He was the Southampton-born photographer who recorded the most important formative years of the USA with his camera.

Charles Roscoe Savage was a landscape and portrait photographer who produced famous images of the American West in the 19th century.

His work spanned about fifty years of change from the early stages of the “Old West” to the beginnings of the American industrial age.

He is highly regarded and is recognised today for his pioneering work, which often featured in Harper’s Weekly newspaper and Leslie’s Illustrated while Union Pacific published his two series of stereo images.

Charles was born August 16, 1832, in John Street off St Mary Street, Southampton and was baptised in St Mary’s Church.

His parents were Ann Rogers and John Savage, a gardener who was obsessed with cultivating a blue dahlia as a substantial reward was offered for anyone who succeeded doing so. His obsession kept the family poor.

Charles had a sister and two brothers and when he was about three or four years old he narrowly escaped death when his clothes caught fire from a spark. A kindly neighbour had the good sense to tend his burns and saved him from disfigurement and scarring.

Through the kindness of a Mrs. Bond, Charles attended St Mary’s National School but he played truant with other boys and was expelled. He had no further schooling but instead earned a small amount of money for the family by selling salt.

He was befriended by Henry Puzey a local coach builder from Alton who lived on South Front with a workshop in Fanshawe Street off Onslow Road. He paid Charles a shilling a week to sharpen his tools.

The pair became lifelong friends and were reunited later in Salt Lake City.

Another good friend was Frederick Rogers who lived close by in Winchester Street. It was Charles and Frederick’s search for religious meaning in 1848 that took them to a room in Albion Place where they met T B H Stenhouse, a preacher who convinced them to join the Church of Latter Day Saints.

His new found religion did not meet with his family’s approval and he and Frederick had to meet surreptitiously with Stenhouse on the evening of May 25, 1848 in what Charles referred to as the “hole off Southampton Quay” where they were both baptised with full immersion in a very cold Southampton Water.

Charles found employment preaching in Newport on the Isle of Wight and in Portsmouth where he worked for and lodged with William Eddington, a bookseller. It was under Eddington’s wing that the semi-literate Charles received an education.

Charles spent time in Geneva preaching where he learned to speak French and German.

By the age of 23 he had become an accomplished and cultured public speaker.

It was on his return to England that he met Annie Adkins from Luton who would join him later in America as his wife.

Meanwhile he was assigned as interpreter to a group of Italians travelling to Utah from Liverpool aboard the sailing ship John J Boyd.

Savage spent time in New York where he took an interest in photography and it was in the various towns in America where he preached and worked that he developed his skills and knowledge such that when he reached Salt Lake City he was an accomplished photographer.

He later travelled to California, Iowa and Nebraska working for the Union Pacific Railroad photographing the people, landscapes and events he came upon.

He was often joined by the English artist Alfred Lambourne, a fellow Mormon from Chieveley near Newbury who sketched and painted scenes while Savage took his photographs.

Most of Savage’s archived pictures were lost in 1883 in a disastrous studio fire but thankfully copies of much of his work have survived.

In January 1909 Charles complained to his son George that he was not feeling well.

His condition worsened and he died early in the morning of February 3, 1909, of heart failure.