Pleasant Point was formerly known as The Point, the Point of old being a guiding landmark for the waggoners making their inland journeys to the Mackenzie Country. What this guiding point was, has called for speculation and several theories have been propounded as to its location.
However, the Point would appear to be either where the Te Ngawai and Opihi rivers meet or one of the cuttings in the hills that form the backdrop of the township. Some have considered the Point to be at the foot of where Rayner and Kabul streets meet whilst others maintain it was at the foot of Manse Hill Road. The latter seems the most likely point as that is the area where the township began to develop.
According to Lands and Surveys Department records Pleasant Point is ‘that part of the Mt. Misery Range terminating in R.S. 10169 and R.S. 13983) and on which is erected Trig of 293‘8 ‘, which is definitely that piece of land between Manse Hill and the cemetery on the original survey maps of the settlement.
It has to be acknowledged that this area may have been designated ‘Pleasant Point’ as a result of verbal reference to it by the earliest waggoners. Therefore we must now recognise that area as officially ‘The Point’.
In those days the countryside was practically all tussock, flax and matagouri with a few rough tracks, serving as roads, straggling through it. These tracks took a vastly different route from the surveyed roads of today. Travelling at the rate of two miles an hour, a bullock team took about three weeks to make the return trip from Timaru to the Mackenzie Country. Mishaps such as floods often lengthened the time to as long as six weeks. For company and mutual support, two or more teams would travel together, resting at recognised bullocky camps along the roadside where as many as thirty waggoners might pull in for the night.
Townships grew around these camping grounds and ‘The Point‘ was one of the popular overnight stops with ready access to water from the ‘Creek‘ and good grazing for the bullocks. Grazing on the land saved the space otherwise taken up with fodder carried on the waggons. The waggoners returning from the back country always camped at The Point, travelled to Timaru next morning and returned to The Point that evening.
Road development in the 1880s brought a gradual replacement of bullocks with horse teams which were faster. As more settlers moved inland, The Point became an extremely popular overnight stopping place and it is said that it derived its full name of Pleasant Point because of the pleasant surroundings, excellent feeding and watering facilities for the horses and a good hotel complete with alcoholic sustenance for the weary traveller.
There is another story recorded about the origin of the townships name which goes back to before the hotel came into being. One of the surveyors engaged in mapping the district for the government was a man by the name of Sharland who was camped at Opuha Station, then known as Wigley’s Station. His wife was pregnant and he decided to take her in a bullock waggon to Temuka, the nearest place where skilled medical services were available.
There being no roads. Sharland took a route along the banks of the Opihi but, on reaching its confluence with the Te Ngawai, he found the rivers in flood and was forced to camp at a point between them. After twenty-four hours at this camp, Mrs Sharland gave birth to a fine baby boy. The Sharlands remained there for a few days before returning to Opuha.
On their return, the people at the station were commiserating with them on their misfortunes and one of the assistants remarked that it must have been very unpleasant camping at the point between the rivers. But Mrs Sharland exclaimed ‘Look at my fine baby boy! It was a very Pleasant Point to me’.
Mr Sharland turned to the men and said “We shall call that place Pleasant Point”, and he went straightway to his tent and, on that portion of his rough survey plan, he wrote Pleasant Point at the confluence of the rivers.
Another story maintaining that the confluence of the two rivers is the original ‘Point’ tells that waggoners travelling between Timaru and here followed the banks of the Opihi because much of the Levels Plain was in swamp and not negotiable by waggon. On reaching this point, they journeyed towards the Cemetery hill seeking shelter for the night and found it a pleasant point to set up camp.
Whatever its origins, there can be no doubt that the name of Pleasant Point stemmed from a landmark, be it river or hill, which guided the early waggoners on the first leg of the journey from Timaru to the Mackenzie country.
The streets of Pleasant Point were surveyed in the 1870s and named accordingly but it would appear that, in the early days, the names were not publicised. Very often they were referred to, according to the landmarks in the area. Early newspaper reports refer to Afghan Street as Railway Terrace, Halstead Road was known as Saleyards Road and then, when Greig Street was opened up, it became recognised as Saleyards Road and the name stuck as long as the saleyards remained.
When the District High School was sited in Halstead Road, it became known as School Road and, at one stage, when the first Anglican church was sited there, Harris Street was referred to as Church Street. The Main Road was for many years known as Dominion Street, presumably linked with the declaration of New Zealand as a Dominion.
However, when the township grew with big increases in housing, the official names became a reality with every street duly signposted as time went on.
In the naming of the streets, the township has been divided into areas. All the streets on the southern side of the railway line have Afghan names. Many people ask why. At the time of the survey, the Anglo-Afghan wars were making headlines in the newspapers and it seems obvious that the names were taken from those figuring in the news.
The western side of the town has been given the names of our native trees while the northern side has been named after notable early settlers of the district or after people, who originally owned property in the locality. Acton Street, for instance, is after Edward Acton who owned 1100 acres in the Opihi area known as ‘Fordlands‘. He was first chairman of the School Committee, first Anglican church warden and owned the first butcher's shop in Pleasant Point. He also served on the first Levels County Council and on the Timaru Harbour Board, was chairman of the South Canterbury Refrigeration Company and of the Pleasant Point Saleyards Company.
William Halstead was a fellmonger who owned the land in the vicinity of Halstead Road and lived at 12 Halstead Road. He classed wool for the Levels Estate and afterwards, scoured all their wool. He set up his own wool scouring business opposite the Primary School. He was chairman of the Domain and Cemetery Boards and served on the school committee. He also instigated the first tennis club in the district.
John Porter Harris owned property in the vicinity of Harris Street and Alfred George Horton owned a block of land jointly with Harris. Some people have argued that Horton Street was wrongly named and should have been ‘Orton’ but, although Reginald Orton did live in that neighbourhood, this is incorrect.
On the original map Harris Street replaced the name Le Cren Street. The land was at first owned by Henry John Le Cren and, later, Frederic Le Cren. A.G. Horton and JP. Harris. It has been said that the land was gifted to Horton and Harris for charitable works they had performed.
Greig Street, formerly referred to as Saleyards Road, was originally the property of John Greig who lived in Te Ngawai Road and farmed in the vicinity. He was once chairman of the Cemetery Board, served on the library committee and was active in community affairs.
Morris Lane is named after a very early storekeeper who owned a grocer’s shop about where Pleasant Point Motors now stands. The business was then held in partnership with a Temuka businessman, F. Mendleson, Morris being manager. An early settler‘s name lives on in Burgess Street. Raynor Street is named after Albert and Algernon Raynor who lived in Te Ngawai Road. Sons of a Temuka doctor, these two men were responsible for fencing many of the properties when the Levels Estate was split up. They were notable in the fencing business for patenting an iron standard which made the job easier.
George Butler farmed 300 acres in the Butler’s Road area and represented Pleasant Point Riding on the Levels County Council. He served on the School Committee as chairman, was a member of the Domain and Cemetery Boards for many years and was always an enthusiastic worker for the advancement of the district. He was very involved in the Weslyan movement.
Maitland Street, in early days, was known as ‘Thread and Needle’ Street presumably because the local tailor‘s shop was situated there.