized development of the Milk River Project to bring water from the St. Mary’s River east of the Continental Divide to Glasgow, Montana, via a series of dams and canals. In 1911, irrigation water from the project first became available, great expanding agricultural opportunities in the area. By 1915, the residents of Malta and Dodson petitioned to carve a new county, Phillips, out of Valley County, because of the huge influx of immigrants. In 1910, Valley County reported 13,000 residents, and by 1920 the new Phillips County alone reported 9,300 people and Malta 1,865.
Under the editorial guidance of J.D.B. Greig, the earliest editions of the Malta Enterprise measured four pages and seven columns. By early 1900, the paper had grown to eight pages. The Enterprise persisted until 1924 when Malta welcomed a new paper called the Phillips County News, a version of which persists today.
Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT