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About Rev. Smith | Links | Information Sources

Henry W. Smith
The original

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the HBO

Born: January 10, 1827, Ellington CT
Died: August 20, 1876, Lawrence County, SD
Buried: Mt. Moriah Cemetery, Lawrence Co., South Dakota

Rev. Henry Weston Smith (Preacher Smith) was the first Christian minister to enter the Black Hills after the gold discovery. He was earnest and self sacrificing. He located in Deadwood in 1876, built himself a cabin and worked at mining for a livelihood, preaching upon the streets and in saloons whenever occasion offered. He went to the outlying camps upon Sundays to preach there. In a great mining camp where little regard was given to Christian living he won the respect of everyone.

More about Rev. Henry W. Smith's life at Legends of America

Sunday morning, August 20, 1876, he preached in Deadwood and then started to Crook City to preach there. The country was overrun with hostile Indians returning from the Little Bighorn River to their homes upon the reservations. While he was upon the ridge three or four miles northeast of Deadwood, he was shot from ambush by an Indian and killed. His body was found, an undelivered sermon in his pocket.

Sheriff Seth Bullock conducted the first Episcopal service for "Preacher Smith" in Deadwood in August of 1876. Using a borrowed Book of Common Prayer, he read the Burial Office for him.

Sheriff Seth Bullock described Rev. Smith’s death in his August 21 letter to Rev. J. S. Chadwick in Louisville, Kentucky:
"It becomes my painful duty to inform you that Rev. H. Weston Smith was killed by the Indians yesterday (Sunday) a short distance from this place. He had an appointment to preach here in the afternoon, and was on his way from Crook City when a band of Indians overtook him and shot him. His body was not mutilated in any way, and was found in the road a short time after the hellish deed had been done. His death was instantaneous as he was shot through the heart. His funeral occurred today from his home in this town. Everything was done by kind hands, that was possible under the circumstances, and a Christian burial given him. I was not personally acquainted with Mr. Smith, but knew him by reputation, as an earnest worker in his Master’s Vineyard. He has preached here on several occasions, and was the only minister in the Hills. He died in the harness and his memory will be always with those who knew him. A letter from you which I found in his home causes me to convey this sad intelligence to you.

The people of Deadwood have erected a suitable monument at or near the place of his death to commemorate his worthy life. August 17, 1924 a commemorative ceremony in his honor was head in Deadwood, in which many pioneers participated. Those present resolved to make such Memorial Service an annual event.

Henry Weston Smith was born in Ellington, Connecticut, January 10, 1827. At the age of 23 he entered the Methodist ministry. In 1861 he enlisted in the 52nd Massachusetts Infantry; after the war, he became a doctor and moved to Louisville, Kentucky with his wife, Lydia Ann Joslin, and their four children.

Smith’s body was laid to rest in Ingleside Cemetery with Seth Bullock presiding at his service. His body was moved to Mount Moriah Cemetery at Deadwood and a lifesized statue stands over his grave. You can find the Preacher Smith Monument, three miles south of Deadwood on Highway 85

Family trees at Ancestry.com indicate that Rev. Henry W. Smith was the son of Joshua Weston & Percey/Persey (Galpin) Smith of Berlin, Hartford Co. CT, and that he married 23 February 1858 to Lydia Ann Joselyn. Information found at the link below states he married Ruth Yeomans, but I have not found any information to verify that.

SEE more photographs of Preacher Smith and his tombstone.


Preacher Smith - From City of Deadwood web site [archived page]

Rev. Henry W. Smith - from Blackhillsvisitor.com

Burial Site of Henry W. Smith - from Find-A-Grave

Ray McKinnon , actor who plays "Rev. H.W. Smith" on the HBO: Deadwood series - from TvTome.com

Information Sources

1. Encyclopedia of South Dakota, by Doane Robinson, First Edition, Pierre, S.D., 1925; page 669-670

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