C. Henry Smith was born on June 8, 1875 in Metamora, Illinois to John and Magdalene Schertz Smith. John and Magdalene’s parents came to the United States from Alsace-Lorraine in the early 1830s. Christian Smith, C. Henry Smith’s grandfather, was a charter member of Partridge Creek Amish-Mennonite Church. This church was organized in 1833 and the first German-speaking church in Illinois as well as the first Amish-Mennonite church west of Ohio.
Henry’s father allowed him to attend high school during the winter when farm work was slow. After he graduated from Metamora High School in 1893, he passed the teacher’s examinations and taught for the next three years in Woodford County Schools. He then attended Illinois State Normal School. He accepted to teach at Elkhart Institute. He then continued his college courses at the University of Illinois.