Although not the last town platted in Holt County, Maitland was a relative late-comer; its original date of record is May 12, 1880. Maitland was a railroad town; it derived its name
from John S. Maitland, one of the railroad surveyors for the C.B. & Q. Railroad. An August 1880 newspaper article claims that the town is still on the boom, with the lumber yard conducting
a good business, and that the depot was nearly complete.
The Maitland Fair was organized and first held in September 1882 and was held yearly until 1901 as a vehicle for farmers, business men and the people in general to exhibit their stock
and products. A half-mile track was noted to be one of the best in the west, and exhibits of livestock and flowers provided opportunities for people to congregate. This celebration was
missed, so in 1905 a group of businessmen, ranchers and farmers revived the fair under the auspices of the Nodaway Valley Agricultural Fair Association. This group’s last fair was held in
Maitland held its first Fourth of July celebration in 1883, and what a day it was! The day began early, with a salute at 6 am, and didn’t end until the last fireworks had been shot
off that night. People started to gather as early as 7 am, with a parade at 9:30 which included participants from the Holt County Cornet Bank of Oregon, members of the Grand Army of the
Republic Post, the state wagon drawn by four black horses, and a variety of buggies, carriages and other conveyances. Speeches were given; music was played; songs were sung; prayers were
offered; the Declaration of Independence was read; and people came well prepared with picnic lunches. Children were delighted when a large number of balloons was set off, and the evening
ended with a fireworks display. It is estimated that the crowd at this inaugural celebration was between 4,000 and 5,000 people.
Another patriotic event occurred February 16, 1899, when a large crowd gathered to welcome home the Maitland Division of the 4th Regiment. When the men arrived at the train platform,
a large throng of people were there to welcome them home. A reception hosted by the Ladies Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Aid Society included speeches and reunions between the men and their families.
It was fitting that Maitland host a Road Drag Day, as it is renowned for being the birthplace of the King Road Drag, an invention by David Ward King that revolutionized the method of
maintaining dirt roads in the early 1900’s. Road Drag Day was held Monday, May 27, 1915. Maitland merchants offered token prizes in appreciation of every man or boy who came to town.
Special prizes were awarded, including one for the drag which came the greatest distance and the oldest man driving a drag. Merchants and townsfolk alike were astounded when 168 drags
arrived for the occasion! Events of the day also included a baseball game (Maitland beat Skidmore) and other athletic events.
In 1930 Maitland held a Golden Anniversary party. Stories were told about the town’s beginnings, speeches were given by dignitaries including Lieutenant Governor E. H. Winter,
and of course athletic events. A baseball game, an air circus and free open-air picture show were all part of the festivitie which culminated in a free street dance. This celebration
was enjoyed so much that it was after 2 am when the last party-goers went home.
Of course, no story about Maitland celebrations would be complete without mentioning the Bluegrass Festival; many people today will remember enjoying this annual celebration.
While bluegrass festivals today might include a certain amount of “pickin’ & grinnin’”, the Maitland festival revolved around the production and harvest of bluegrass, as Maitland was
renowned nationwide for the bluegrass grown there. Known as “the Bluegrass Mecca,” at one time Maitland boasted the largest bluegrass farm in the country. The Maitland Bluegrass Festival
usually employed a carnival and included a wide variety of activities, including queen contests, midways, speeches and a wide variety of entertainment . The Festival was sponsored by
the American Legion Post and was first held in 1940. The queen contest was open to any young lady between 15 and 25 years of age, and was a highly anticipated activity. The first Blue
Grass Fesival Queen was Wilma Jean Huiatt.
Though the Maitland celebrations are now a thing of the past, each activity was once a highly-anticipated time of fun and fellowship not only for the Maitland community,
but all of Holt County.
Information for this article was compiled from information found in internet searches, History of Holt County 1882, History of Holt County 1917, Maitland Missouri 1880-1955
Blue Grass Mecca I, newspaper articles, pictures and personal research housed in the Holt County Historical Society’s Genealogy/Research Center in Mound City. (Contributed by Helen Morris Smith)