It’s taken 153-years but moves are finally underway to give some restitution to Senior Sergeant Thomas Smyth, who was murdered by notorious bushranger ‘Mad Dog’ Dan Morgan in the hills near Henty in 1864.
Sergeant Smyth’s unmarked grave is now set to receive a memorial headstone to rectify what is believed to have been an administrative oversight lost in the 1951 transferral of Albury’s three cemeteries from church to council.
Police officers, both active and retired, had bemoaned as “a sad end and undignified burial” of Senior Sergeant Smyth after he was shot trying to recapture the bushranger, who had been terrorising the region.
In 1864, ‘Mad Dog’ Morgan had recently committed his second and third murders before he arrived in the Henty area. Widespread fear and an outcry from the press at the time saw the reward for Morgan’s capture raised to £1000, and parties of special police were sent to track and capture him.
On September 4, Senior Sergeant Smyth had set up camp with three troopers in the Henty hills, when Morgan and another man crept up and fired several shots into the police tent, hitting the sergeant in the shoulder and exiting through his back. Morgan later said he had been watching the camp for some time.
Despite his wounds, the sergeant ran out of the tent and returned fire, forcing the offenders to retreat. The wounded officer then collapsed. He was transferred to Kiamba and then Albury where doctors claimed he was recovering, before he hemorrhaged several times.
The Empire newspaper dated October 5, 1864 reported that “he yielded up his brave spirit on Thursday night. He was a very deserving officer, possessed of more than average intelligence and shrewdness, which eminently fitted him for a police officer. His courage was unquestionable”.
Senior Sergeant Smyth was buried in an unmarked grave in an Albury cemetery, however there is a memorial stone on Pleasant Hills Road just outside Henty.
NSW Police is hoping to rectify other unmarked police graves. Dan Morgan was holding hostages when he was shot dead in Victoria by a farmhand in April,1865.
This excerpt is from an Australian Government site about bushrangers:
“Daniel Morgan brought discredit to the popular 'currency heroes' by his mixture of violence, abuse and seemingly meaningless murders. Morgan claimed his innocence at his first conviction in 1854, at the diggings near Castlemaine, which he said was 'framed' by a squatter. During his time at Pentridge Prison, he developed a violent dislike for police. Upon his release, he began a campaign against society at large and the police in particular.
Morgan once took issue with an overseer's wife when the man was away on business, demanding money from her as he forced her against a blazing fire until she suffered severe burns to her legs. Morgan also tried to burn squatter Isaac Vincent by setting fire to his woolshed after he had tied Vincent to a nearby fence. After Morgan bailed up coaches, he would stampede the horses – sending them and their drivers to destruction.
Eventually he was shot and captured in 1865 after being outwitted by a nursemaid and station hand at Peelhelba Station near Wangaratta, owned by the McPhersons.”