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Memorial to honor 2 Utah deputies who died over 100 years ago

A new memorial is set to be unveiled Friday evening at the Uintah City Cemetery in Weber County to commemorate two sheriff's deputies who died in the area over 100 years ago.

A new memorial is set to be unveiled Friday evening at the Uintah City Cemetery in Weber County to commemorate two sheriff's deputies who died in the area over 100 years ago. (Gary Worthen)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

UINTAH, Weber County — Six years of work will come to fruition Friday night, as city and county officials will commemorate the lives of two fallen law enforcement officers more than 100 years after their deaths.

One officer is believed to be the first Utah police officer to have died in the line of duty and the other is the only unsolved murder of a police officer in Utah's history.

At 7 p.m. Friday, members of the community are invited to the Uintah City Cemetery, 1500 E. 6450 South, as the city and members of the Weber County Sheriff's Office reveal a new memorial to remember sheriff's deputies from Weber and Salt Lake counties who died in 1908 and 1853, respectively. The memorial contains a large concrete marker with two black granite plaques.

The memorial is the result of combined efforts of different members of the community, though one of the main people responsible is Weber County sheriff's deputy Gary Worthen. Worthen first went before the Uintah City Council around six years ago and proposed the memorial, as two deputies had died in the area.

Worthen told KSL.com on Thursday that two Eagle Scouts helped Worthen with the project, earning their Eagle Scout badges in the process. Donations from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and a private donor helped make the project possible.

Among those planning to commemorate the memorial are Weber County Sheriff Ryan Arbon, Commissioner Jim Harvey and Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Ken Hansen. The full transcriptions of each granite plaques will also be read, outlining the stories of the officers who died over 100 years ago.

Worthen downplayed his efforts, and said, "It's not about me, it's about these deputies."

Seymour Clark and John Murphy

On Nov. 27, 1908, Weber County Chief Deputy Seymour Clark and deputy John Murphy were sent to Uintah after hearing a report that a stranger was in a family's barn and wouldn't leave, according to the transcription that will be featured on the memorial. The two took the stranger to the Uintah train station via horse and buggy, where they found another man stealing from a railroad car.

"What are you doing there?" Clark asked.

"Drive on," the man said.

"Don't get excited. We're officers of the law," Clark said.

Moments later, the man started shooting at the deputies, hitting Clark four times, according to the memorial. Murphy, who was shot in the hand and his ring finger, and the stranger were thrown from the buggy when the gunfire spooked the horse and it began to run. The stranger was also shot and wounded. The memorial plaque states that Murphy crawled to Clark and held him in his arms after the shooter ran away.

"John, I'm dying," Clark said. The deputy died shortly after.

The gunman escaped into the night along the Weber River, and despite residents and a large posse searching for the killer, he was never located. The memorial says a man "high on opium" later confessed to the crime, but then recanted the statement. He was never charged.

Clark's death is the only unsolved murder of a police officer in Utah's history, according to the memorial.

Murphy recovered from his wounds, and in 1918 he was again shot twice in the face while trying to stop a robbery at a grocery store. Despite his wounds, Murphy survived and returned to duty.

Rodney Badger

Decades before Clark's death, another police officer lost his life near Uintah.

In the spring of 1853, Salt Lake County deputy sheriff Rodney Badger was sent to help pioneers from California cross the Weber River. Badger was assigned to the role by Brigham Young, then serving as the territorial governor, the memorial inscription states. The spring runoff was in full effect, as the muddy water was filled with debris and moving quickly.

On April 29, 1853, a family of eight, including six children, tried to cross the river, despite warnings from a wagon master. But the warnings were ignored, and the strong current began to push a wagon into deeper waters. The wagon ultimately overturned, sending the entire family into the cold river.

Badger jumped into the water and saved the mother and four children. He dove back into the waters in the hopes of saving the two other kids, but the river swept him away. The memorial says he was exhausted and suffering from hypothermia before the current pulled him underwater.

In addition to Badger, the two other children also died in the water. One child's body was found the next day, while the other child "remains a part of the river," as the body was never found, according to historians.

Badger's body was found roughly a year-and-a-half later by Badger's brother. His body was returned to Salt Lake City to be buried. Badger is believed to be the first Utah police officer to have died in the line of duty.

A bronze statue of Badger holding a child is located at the Fallen Officer Memorial at the Utah State Capitol.

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Weber CountyUtah police and courtsUtahPolice & CourtsHistoric
Jacob Scholl joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. He covers northern Utah communities, federal courts and technology.

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