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A fitting tribute to a fallen Salt Lake County lawman

COPPERTON — It's a cemetery that few people visit.

Most of the headstones, the ones that haven't faded away and are still legible, are dated from around the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries. Among those buried in the Bingham City Cemetery are three Utah law enforcers, all of them killed in the line of duty.

Monday, in a scene fitting of the old mining town that once thrived in the canyon directly to the west of the cemetery which it spawned, a new monument was dedicated to one of those deputies who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting his community.

On Nov. 29, 1913, newly appointed Salt Lake County sheriff's deputy James D. Hulsey was shot and killed by a man wanted for already killing three other Utah law enforcers and a civilian.

Local historians call it the bloodiest episode in Utah law enforcement history. Five officers and a civilian were murdered by a miner in Bingham Canyon in the span of eight days.

Like many mining towns of the Old West, Bingham was "a very violent place to work" in 1913, said Salt Lake County sheriff's deputy Randy Lish who spent many years researching the case.

The string of officer killings started Nov. 21, 1913, when Bingham Marshal William J. Grant, along with deputies George O. Witbeck and Nephi S. Jensen, went to Saratoga Springs to arrest Rafael Lopez, who was wanted for murder in Bingham Canyon. He had killed a man he thought was trying to steal his girlfriend.

The officers were ambushed.

Hulsey was a respected member of his community, having worked previously as a barber, bartender and a Bingham City volunteer firefighter. He also possessed excellent tracking skills and was able to follow Lopez back to the mine. Most people thought Hulsey was crazy for thinking Lopez would return to the scene of the crime.

But after it was confirmed Lopez was hiding somewhere inside the mine and receiving help from others who were still loyal to him, 150 law enforcers gathered to search for him. As Hulsey was attempting to smoke Lopez out of an area of the mine by lighting a wagon load of hay on fire, he too, along with Vaso Mandarich, 35, was shot and killed.

Lopez escaped and fled the state. He killed an estimated 30 more people in Texas before the Texas Rangers caught up with him and killed him in one final gun battle, according to Lish.

Later, a ceremony was held at the mine for Hulsey. Approximately 500 people attended, making it at the time one of the biggest ceremonies in the history of Bingham Canyon, said Utah Law Enforcement Memorial historian Robert Kirby. A train then brought Hulsey's body to the cemetery where he was buried.

But over the years, Hulsey, who was not married and had no family in Utah, was forgotten. His headstone was not maintained and ultimately it vanished. To this day, historians don't know where exactly in the cemetery he was laid to rest. The gravesite of his partner, Mandarich, is a little clearer because he had family that maintained it.

But even Mandarich got a new headstone when the old one became so weathered that it was nearly impossible to read. Today, there are two headstones for Mandarich in the cemetery, the original which has not stood well against time, and a newer one several hundred feet away.

Monday, the old cemetery honored Hulsey in a ceremony fitting of the Old West. In the shadow of the giant "B" on the mountainside where the mining community of Bingham once thrived, a headstone with Hulsey's name along with, "Jan. 12, 1874, Nov. 29, 1913" and "Killed in the line of duty" was unveiled.

A horse with no rider was led to the dedication site past two rows of deputies all saluting and standing at attention as they lined the cemetery pathway from the gate to the grave site. A pair of boots, a holster, a gun and a sheriff's badge hung from the saddle to symbolize the lost deputy as the remaining members of the sheriff's posse, all wearing black hats, watched from a distance. An American flag was also folded in the saddle, which was presented to Sheriff Jim Winder who accepted it in memory of Hulsey.

A more modern motorcycle brigade rode past the deputies followed by a 21-gun salute, the playing of "Taps" and then "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.

Kirby said Hulsey represents all the officers before him, and those yet to come, who are willing to put a uniform on every day knowing they may be asked to put their lives on the line to keep their communities safe. Those people, he said, should not be forgotten.

"There is hope in the valor of all these who risk their tomorrows for today," he said.

In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, Winder said the old cemetery was full of overgrown weeds and tall brown grass, which he had cleared out prior to Monday. The cemetery, which now rests on property owned by the Jordan School District, appears run down, tired, old and mostly neglected.

Winder vowed Hulsey and others who dedicated their service to maintaining society's standards would not be forgotten, He pledged the sheriff's office would help maintain the upkeep of the cemetery.

"We will remember," he said.