After walking for three days alongside a wagon train coming from Cheyenne, Wyo., the Rev. Henry Weston Smith led his first Black Hills church service in Custer city on May 7, 1876. Thirty men and five women attended.
After a second service in Custer, Smith walked another three days to Deadwood, where he became a street preacher. The street in front of Bent and Deetken's Drug Store was a frequent venue. Accounts of him preaching inside saloons are disputed.
On Aug. 20, 1876, Smith left the cabin he had built to walk to Crook City, where he planned to deliver a sermon. He left this note on his front door:
"Gone to Crook City to preach, and if God is willing, will be back at three o'clock."
He was killed along the roadside, shot in the heart. His death was blamed on American Indians returning home from a victory at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Evidence for this accusation is lacking. Others have speculated that his death was the work of common thieves or even orchestrated by proprietors of Deadwood's brothels, saloons and gambling halls.
Seth Bullock wrote to inform one of Smith's friends of his death. Bullock had not known Smith personally but wrote:
"(I) 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."