James D. Savage was an Illinios born pioneer who, in the year of our Lord 1846, headed west for California with his wife, daughter, and brother Morgan. Sadly his wife and daughter succumed on the migration leaving Jim a widower at the age of 29.
Jim had arrived in California just in time to join John Fremont's California Battalion and fight in the Mexican-American war. After the war ended he moved to the San Joaquin Valley and lived among the Tularenos. Learning to speak their language, he took the daughters of several tribal leaders as his wives. Whilst not a problem for the tribesmen, amongst "polite society" it earned Jim his "known to be no gentleman" reputation.
When gold was discovered in the area Jim opened trading posts on the Fresno and Merced rivers as well as Mariposa creek. He traded with the local tribes and accumulated so much gold that he once rolled a whiskey barrel full of the stuff through a hotel lobby in San Francisco!
Upon returning from one trip to San Francisco, Jim found that one of his trading posts had been raided, destroyed, and the keepers murdered by a rogue band of angry natives. Using his wealth to purchase a Majors rank in the California Malitia (not uncommon in those days), Jim formed the Mariposa Battalion and set out to "bring justice" to the band who destroyed his outpost.
On this expedition Jim lead the Mariposans into the Sierra and on March 25, 1851 they became the first Whitemen to discover Yosemite Valley. Because of its stunning beauty the local tribes held it sacred and had kept its existance a secret from the pale faces.
Though beautiful, Yosemite wasn't what Jim and his Battalion were after, so they pressed on until he had defeated the fugative band and forced their remnants onto a reservation. (Well, maybe he wasn't a hero to everyone!)
After winning the "Mariposa War", Savage returned to his life as an entrepreneur and public leader but soon he became persona non grata in the southern parts of the valley. He spoke out rather strongly against angry settlers who had carried out a rather murderous raid on local natives. (Ironic right?) During a trip south in 1852 he happened upon Walter Harvey, the leader of that raid. Though details are unclear, the two began to fight and an intoxicated Savage is said to have drawn his gun. Unfortunately he then dropped it on the floor. Harvey (no gentleman either) quickly picked it up and shot his wobbling oppenent, ending the life and times of Major James D. Savage at the age 35. Jim was laid to rest, but then was dug up and re-buried several times before his remains finally found peace on a hilltop in what is now Madera County. A memorial Obelisk marks the general location.
(As an aside, though tried for murder, Harvey was not convicted. This may have been due in part to his having appointed the magistrate who sat in judgement at his trial. It seems that in the Old West Lady Justice was no gentleman either!)