, , , , , , ,

The first known Utah law enforcement officer to give his life in the line of duty was Great Salt Lake County Deputy Sheriff Rodney Badger, one of the original 1847 pioneers. He drowned in 1853 in the Weber River while on assignment from Brigham Young to assist pioneers who were fording the river.

On April 29, 1853, several wagons were lined up along the river, waiting to make the treacherous crossing. The Water was ice cold and running fast and deep. The first wagon made it safely across. The second wagon, carrying an immigrant family with six children, was too light to make the crossing. The father was given stern warnings by the wagon master and Deputy Badger to ford the river without his family. These warnings were ignored. As the wagon entered the river, the strong current began to drag it uncontrollably downstream into deeper water. The wagon overturned, spilling the mother and children into the frigid waters. The father remained with the team. Without hesitation, Deputy Badger dove into the river and rescued the mother and four of the children. Continuing to ignore his own safety, Deputy Badger swam back out to retrieve the remaining two children. The elements finally overcame him, and he disappeared from sight, giving his life to save others. The river also claimed the lives of the two children which 30-year-old Deputy Badger attempted to save. An immediate search located the body of one child the next day. The body of the second child was not located until three months later. History does not record what happened to the surviving family members. They may have gone on to California which was the family’s destination when they joined the wagon train.

Eighteen months passed before the remains of Deputy Badger were found on an island 1-½ miles below the place he entered the water. His remains were returned to Salt Lake City where his wife and four children resided. Rodney was a counselor in the Salt Lake 15th Ward Bishopric at the time of his death.

In a letter informing Badger’s wife of the tragedy, an eye witness, William H. Hooper observed, “To offer you condolence for such a loss would be useless, as my feeling while I write overpowers me, and what must be yours, his wife, to lose a husband who was beloved by all men who knew him … it is useless to say the shock to me is great and the camp is in gloom. P.S. the mother and four children were saved.”

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” –John 15:13

This historic marker is #87 of the S.U.P. historic markers and is located along with #86 (Weber River Crossing and Campsite) just outside Henefer, Utah.


Since the above plaque was erected in 1998 additional information has come to light indicating this event probably took place at an early Weber River ford in Uintah twenty-nine miles down stream from here that was used by emigrants leaving the Utah Territory for California. After deliberation it was determined that it was not practical to move the marker and that the story needed to be told, so it was left in this place.