It is difficult to determine just exactly whom one Masterton street – Smith Street – is named for. As might be expected from such a common name, there are a number of different candidates. The favourite is John Valentine Smith, an educated Englishman who came to the southern colonies as secretary to Governor Enderby, in the unsuccessful attempt to colonise the Auckland Islands.
When the colony failed Smith made his way to New Zealand where he became a large landholder in the Tinui-Mataikona area. He also purchased the Lansdowne estate (which he named) and became active in various public bodies-primarily the Masterton Trust Lands Trust and the Masterton Highways Board. Smith was commander of the local militia and was the driving force behind the construction of the Masterton stockade in 1868.
H.H. Daniell, in an article published in Masterton in the 1950s, put forward the case for the street being named after Washington Smith, a local identity who lived in the street. Frank Fyfe, another local historian, believed it might have been named for W.H. Smith, publisher of Masterton’s first newspaper, who was also said to have lived there.
It is possible that the street was named in honour of William Mein Smith, surveyor of the township of Masterton. To add even more confusion – perhaps it was where the local blacksmith worked, or a silversmith, or a tinsmith
Pic: John Valentine Smith, early settler and M.P.