Pioneer Preacher Remembered In Deadwood, S.D.

Originally published on August 8, 2011 2:53 pm
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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

OK, let's make another stop on our summer road trip. A road trip we're calling Honey, Stop the Car. These are audio postcards from monuments that can catch your attention, such as a memorial to a terrier found in Cleveland, or a monument to a Rough Rider in Prescott, Arizona. Today, reporter Jim Kent takes us to South Dakota, where there's a tribute to a man who took on hell raisers in the wild, wild West.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR RACING DOWN HIGHWAY)

JIM KENT: And what made you stop here?

BOB MCDERMOTT: Oh, we stopped to look at the monument and the dog had to go to the bathroom.

KENT: Bob McDermott was born in Deadwood and appears to be one of the few folks who stop by this site. McDermott admits that walking the dog is one of the few reasons people probably stop at the Preacher Smith monument.

ARLETTE HANSEN: We know that he came to the Black Hills from Kentucky - left his family there, felt a calling to come West and preach the gospel.

KENT: Deadwood historian Arlette Hansen says when the Black Hills gold rush began in 1876, Henry Smith was in the thick of it. And unlike his portrayal in the HBO series "Deadwood," Smith was successful at preaching the word of God to whoever would listen - wherever he could.

HANSEN: There are accounts that he could walk into a saloon and say: Say, boys, let's have a little prayer. And everything would stop. Everybody would pay attention to what he was saying. They would repeat amen at the end of his prayer and go back to gambling.

KENT: That's quite a different image than most folks have of Deadwood, especially since the HBO series. In this scene, Preacher Smith is delivering the eulogy at Wild Bill Hickok's burial after Hickok was shot from behind while playing poker.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DEADWOOD")

RAY MCKINNON: Saint Paul tells us, are we all baptized in the one body. Whether we be Jew or Gentile, bond or free, and have all been made to drink in the one spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.

KENT: Arlette Hansen says Deadwood's violence caught up with Preacher Smith in August 1876.

HANSEN: A man came by with a hay wagon and found his body. He'd been shot in the chest twice. Picked it up and brought it into Deadwood.

KENT: For NPR News, I'm Jim Kent.

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MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.