Henry Smith

Henry Weston Smith (1827 - 1876)

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Rev. Henry Weston "Preacher Smith" Smith
Born in Ellington, Tolland, Connecticut, United Statesmap
Son of and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Between Deadwood and Crook City, Dakota Territory, USAmap
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Profile last modified 11 Sep 2019 | Created 23 Feb 2017 | Last significant change: 11 Sep 2019
21:06: T Stanton edited the Primary Photo for Henry Weston Smith (1827-1876). [Thank T for this]
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Henry Smith was involved in the "Wild, Wild West," part of the westward expansion of the United States. Join the Wild Wild West Project.
Sgt Henry Smith served in the United States Civil War.
Enlisted: mmm dd, yyyy
Mustered out: mmm dd, yyyy
Side: USA
Regiment(s): Massachusetts 52nd Militia, Company H
Henry Smith is Notable.



Henry Weston Smith was born in Elligton, Connecticut 23 Jan 1827 to Joshua Weston and Percey or Persey (Galpin) Smith of Berlin, Connecticut.[1] He was baptized 5 May 1837 at Ellington.[2]

In 1847 he married Ruth Yeomans, but his wife and infant son died a year later. At the age of 23, Smith became a Methodist preacher. On February 23, 1858, while still in Connecticut, he married Lydia Ann Joselyn or Joslin, with whom he had four children. He subsequently moved to Massachusetts and during the American Civil War served with the Massachusetts 52nd Infantry,[3] after which he became a doctor. By 1876 he had returned to the ministry and moved to Louisville, Kentucky.[4]

Move to Deadwood

In 1876, although not being appointed to do so by the church, Smith felt a calling to minister to the Black Hills gold rush, and that spring he accompanied a wagon train from Cheyenne, Wyoming to the Black Hills, travelling on foot. According to George V. Ayres, later a prominent merchant in the area, "Reverend Smith held the first church service in the Hills" at Custer City, on May 7, 1876, with 30 men and five women in attendance. Smith preached in Custer again the next Sunday, then offered $5 to Captain C.V. Gardner to accompany his wagon train to Deadwood, a three-day walk; as a Methodist himself, Gardner allowed Smith to come along without charge. In Deadwood, Smith became a street preacher, working at odd jobs during the week and perhaps prospecting, preaching on Main Street on Sundays. John S. McClintock's memoirs describe Smith preaching near the corner of Main and Gold Streets, to a mixture of curiosity and respect.[4]

As described by Gardner: "In the years past I have noted in the press many statements regarding incidents connected with the man known as Preacher Smith. Most of them are pure romance. … how he used to go into the saloons and pray are pure fiction. I never saw him in a saloon, and I am sure he never was. He preached frequently in Deadwood, generally in front of Bent and Deetken’s drug store or in front of my store. … in those days the town had 3,000 to 4,000 people, located mostly on one street, and he had no trouble in securing an audience. He was a man about 6 feet tall, with a fine physique and I should say 40 years old. He was very quiet and unassuming in manner. I know nothing of his past life, as he never volunteered to tell me and it was not wise in those days to inquire too closely into a man’s antecedents."


On Sunday, August 20, 1876, Smith left a note on his cabin door after his Deadwood service, saying "Gone to Crook City to preach, and if God is willing, will be back at three o’clock." Friends concerned about the danger of Indians or thieves had warned Smith against walking alone and unarmed, but he is remembered as replying, "The Bible is my protection. It has never failed me yet." Unfortunately, Smith was murdered as he walked to Crook City, his body found alongside the road by a local resident, the exact location no longer remembered. He had not been robbed, causing his death to be generally attributed to Indians, although some still believed he was killed by thieves. Another theory, however, held that he was murdered by a person or persons representing the saloons, brothels, casinos, and other 'vice dens' of Deadwood, who feared that his preaching would cut into their income. Similar rumors had circulated after the recent murder of Wild Bill Hickok.

Seth Bullock described Smith’s death in an August 21, 1876 letter to Reverend J. S. Chadwick: "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." Smith's body was buried in a hillside cemetery in Deadwood, the service conducted by C. E. Hawley, a member of Smith’s flock, in the absence of other clergy. The casket was later moved to Mount Moriah Cemetery, with a life-sized statue marking his grave.


  1. Ellington (CT) Vital Records Pt I, p 156, White, Lorraine Cook, ed. The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994-2002.
  2. Connecticut. Church Records Index. Connecticut State Library, Hartford, Connecticut. Vol 31:62 (Index)
  3. Reference Envelope, Co H, 52nd Mass Militia Infantry subscription, this particular document contains both his given names, Henry and Weston
  4. 4.0 4.1 McClintock, John S., Pioneer Days in the Black Hills: Accurate History and Facts Related by one of the Early Day Pioneers, Norman, Univ of Oklahoma Press, 2000, p 281 [1]

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Images: 4
Picture taken 10-25-09 of the memorial erected to honor Henry Weston Smith ("Preacher Smith") in Deadwood, South Dakota.
Picture taken 10-25-09 of the memorial erected to honor Henry Weston Smith (

Preacher Smith Memorial
Preacher Smith Memorial

Preacher Smith
Preacher Smith

Circuit Riding Methodist Minister Henry Weston Smith
Circuit Riding Methodist Minister Henry Weston Smith


On 30 Aug 2019 at 11:33 GMT T Stanton wrote:

Profile needs rewrite with appropriate citations.

Rejected matches › Henry Smith (1825-1875)