Henry Weston Smith


Henry Weston Smith Famous memorial

Ellington, Tolland County, Connecticut, USA
Death 20 Aug 1876 (aged 49)
Lawrence County, South Dakota, USA
Burial Deadwood, Lawrence County, South Dakota, USA
Plot Section 2, Lot 39
Memorial ID 961 View Source

Folk Figure. During his life time, he was a Civil War soldier, doctor, prospector, and, most of all, he was a preacher for practically all his adult life. He was first married in 1847, but his wife and child both died within a year. He became a Methodist preacher at the age of 23 while still living in Connecticut. In 1859 he married for the second time and had four children. He moved to Massachusetts and joined the states 52nd Infantry during the Civil War. After the war he became a doctor. But he felt a higher calling and in 1876 he relocated to the Black Hills of South Dakota to minister to the miners of the gold rush. He walked beside a wagon train from Cheyenne, Wyoming to become the first preacher on any denomination in the Black Hills. On May 7, 1876, he held the first church services ever in the hills in Custer City, South Dakota, the first town in the hills. He had a congregation of 29 men and five women. After preaching there again the following week, he was once more walking beside a wagon train. This time his destination was Deadwood. The streets of Deadwood became his church and he usually could be found preaching in front of one of the stores. To make ends meet, he did a little prospecting and worked a few odd jobs. Worldly wealth was never an objective for Smith. After church on August 20, 1876, he tacked a note on the door of his cabin that said, "Gone to Crook City to preach, and if God is willing, will be back at three o'clock." A local resident discovered his murdered body alongside the road to Crook City. He had not been robbed and there was debate about his killer (s). Some thought Indians, some thought thieves in spite of the lack of robbery, and some thought saloon people who were unhappy with his conversion of sinners. His body was returned to Deadwood and a member of his flock performed the service. He was buried in a hillside grave, but later relocated to the Mount Mariah Cemetery. In 1914, a large monument was erected alongside highway 85 near the place he fell. A highway improvement program in 1995 required the monument to be relocated. A new monument was constructed and on August 20th, 119 years to the day of his death, the new Preacher Smith Monument was dedicated. The highlight of the dedication was the reading of the sermon he planned to preach in Crook City on that fateful day. For being in the Black Hills for only a few short months, Preacher Smith had a tremendous impact on the community. Smith was portrayed in the American television series "Deadwood" by Ray McKinnon.

Bio by: Tom Todd

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 961
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Henry Weston Smith (10 Jan 1827–20 Aug 1876), Find a Grave Memorial ID 961, citing Mount Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood, Lawrence County, South Dakota, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .