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Pioneer Preacher Remembered In Deadwood, S.D.

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Pioneer Preacher Remembered In Deadwood, S.D.

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Pioneer Preacher Remembered In Deadwood, S.D.

Pioneer Preacher Remembered In Deadwood, S.D.

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South Dakota is home to one of the most recognizable monuments in the world: Mount Rushmore. But there are dozens of other lesser known physical testimonies to men and women across the state. As part of our summer road trip series, "Honey Stop The Car!," we go to Deadwood, where there's a tribute to a preacher who didn't live long in that Wild West town.

(Soundbite of music)

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: One mile north of the city of Deadwood, beside a highway that winds through South Dakota's Black Hills, stands a 12-foot granite obelisk. It's surrounded by a black wrought-iron fence. I drove by it many times when I first moved to the Black Hills before finally stopping to examine the solitary stone marker.�The inscription reads Henry Weston Smith The Pioneer Preacher.

And what made you stop here?

Mr. 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.

Ms. ARLETTE HANSEN (Historian): 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.

Ms. 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")

Mr. RAY MCKINNON (Actor): (As Preacher H.W. Smith) Mr. Hickok will lie beside two brothers. So much blood.

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.

Ms. 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: That was just three months after Smith arrived in Deadwood. Most historians think he�was killed by the Sioux in the heat of the summer after their Little Bighorn victory over Custer.

The Society of the Black Hills Pioneers, descendants of the area's original settlers, erected this monument to Smith in 1914. And almost a century later, Arlette Hansen says it reminds folks that there were people in the mining town who didn't live by the gun even if they eventually died by it.

For NPR News, I'm Jim Kent.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Our road trip, Honey, Stop the Car, motors through the summer on MORNING EDITION and WEEKEND EDITION. Hear our earlier audio postcards at NPR.org.

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This is NPR News.

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