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 1925.
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.
Pictures and information for this article were compiled from information found in internet searches, History of Holt County 1882, History of Holt County 1917, newspaper articles, pictures and personal research housed in the Holt County Historical Society’s Genealogy/Research Center in Mound City, and submitted by Helen Morris Smith.
On the 12th day of May, 1880, the plat of the embryo town of Maitland, in Clay Township, was filed in the Recorder's Office of Holt County by J. F. Barnard, of St. Joseph, Missouri, who was the owner of the lane upon which the town was located. The original town site occupies the south half of the southeast quarter of section 4, and the west half of the northeast quarter of section 9, township 62, range 37. So rapidly did it grow, and so numerous were the buildings which had been erected that on the 4th day of August, following, Mr. Barnard filed the plat of an addition to the town.
It is handsomely located, on the Nodaway Valley Railroad, a branch of the Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluff; Road, about eighteen miles from its intersection with the main line, anc contains, at this time, a population of about six hundred souls. The placid little stream, called the Nodaway River, forms the eastern boundary line,of its corporation, and flows in a southwesterly direction towards the Missouri, with which it unites twenty-eight miles distant Upon the opposite side of the Nodaway, from Maitland, is situated the thriving little village of Graham, in Nodaway County, the two towns being connected by an elegant iron bridge, which cost the two counties of Holt and Nodaway $6,000. The country surrounding Maitland (Clay Township) is conceded to be the best agricultural district in the county both on account of its physical features and the fertility of its soil.
The pioneer building of the town was put up in June, 1880, by J. M Wensch & Co., of St. Joseph, Missouri, for a lumber office. The second house was moved from Whig Valley, by E. F. Weller, and located on the south side of Main and First street, south corner, for a store. Mr. Weller was the first postmaster. The first business house erected in the town was the hardware store of C. D. Messenger, who was from St. Joseph. The next business house was erected by Garnett & Swope, and used as a drug store. Then came David Kennedy, William Ritchie and others, all of whom began and finished their improvements between June and August, 1880.
The town supports one newspaper, Maitland Independent, J. J. Moulton, proprietor. The paper is independent in politics, and was established about March, 1881.
Source: The History of Holt and Atchison Counties, Missouri; 1882