By Conor Makem Wednesday, December 1, 2010
DOVER Earlier this year, an American flag was flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of the first New Hampshire police officer killed in the line of duty, Deputy Sheriff Charles E. Smith, who died in 1891. The ceremonial flying had been arranged by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Chuck Henderson, who works as Special Assistant for Constituent Service and Outreach at Shaheen's Berlin office, became aware of the flag at that time. What he didn't know was that he was one of the few living descendants of Smith.
Henderson's father, Alden, used to honk his horn when passing Smith's grave site in Barrington and tell his sons, "Say hi to Uncle Charlie," but the boys never put two and two together.
At the end of October, Chuck's brother, Lloyd, saw a story on WMUR Channel 9, which covered a ceremony honoring Smith. The Strafford County Sheriff's Office had exhausted their leads trying to find relatives, so none were present during the ceremony. Unlike his brothers, Lloyd didn't recall any mention of Uncle Charlie from his childhood, but he wondered if he might be related to the fallen officer given that his mother's maiden name was Smith and the family hailed from Barrington. After a bit of research, the Hillsborough resident realized that he was a great grand nephew.
"We're honored to be descended from Deputy Smith, a man of great courage," Lloyd Henderson told a crowd gathered at Strafford Superior Court in Dover on Tuesday. "On behalf of my brothers and our cousins in California, we want to thank everyone involved."
Lloyd Henderson and his brothers, Chuck and Walter, accepted the Medal of Honor during an event on Tuesday in memory of their great grand uncle. They also accepted several other items of honor including the flag flown over the Capitol.
The Henderson family thanked everyone involved in honoring Smith, especially Deputy Sheriff Jim Rowe, state Rep. Julie Brown, both of whom were instrumental in bringing the recognition owed their great grand uncle, and Jon Brown, Julie Brown's son, whose land abuts the Smith family plot in Barrington. Jon Brown takes care of the grave site.
Lee Clement, from the Strafford County Sheriff's Office, said Smith was "truly a hero, one that should not have been forgotten, and from this point forward will not be forgotten."
Rep. Brown mirrored his sentiments adding that HB1486, a bill honoring Smith, passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate along bipartisan lines.
Deputy Sheriff Charles E. Smith was shot while trying to apprehend a suspected horse thief. Though able to subdue the suspect, Smith succumbed days later and was buried in a family plot along Route 202 in Barrington. The section of Route 202 from Barrington through Nottingham was officially renamed the Charles E. Smith Memorial Highway during the Oct. 28 ceremony.
Charles Smith had only one son, who died at the age of 2. The Hendersons and their cousins are descended from Smith's brother, Lewis. The three cousins from California will likely visit the area next year and the items presented will be divvied up among each family member.
Family members present on Tuesday included the three Henderson brothers, Walter's wife Jocelyn, and their son, Nico.