James D. Savage, a miner, established a trading post outside Yosemite Valley near El Portal in 1849 shortly after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. Among his many deeds and accomplishments, Savage is remembered as a friend and trader with Native Americans tribes and one of their leaders in wars against other tribes.
Savage operated several trading posts to exchange gold for goods with local Native American tribes. One post was located on Mariposa Creek and two others were built on the Merced and Fresno Rivers. His stores and those belonging to others were all burned and pillaged by war-raging native tribes. Many of his employees were attacked and killed.
Savage was appointed to lead the newly formed Mariposa Battalion to search for tribal leaders who had raided American settlements. The Battalion searched the Sierra wilderness and entered Yosemite Valley on March 25, 1851 during their search. In so doing, the Battalion became the first group of non-indigenous discoverers of the Yosemite Valley.
Savage re-established new trading posts at Native American reservations. In July 1852, Walter Harvey led a group of squatters into the King’s River Reservation and massacred several natives. Savage denounced this act of violence, calling for an investigation by the United States Indian Commission. The massacre and the actions that followed led Harvey to abruptly shoot and kill Savage before he had a chance to defend himself.
The marker is located on State Highway 140 (P.M. 43.2), 8 miles west of El Portal.
The wonders of the Yosemite Valley’s granite cliffs lie in eastern Mariposa County. The small settlements in the western foothills of the country sprang up during the Gold Rush. The people in these early mining towns made many decisions affecting statewide mining law.
About this Establishment
California Historical Landmarks Program
Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region
2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California
3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder
California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks.
In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.
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