Pioneers: William M. Colvig
The wife of Dr. W. L. Colvig, aged 70, while attempting to jump from a carriage during a runaway on the Canyonville road, fell and was run over, fracturing a leg and arm and badly bruising her head. She is not expected to recover.W. M. COLVIG CANDIDATE FOR STATE SENATE
Reno Evening Gazette, August 10, 1881, page 2
The certificate of election of W. M. Colvig as Prosecuting Attorney of the First Judicial District failed to arrive at Jacksonville from the office of the Secretary of State in time for Mr. Colvig to qualify last Monday, and up to Wednesday night Mr. Kent was still the district attorney. There was probably some mistake made in mailing the certificate from Salem. The certificate of election of Judge Webster arrived all right in due time.
COLVIG AT GRANTS PASS.
The audience which greeted Hon. W. M. Colvig at Grants Pass on Monday evening last was as large as could be comfortably seated in music hall, and for over two hours he held the undivided attention of his hearers, reviewing in succession the platforms of the two great parties, the relative merits of the candidates, the tariff, the fisheries question, the Chinese problem, the battle-flag episode, the condition of the civil service as regards the soldier, and the condition of the pension department. There was little of the strife-engendering fire of Republican oratory about Mr. Colvig's address, but it was just such a talk as is relished by the people. It showed careful study and research and thorough preparation, and the cutting sarcasm and dry humor with which it was seasoned made it acceptable to the Republicans present as well as to those of his own party faith. The moderation and fairness with which he handled the issues of the contest was deserving of the close attention with which the younger voters present listened to him. It was fortunate that so many of the young men who will cast their first vote at the next election were present and heard so calm, unprejudiced and dispassionate a presentation of political differences. But few of the younger generation are such extreme partisans that they will not listen to reason, and many a young man today is seriously considering the problem whether it is better to cling to a party that has cut loose from its moorings on questions of national policy, or to listen to the dictates of reason and merge the partisan in the patriot by voting for Cleveland and Thurman. We sincerely hope that the young men of this valley, regardless of party affiliations, will avail themselves of the opportunity to hear Mr. Colvig at Sams Valley and Central Point tomorrow and be at Medford next Saturday, as it will be the last opportunity before he leaves for Lake County to attend court.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 27, 1888, page 2
The Lakeview Examiner, an independent paper, thus complimented our efficient district attorney, Hon. W. M. Colvig: "We wish to say a good word for the grand jury for the October term. They are undoubtedly a set of honorable, honest, moral and conscientious men, and did their duty in every respect as far as they were able to know it. They believe in protecting our homes and our society, and they were ably led by District Attorney Colvig, who does his duty without fear or favor, and for whom we entertain the greatest respect; and it is no flattery when we say that he is head and shoulders above any prosecuting attorney we ever knew."
"Here and There," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, May 30, 1890, page 3
Dr. Colvig and family of Rock Point have gone to the coast. The report that his grandson, Geo. Cawley, had the diphtheria is unfounded.
"Personal Mention," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 1, 1890, page 3
We are pleased to announce that the condition of Mrs. W. M. Colvig, which was critical for a time, is much improved at this writing. Dr. DeBar, assisted by Drs. Pickel and Geary of Medford, found it necessary to perform some operations, which have proved successful.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, February 5, 1892, page 3
We are pleased to announce that the condition of the wife of District Attorney Colvig is much improved and that the prospects for her ultimate recovery are favorable.
"Personal Mention," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, February 12, 1892, page 2
Mrs. D. N. Birdseye of Rock Point precinct and Mrs. W. V. Jones of Woodville, mother and sister of Mrs. W. M. Colvig, spent a few days in Jacksonville last week.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, February 19, 1892, page 3
We are glad to learn that the wife of District Attorney Colvig is much improved in health and is steadily convalescing.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, March 4, 1892, page 3
Hon. W. M. Colvig, who has filled the position of district attorney so efficiently for the past six years, achieved a reputation that has seldom been equaled and never excelled in the state of Oregon. He tried 182 cases in that time and obtained 142 convictions, failing to convict in only 40 cases. In the eight cases of homicide he prosecuted he failed to convict the defendants on one or another of the statutory crimes in only a single instance. Very consistently may the people exclaim; "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" We are glad to mention that Mr. Colvig will actively practice in Jacksonville, and bespeak for him an extensive patronage. As he will not be away from home like when he was holding the office of prosecuting attorney, he can direct his attention to every branch of his profession. Mr. Colvig is an able lawyer and will doubtless meet with the success he deserves.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, July 8, 1892, page 2
Mrs. W. V. Jones of Woodville is paying her sister, Mrs. W. M. Colvig of Jacksonville, a visit, accompanied by her children.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, July 22, 1892, page 3
Misses Dora Chausse and Jennie Colvig, who formerly resided in Jacksonville, are holding cases on the Grants Pass Observer.
"Personal Mention," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 12, 1892, page 2
Mrs. H. S. Emery of Ashland has been visiting at the home of her father, Dr. Colvig of Rock Point, accompanied by her children.
"Personal Mention," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 9, 1892, page 3
Hon. W. M. Colvig is making a very favorable impression in the Willamette Valley by his masterly speeches in behalf of the national Democratic candidate. He has already gained the reputation of being one of the ablest and most logical speakers who have ever spoken in the state.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, October 14, 1892, page 3
Colvig at Salem.
Hon. W. M. Colvig, one of the Democratic candidates for presidential elector, returned home yesterday. He made a successful canvass of a large portion of the state and was well received, large audiences greeting him everywhere. The following from the Salem Democrat is a fair example of what has been said of his efforts in behalf of Democracy: "The last speaker was Hon. W. M. Colvig, and it is only just praise to say that he delivered one of the best political addresses ever heard within the walls of the opera house. It was filled with satire, eloquence and logic. He dealt chiefly with the infamous force bill, giving his hearers information in regard to that measure which was probably new to nine out of ten of them. He did not forget to pay his respects to Senator Dolph for his persistent waving of the bloody shirt, and he wanted to know where these patriots who are criticizing Cleveland for sending a substitute 'were at' during the war. So far as he could ascertain Senator Dolph took the first mule for the West in order to avoid the draft, and neither Harvey Scott nor John H. Mitchell ever found themselves in the red front of battle. They held themselves well in check until Lee surrendered, and then their patriotism broke loose, and they have been fighting with their mouths ever since.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, November 4, 1892, page 3
Dr. Colvig of Rock Point last week suffered a paralytic stroke, and for a time it was feared it would terminate fatally. He has since rallied, however, and it is hoped will again be able to be around in a short time.
"Personal Mention," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, November 4, 1892, page 3
Hon. W. M. Colvig, who, four years ago, "swore off" smoking until Cleveland was elected, has, since the late election, been presented with a huge cigar manufactured of the choicest tobacco at the Grants Pass factory. It measures nearly a foot in length, and Mr. Colvig can make up for much of his lost time when he attacks the monster.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, November 18, 1892, page 3
Dr. Colvig of Rock Point precinct has been paying Jacksonville a visit. He has recovered from the slight stroke of paralysis he experienced a few weeks ago.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, November 25, 1892, page 3
M. N. Colvig of Canyonville was last week appointed a notary public by Governor Pennoyer.
"Here and There," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, March 24, 1893, page 3
Hon. W. M. Colvig, who was a candidate for the appointment of judge of the Alaska district, has withdrawn from the contest. We would have been pleased to chronicle his selection, as he would fill the position with ability and credit.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, May 26, 1893, page 3
Hon. W. M. Colvig is well equipped for any mining case which may arise, having just received a complete set of Morrison on mining law, numbering 16 volumes, and which is acknowledged standard authority.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, June 2, 1893, page 3
W. M. Colvig has been appointed administrator of the estate of Antone Joseph, who was murdered a short time since. He was on Williams Creek Monday appraising the property of the deceased, which amounts to nearly $10,000.
"Here and There," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, July 14, 1893, page 3
To the Voters of Jackson County.
A candidate for the office of state senator should give public expression of his views on all important matters pertaining to either state or county affairs. He should be able to propose plans of relief, and to enforce attention to his efforts in securing needed legislation.
I deem it proper to say to the public that if I am elected state senator by the people of Jackson County I shall strive to perform all the duties of the position conscientiously and with a strict fidelity to the public interests. I shall oppose and vote against all appropriations of public money, except such as are needed for the purpose of carrying on an economical state government.
I am in favor of legislation fixing a maximum rate of railroad freights and fares in this state--passenger fares not to exceed three (3) cents per mile, and freight rates reduced proportionately. I am in favor of a law making it a criminal offense for any person, persons, company or corporation owning or operating any railroad line or other transportation line, for the transportation of passengers to give or offer to give or furnish to any officer of this state government--other than railroad commissioners--or to any officer of any county in the state, any free pass, complimentary ticket or any other privilege not accorded to the general traveling public. That if any such person, company or corporation shall give or furnish to any such officers any such pass, complimentary ticket or any other free privilege of travel upon any such line upon conviction such person, company or corporation shall be fined to the sum of not less than $100, nor more than $1000; provided, further, that if any such officers shall accept, receive, or use any such pass, complimentary ticket or other free privilege of travel other and different than is accorded to the general traveling public upon conviction such officer shall be fined in a sum not less than $50, nor more than $500, and the court before whom such officer is convicted shall declare his office vacant for the rest of the term.
The last legislature repealed what was known as the "mortgage tax law," substituting in its place another law, which, in practice, has been very burdensome to the taxpayers of this state, causing double taxation on much property owned by the people, and allowing no deduction for indebtedness of any kind. Something will have to be done by the next legislature to give the people of this state some relief from the harshness of the present law. I am in favor of a law assessing all property at its reasonable value, and allowing deduction for indebtedness within the state, whenever such indebtedness is evidenced by a mortgage on real property. This, I admit, does not offer the full measure of relief which many expect, but seems to be the most feasible plan in the premises. In addition to this plan mortgages should be taxed at face value.
I am in favor of a law fixing the liability of railroad corporations for injuries and damages sustained by their employees while engaged at work in the line of their duties. Our supreme court has recently decided that a "switch tender" is a fellow servant with the employees of a train, i.e., with the engineer, firemen and others. I believe that the relations of fellow-servant should be defined by statute and not left to the caprice of a supreme court.
If I am elected I will introduce bills embodying the foregoing views, unless I find bills presented by members from other parts of the state which may seem to me better calculated to attain these ends.
I have held five terms of public office in Jackson County. If any person knows that I ever betrayed either a public or private trust at any time or under any circumstances or in any degree, he should not support me. If anyone thinks that I have not the ability requisite for state senator he should not support me. If anyone believes that I will not faithfully carry out these promises he should not support me.
My reasons for publishing this notice is that I cannot see and talk to all of the voters of this county. I have never personally asked anyone to vote for me in my life. I have never but once in my life asked the nomination for a public office, and that was for the office of District Attorney. If I did not display any ability in performing the duties of that office then you have a right to assume that I will not do so in any other.
I am a Democrat, and will support a Democrat for the United States Senate if elected. I never make a "bushwhacking" campaign, and believe that no person is fit for a representative of the people in the state legislature who is afraid to express himself publicly, where all may hear, upon all questions of vital interest to the people. I have done so, and, if elected, expect to return with a record which I may point to with pride. This is all I expect as compensation for the services which I will be called upon to perform. I have lived in Oregon forty-three years; have worked in her fields, her forests and her mines. If I do not return from the legislature with such a record I should never be trusted again.
WILLIAM M. COLVIG.
Democratic Candidate for State Senator.
Jacksonville, Oregon, May 23, 1894.
Medford Mail, June 1, 1894, page 2
Attorney Wm. M. Colvig, of Jacksonville, accompanied his daughters, Misses Clara and Helen, to Grants Pass, where they went last week to attend the teachers' institute.
"Personal," South Oregon Monitor, Medford, December 4, 1894, page 3
D. N. Birdseye died at his residence in Rock Point precinct on the 11th inst., after a lingering illness. He was a native of Bridgeport, Conn., and one of the first pioneers of southern Oregon. Generous and public-spirited and upright in his dealings, Mr. Birdseye had the esteem of all who knew him. He leaves a wife of several children, most of whom are grown, to mourn his loss, as well as a large circle of friends. The remains were buried in the Rock Point cemetery on Sunday, in the presence of a large concourse.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, February 14, 1898, page 3
Hon. W. M. Colvig and wife went to Rock Point precinct on Saturday morning, in response to a message announcing the death of Mrs. C.'s venerable father, D. N. Birdseye.
"Personal Mention," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, February 14, 1898, page 3
Mr. and Mrs. W. M. Colvig entertained a number of their friends at a whist party in a handsome manner last Saturday evening. Dr. J. M. Keene and Miss Marie Andrews were awarded the first prizes, while Dr. DeBar and Mrs. A. E. Reames captured the boobies.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, February 7, 1898, page 3
The Oregonian of Monday, which is printing biographies of Oregon pioneers, on Monday gave its readers an excellent photograph of one of our leading citizens, to which was annexed the following: "Hon. W. M. Colvig was born in Ray County, Mo., Sept. 2, 1845. He crossed the plains to Portland in 1851, and went to Douglas County in 1852. He enlisted in the Union army at Camp Baker, Jackson County, April 5, 1863, served three years and was discharged April 5, 1866. For several years he was a prominent educator in Jackson County. He served two terms as county school superintendent and three terms as district attorney. He is now a prosperous lawyer. He delivered the annual address at the pioneer reunion in Jacksonville, September 1."
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 22, 1898, page 3
Oregon Street, Jacksonville, Oregon
William M. Colvig, 54, lawyer, born Mo. Sept. 1845, father born Va., mother Ohio
Addie V. Colvig, 44, born Ore. Jan. 1856, father born Ohio, mother Va.
Hellen M. Colvig, 17, born Ore. Feb. 1883
Mary F. Colvig, 13, born Ore. Dec. 1886
Donald L. Colvig, 11, born Ore. Nov. 1888
Vance D. Colvig, 7, born Ore. Sept. 1892
Annie Birdsey, 13, born Ore. Nov. 1885, niece
U.S. Census, enumerated June 5, 1900
Hon. W. M. Colvig made a speech at the opera house Saturday to a large audience. The band played, the glee club sang, torches blazed and a free train was run from Jacksonville. Our Republican brethren are making a great deal of fuss over Mr. Colvig's apostasy, in the hope that it will be of much benefit to their cause. We think Sweet William expects to get the best of his "flop" himself, however.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, October 22, 1900, page 3
Medford's Big Demonstration.
Last Saturday evening this town of Medford was very properly stirred up. The occasion was the public speaking at the opera house, where Hon. W. M. Colvig addressed the largest audience that has congregated in Jackson County during the [presidential] campaign, save when Hon. Binger Hermann spoke. The house upon both these occasions was crowded to its fullest capacity.
The torchlight procession was no small feature of the occasion. There were just an even hundred torches in line, and these carried by voters. There were not to exceed an half dozen boys carrying torches. The procession was led by Sheriff Orme and F. M. Stewart, the latter carrying "Old Glory," and following them was the Medford band, then came the men with torches.
At the opera house Mr. Colvig said in part:
"I am a Democrat and one who did not vilify Mr. Lincoln when he lived, and now after the verdict of 35 years, canonize him as Adlai Stevenson and other Bryan supporters are doing. There is no assurance that these same men will not in the mutation of events in like manner be sounding the praises of Wm. McKinley. Every great nation has had its growth through conquest and battlefields. National and racial expansion are based upon and grow out of natural laws which cannot be stayed or controlled by legislation. Intelligence is power and power will rule, and no consideration of moral, local or international law can prevent it. Men are free and equal only in theory; in fact, they are largely the creatures of heredity and environment. Hedge it about and handicap it as you will, Caucasian blood will rule. Capacity and capability for control and self-government are among its distinctive characteristics. Hawaii is an illustration. A handful of Caucasians overthrew the monarchy and established a free government without asking the consent of the governed. Consent of the governed means consent of equal persons qualified to exercise it. Men can only enjoy the measure of liberty of which they are capable. The degree of freedom a people may enjoy depends upon their stage of development. Freedom unappreciated runs into riot and anarchy. Environment solidified the South, and a common sentiment was believed to be necessary for the protection of common interests.
"There is a lame cog in the 'paramount' plank of the Bryan platform. From what is heard from every Democratic stump in the land it appears to have been built on Thos. Jefferson. This is why it is lame. Jefferson was an expansionist in the fullest sense, and was called imperialist by his opponents. He believed in acquiring and governing territory whether by the consent of its inhabitants or not. He took the responsibility of buying Louisiana without any express authority, and is the only President who openly avowed the commission of an important public act outside of the Constitution. The right to take this country and extend jurisdiction over its inhabitants was never questioned. The stronger race drove them from their lands, placed them upon limited reservations and governed them. Joshua of old was commanded to lead Israel over the Jordan and take possession of the promised land. In order to obey the command he was obliged to kill or drive out the Canaanites who possessed it. Joshua was, therefore, by divine authority the first expansionist, and so far from asking the consent of the governed he slew or drove the inhabitants from the country.
"Before the declaration of war with Spain, the Democratic Party north and south clamored for interference in behalf of the oppressed Cubans and charged the President with cowardice and want of appreciation of the struggles of the oppressed. He was declared to be a man insensible to wrong and immovable when he should be most active." Mr. Colvig asked pardon for using a quotation that was more forceful than elegant, and said, "The Democrats were 'hell for war in time of peace, and hell for peace in time of war.' The possession of the Philippines, and the conditions growing out of it, were the inevitable results of the war demanded by the Democratic Party. The United States could not now honorably withdraw and give the islands over to anarchy and misrule. The insurrection must be suppressed, a stable government established, and the natives given such liberty as will best conduce to their progress and happiness.
"Mr. Bryan is committed to the establishment of a coaling station and a protectorate over the islands, and opposed to the war for the suppression of the insurrection. Suppose he is elected. What will be the instructions of the American people to Mr. McKinley? Obviously to cease war and recall the troops. Suppose he obeys the public will as expressed at the polls and withdraws from the islands, then what? When Mr. Bryan goes over there to mark out his coaling station and establish his protectorate, Aguinaldo will say to him: 'This is our country, and we are not issuing coaling stations or courting protectorates. We are qualified to run our own concerns, and it will best conduce to your health to take your belongings and quit the islands.' If then Mr. Bryan determined to enforce his police he would be obliged to do just what Mr. McKinley is doing now, namely, to enforce his authority in the islands. The safe policy is to let well enough alone and vote for McKinley and Roosevelt."
Medford Mail, October 26, 1900, page 2
Attorney W. M. Colvig, of Jacksonville, is prepared to give special attention to divorce law, probate law and mining law, as well as attend to other law matters--in any and all courts of the state.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, December 14, 1900, page 7
Representative Colvig this afternoon made a requisition upon the Secretary of State for a pocket-knife. In doing this he acted solely for himself, and proposed to thus get the advantage of his follow members. Under Secretary of State McBride it was the rule to present each member of the Legislature with an elegant pocket-knife, paid for by the state. That custom has fallen into disuse, and members have found it necessary to bring
their knives, go without or buy one out of their own pockets. But Representative Colvig thought his good looks would entitle him to special favors, and he made his plea for a knife without fear or trembling. His request was granted. In a neat speech, appropriate to the occasion, Secretary Dunbar presented Mr. Colvig with an elegant little knife, with a bright new blade and a cherry handle. Attached to the knife was a strong steel
chain about two feet long. The whole affair probably cost 5 cents: Mr. Colvig was given the strict charge that he give back the knife before returning to his home in far-away Jackson County.
"A Slate on Clerks," Oregonian, Portland, January 18, 1901, page 4
"A very enjoyable little party was given at the home of Hon. and Mrs. G. W. Colvig last Saturday evening in honor of Mrs. Emma Ellison, of Galveston, Texas, Mr. Colvig's cousin. Whist was the feature of the evening, followed by delicious refreshments."--Grants Pass Observer.
"Additional Local," Medford Mail, March 22, 1901, page 6
The Reading Circle met last Friday afternoon at the home of Mrs. Wm. Colvig. The reader, Mrs. Geo. DeBar, read several selections, which were very much enjoyed by the company. Delicious refreshments were served. Those present were Mesdames J. W. Robinson, T. G. Reames, and guest W. Reames of Gold Hill, Geo. DeBar, Geo. Neil, Jas. Beach, Wm. Colvig and Miss Carrie Beekman.
"Jacksonville News," Medford Mail, April 19, 1901, page 3
Hon. Geo. W. Colvig has returned from Washington, D.C., where he went to receive his instructions and take the regular consul examination, preparatory to leaving for his post of duty at Barranquilla. He will start for his new home May 29th, accompanied by Mrs. Colvig and his niece, Miss Dora Colvig.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, May 17, 1901, page 7
Miss Nellie DePeatt, formerly Postal Telegraph operator in this city, will go to Barranquilla with Hon. and Mrs. Geo. W. Colvig, instead of Miss Dora Colvig, who will retain her position in the Grants Pass public schools.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, May 24, 1901, page 7
Hon. and Mrs. G. W. Colvig, accompanied by Miss Nellie DePeatt, passed through Medford Tuesday evening en route to Barranquilla, Colombia.
"Purely Personal," Medford Mail, May 31, 1901, page 6
Fred Colvig, son of Consul Geo W. Colvig, graduated from the pharmaceutical department of the Oregon Agricultural College, last week.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, June 21, 1901, page 7
William M. Colvig, alias "William the Smooth," is out campaigning in behalf of W. J. Furnish. This course is perfectly natural. One 4-year-old Republican will always rally to the assistance of another 4-year-old. Besides, Furnish and Colvig match in other points than that of age. For instance, each stayed in the Democratic Party until it was clearly evident that he could no longer get office there, and then turned Republican "on principle."--Medford Enquirer.
The Daily Journal, Salem, May 24, 1902, page 11
Hon. W. M. Colvig of Jacksonville, who owns some sightly lots in the western part of Medford, will have a handsome residence built on them in the near future.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 7, 1902, page 6
A. M. Cannon, until lately a prominent attorney of Albany, has taken offices in the Medford Bank building. He will form a partnership with Hon. W. M. Colvig of Jacksonville.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 21, 1902, page 5
Attorney W. M. Colvig, of Jacksonville, who has purchased residence property in Medford, will soon establish an office here. He has secured office room in the Medford National Bank's new building--ground floor--and just as soon as the building is completed he will fit up elaborate offices therein. He will have all of the ground floor not occupied by the bank, which will give him ample room to fit out a very fine suite of offices. His family will also move to Medford within a few weeks. He has also caused to be built an addition to his already very spacious home, near the school house. Mr. Colvig is well known in Medford as an able attorney and an honorable citizen, and his coming to Medford is a source of much gratification to his friends and the further fact that his most excellent family are to become residents of our town is also pleasing to those of our townspeople who are their acquaintances.
"Purely Personal," Medford Mail, October 19, 1906, page 4
CHANGE MADE IN LAW FIRM
The Firm of Colvig & Dunham Has Been Dissolved and Hereafter
the Firm Name Will Be Colvig & Reames--Both Able Lawyers
The law firm of Colvig & Durham has been dissolved, and the new law firm is Colvig & Reames. The new firm is composed of Hon. W. M. Colvig and his son-in-law, C. L. Reames. Both these gentlemen are well known, and especially Mr. Colvig, who has for several years past been employed on one or other other side of nearly every case which has been tried in Jackson and Josephine counties.
Mr. Colvig is unquestionably one of the best attorneys in the state. Mr. Reames, while having had not so much experience, is nonetheless an unusually bright young man and has had a goodly amount of actual practice at the bar while serving as deputy district attorney for several years past.
Medford Daily Tribune clipping dated October 15, 1908, William M. Colvig scrapbook
The Dead Spirit of the Klamath
A True Story of Oregon Indians Related to the Author by a Pioneer of the West.*
MRS. HELEN COLVIG GALE
In 1863, Eastern Oregon was wild and desolate, the only inhabitants of that country being the Klamath Indians. To the east of them the Piute tribe held sway, and on the south were the Modocs, under the leadership of the notorious "Captain Jack," famous for the important part he played, some years after, in the battle of the lava beds.
It was in this section of the country that Colonel Charles Drew had been ordered to establish a military post [i.e., Fort Klamath], and I was one of the soldiers of Company C, First Oregon Cavalry, who was stationed there at the time the fort was being built.
There were fifty in the company, and most of us were young fellows to whom camp life was new and thoroughly enjoyable. As the fort was still uncompleted we were living in tents, and our little white canvas city lay just across the creek from the Indian village.
We were conscious of no danger, as the Indians seemed peaceable. Of course our presence there was not looked upon very favorably by them; however, with most of them we had made friends. There was the old "peace chief," Lalek, who indeed seemed most friendly to us; his tall figure, unbowed by age, was often seen among our tents, and all the soldiers held somewhat the same reverence for him that his own tribe did. There was George, too, one of the quickest and keenest men among them, and "Skookum John," inheriting traits of his father, "Old John," who was killed in the Rogue River War a few years before. This young chief had no use for the "palefaces," and he was seldom, if ever, seen on one side of the creek.
"Blow," or Saltout, was another of the so-called "little chiefs," and his well-built figure was the envy of many a soldier. Besides these were there other "little chiefs" of the Klamaths, making seven in all.
I remember well most of the faces that I saw almost daily in the little wigwam village, but there is one which is stamped deeper on my memory than all the rest, and that is the exquisite face of the girl Milita [sic--she is elsewhere, and for the remainder of Gale's article, referred to as "Celie."]. Her black eyes never wavered in their glance; her hair was wonderfully long, thick, black and straight, her nose, unlike the characteristic flattened nose of her tribe, was carefully molded, and her lips a bright contrast to her copper skin; her white, even, strong teeth were such as only an Indian can boast. She was tall, agile and straight-limbed like all her race. Although only an Indian, she commanded and won the respect and courtesy of all the soldiers. She was seen almost daily moving stealthily among the tents, and seldom a night passed but what the ruddy flames of our campfire lit up the bronze of her face as she sat a little apart from us in a moody silence. She would never speak to us either in Chinook or English. Our efforts to get her to converse with us were in vain--she treated us with ill-concealed hauteur, and we began to think she was dumb. We instinctively felt that she hated us and left her alone to come and go unmolested. As I have already stated, we were young and camp life being new, seemed to us but a jolly outing. We spent our time, off duty, riding over the sagebrush plains, hunting the game, which was plentiful, fishing in the lake or river and playing cards in camp. We took it as a matter of course that there would be no resistance on the part of the Indians, yet at times we felt a little fear for our safety--we did not know the Indian character well enough to understand that the passive attitude they assumed was but a sign of the smoldering treachery in their hearts. We did not dream that the very sight of our tents, the very stroke of the hammer on the new fort were things that daily kindled anew their anger and hate.
Of course we were foolish to think that these people were going to give up their land and the freedom they loved so well and be led to the reservation without a murmur of protest in a struggle for their rights, but we did think it and were blind to the fate they were so carefully and craftily planning for us. They knew that, armed as we were, our number was too great for them to attack us, so they planned to get some of us out of the way. In order to do this they sent some of the Indians over to the "Dead Indian" country, 100 miles west [sic] of the mountains, near the Rogue River Valley. These Indians ravished the farms there, killed some of the cattle belonging to the settlers and terrified the whole community. They thought that some of the soldiers at the fort would be called to quiet the outbreak. This would diminish the number at the reservation and the Indians intended to fall upon these remaining soldiers and massacre them.
Clever as the plan was, it failed, for, instead of calling upon the soldiers at the fort to quiet the Indians, Colonel Drew took matters into his own hands. He met Chief George on the street in Jacksonville, and said:
"George, those Indians of yours are killing stock and destroying property up in the Dead Indian Country; we won't allow this. Now, I want you to get them back to Klamath where they belong."
Instead of giving Colonel Drew a satisfactory answer, George went to Palmer, the Indian agent. Now Palmer and Drew were not friendly, owing to the fact that their authority sometimes clashed. So Palmer said to the chief: "You go back and tell Drew that he can take care of his soldiers and you take care of the Indians."
At this Drew became angry. "George," he said, "There is mischief here, and it must be stopped. Four men in Rancheria Prairie have been killed by your tribe--now, if you don't get those red men back where they belong before a week, I am going to hold you responsible for the death of those men."
Even then George made no effort to get the Indians to return to the reservation, so in a week the young Indian brave, who had become a familiar figure on the streets of the little mining town of Jacksonville, was tried by a drumhead court martial for murder by the soldiers, found guilty and hung.
Drew realized that this act further endangered our position at the fort, and in order to warn us to be on our guard before the Indians had learned of the execution, a man was immediately sent on horseback to Klamath. After riding hard all day the tired rider swung from his worn-out horse at midnight in our camp. After receiving the news, Captain Kelly sent word to every man to dress as quietly as he could, and be prepared for orders.
His plan was to arrest all the chiefs, lodge them in the guardhouse and keep them there till the trouble was past and a treaty signed. He knew if the Indians were deprived of their leaders we would have very little to fear from them.
While we were dressing in the dark and awaiting the assembly call, a spy was sent over to the wigwam village to ascertain just where the chiefs were to be found so we could fall upon them quietly. After spying around the slumbering village the soldier returned with the startling news that none of the chiefs were to be found. We realized the danger of this--as quick as Drew had been in sending us word of the execution the Indians had been quicker, familiar with paths through the mountains that we did not know, their messenger had beaten ours, and so the chiefs were evidently some place preparing to attack us.
After much searching we finally located the chiefs in a little dugout hut back of the camp.
This was the first excitement since we had been at the fort, and now that it had come our hearts were gripped with a sort of delicious terror. I will never forget that night. I can still see before me our white tents, in even rows under the starry sky. The little creek, now almost dry, reflected the stars, and across the way the dying fires in the Indian village flickered doubtfully in the darkness.
Captain Kelly ordered 15 of us to surround the hut; our hearts were beating wildly and we kept a silence that was pregnant with expectancy as we crept up to the little hut--a fissure in the clay of the walk afforded us a place to peep in the dugout, and there we saw the six chiefs planning our massacre. The fire was in the center of the small room, and the dim light from the smoking embers fell grotesquely on the fine old face of Lalek. It lit the hard, determined countenance of John and the sullen, murderous faces of the others.
A crackling twig under some soldier's foot caused the Indians to look quickly at each other. We knew the critical moment had arrived. As the room was too small for us all to enter, Kelly hurriedly whispered orders for us to remain outside, and motioning to Sergeant Underwood to follow him, the two men, with drawn revolvers, entered the hut.
As they entered, the Indians sprang to their feet. John reached for his faithful knife, but Kelly, too quick for him, fired, shooting him under the eye. The Indian lurched forward and grabbed at the captain's throat just as Underwood took aim and shot him through the heart. His great, strong body fell forward over the fire, extinguishing what light there was in the room. It had all happened so quickly, the Indians having been given no time to use their weapons, so when they were left in the darkness they dropped on their knees and sought to escape like cats into the night. But as they came out, one by one, we soldiers captured them without further resistance on their part.
Out in the clear air the assembly call rang, the waiting soldiers fell into line and the five chiefs were taken to the guard tent. A detachment hurried over to the village to quiet any disturbance that might have arisen there, but to our surprise we found it entirely deserted save for a few old women and small children.
Kelly understood the plan of the Indians at once. They had gone to the hills, some to the east to bring the Piutes to their aid, and some to the south for the Modocs. Our danger was worse than ever. Colonel Drew, knowing the situation of affairs, hurried across the mountains and at once sought Lalek and with aides went the next morning to the guard tent and talked with Lalek.
"Chief," he said in his abrupt way, "I want those Indians back here by Saturday night." Lalek said nothing. "And I want them to surrender what arms they have in their possession.," Drew continued. Still the old chief did not reply. "I want them here by sundown on that day, and I don't want more than 20 of them on this side of the creek at one time. Do you understand?" "Yes, I understand. But they no come; how you get them here?" "They will come; they must come," demanded the colonel. "I will let one of you chiefs out and he must go to all Indians and tell them that you order them to return and tell them that if they are not here Saturday evening at sundown I will hang the five chiefs who are left here."
The seamed weathered face of the old warrior changed not a muscle.
"Well?" said Drew, impatiently, after a long silence.
"I not know now," said Lalek, placidly. "I must talk with the others."
He turned to the chiefs and told them Drew's orders. For an hour they talked it over, then the old chief came to the window and called to Drew, who was pacing nervously up and down.
"Well, what about it?" demanded the colonel.
"We not know yet," answered Lalek. "We want Celie; send her to us."
The girl had been sulking about our camp since the night before. She was soon found and immediately came to the guardhouse, holding her head high and her dark eyes dilating with smoldering excitement.
The chiefs, in their laconic way, told her what Drew demanded. "Of course," she said, when they had finished, "you do not agree to this; you would all rather die?"
They were silent. "Answer me," she cried in the Klamath tongue; "answer me, do not tell me that you hesitate for one moment. It surely has not come to this; you surely will to send for the Klamaths to return." There was amazement pictured on her face, and her whole attitude was one of appeal; still no answer came from the men.
"What are you?" she cried, fiercely, when she read what their silence meant. "What are you that you dare do this? You are cowards all if you do not say to the white devils, 'Hang us, what do we care; we will not give up to you like so many squaws; we are brave men--we are the chiefs of the Klamaths.'"
Lalek raised his calm eyes to her flashing ones. "It is useless to struggle," he said; "there are too many for us and we must give up in the end."
"Then give up in the end and not in the beginning. Prove that you are worthy of the trust the Klamaths have given into your keeping. They hung my brother George at Jacksonville; he was brave--he was not afraid--he had no squaw heart. You must not, you must not give your birthright, the land of our fathers, without a struggle. O Lalek! you do not consent to this? You will not send for the Indians to return?"
The old chief nodded his head. "We have talked it all over and think it is the best and only way."
"Then why do you send for me?" she asked.
"We wanted you to go out with the chief we send; we know your influence over the people, and we want you to tell the Indians to return; you can convince them that it is the only thing to do."
She clasped her browns hands on her heaving breast: there was a sneer on her handsome face.
"Did you think I'd go? Did you think I'd say you were right in doing this? I thought you knew me better; I thought you knew I never would give an inch to these interlopers. I tell you now, I would rather die first--I would rather see every Klamath dead than to know that one of them was a coward. O! Pride of my race, where have you gone--to know that you, who should be the bravest of them all, willingly submit to the white man's commands. Blow," she said, turning to the comeliest and youngest of them. "Blow, do you consent to this cowardly thing?"
"Celie," he said, caressingly, "do you not see it is useless to fight those palefaces?"
"No! No! No!" she cried, wildly, "I cannot see it. It is better to die fighting than to be led without a murmur from our rights to live under these people's laws. There is no excuse for it; you are cowards--all, all of you. What right have these white men to take from us what is justly ours? What right have you to quietly let them take it?"
"Celie," said the young grave, grasping her unwilling hands and looking down into her flashing eyes. "Lalek is old, he has been through many battles. He surely knows what is best for his people now."
She looked up quickly. "As Lalek is growing old, he is also growing cowardly. He is afraid to die, but I am not. Let Lalek go sit with the squaws and I will hang instead of him. Let him see the land given over to the white men--he can then end his days in peace. I will stay here and on Saturday we five will hang. Our people will not come in and lay down their arms, but in a week they will return with our neighbors the Piutes and Modocs; then the soldiers will perish and our deaths will not be in vain. Even if, as time goes on and the white men at last win, it shall not be said of the Klamaths that they were cowards. Let me go to the white chiefs and beg of them to let Lalek go. I will tell them he has a squaw's heart and is afraid to die. If they will consent to hang me in his place, will you?'
The Indians hung their heads before this brave girl. Lalek spoke harshly. "I know what is best, girl." His old voice trembled. "I am not afraid to die, but I will not die or will any of these chiefs. We will send out one of our number tonight to recall the Klamaths."
"Which one will go?" she asked, scornfully. "Which one will go and say to the Indians, 'Come back; the white man bids you come; he wants you, your guns, your freedom.' If you do not give yourselves up Saturday night your four brave chiefs will be hung as they prevail upon you to come. Tell me, which one will go?"
"Blow is the one elected to go. He is the youngest and strongest," said Lalek.
"Blow?" the girl's face hardened as she turned to him. "How can you? O! how can you?"
"I must," he said simply. "I can't refuse."
"Cannot refuse! shrieked the girl. "You, whom I thought the bravest heart in all the world; you tell me you cannot refuse? You will not sacrifice your petty life for your birthright? Where is the spirit of the Klamaths? Then," and there was a quiver in her voice, "if you cannot refuse, I can never be your squaw; I will never sit by your fire or live in the wigwam you have prepared for me; you are not what I thought you were--you are a coward."
"Celie," pleaded the young chief, "do not say that; tell me you do not mean it."
"If you go," she answered quietly, "I do mean it."
Blow looked helplessly from her to Lalek. The old chief said firmly, "He must go."
"Yes," repeated the others. "he must go," and Celie turned without another word and left the guardhouse. When she came out she walked up to Colonel Drew and we were surprised to hear the Indian girl we had all thought dumb speak in excellent English.
"Blow will go," she said shortly. "They are all cowards. I would die first. I wanted to take Lalek's place, but he would not let me. I know the white man's power, but were I the chief I would die a thousand deaths before I bowed before it. But they have all faint hearts. You let Blow go; he will bring back the Indians."
"All right," answered the colonel. "I'll let him go--but stay," he added, as she turned to leave him, "where did you learn to speak English so well, and why have you never spoken to us before?"
"Because I hate you," she declared hotly. "I have known all the time how to read your English books. General [Joe] Lane took me when I was a little girl and put me in school in one of your eastern cities, and I was taught that there is a God of Justice, and this image of the cross upon which he died was given to me by one of his priests." She drew from her bosom a small crucifix. "But I came back. I like my blankets better than fine dresses, and my wigwam better than a house."
"And Blow better than a white man," suggested a soldier.
Her lip curled. "I care for no coward," she replied haughtily.
On Saturday the Indians came, but true to the characteristics of their race they waited till the last minute. We had begun to fear that they were not coming, when at sunset they came from the hills, crossed the bridge that spanned the creek and dropped their guns at the foot of our flag post.
In the opal twilight a little way apart stood the Indian girl, Celie, straight and rigid, eying the scene. She winced as each gun fell.
Blow watched her from a distance as she stood there all alone--she, whom he had hoped to bring to his wigwam some day; she whom he loved with all his savage heart, but had lost forever. A barrier worse than death was now between them. He had helped to sell her kinsmen's rights--her rights. How much better it would have been to never have consented--far better to have died than to live without her, and that was what he must do now. He knew her nature too well to hope for forgiveness. She, the pride of all the race, so brave, could never love a coward, and he had proven himself one before her. What was his miserable life worth now, without her?
He gave one last look toward her, as she stood with her hands clasped tensely in front of her, her head uplifted so the fine handsome features were silhouetted against the changing colors of the western sky, then, conscious of what he had done and of what he had lost, slunk away into the night.
Medford Mail, October 16, 1908, page 8 *The "pioneer of the west" is undoubtedly Wm. M. Colvig.
WILLIAM MASON COLVIG.
Residence and office, Medford National Bank Building, Medford, Ore. Born in
Knoxville, Mo., September 2, 1845. Son of William Lyngae and Helen Mar (Woodford) Colvig. Came to Oregon in 1851. Married to Addie Birdseye, June 8, 1879. Attended country school in Oregon; eighteen months at Tremont College, Tazewell County, Ill., then teaching school for short time. Studied law with Judge A. W. Rodecker, Pekin, Ill., 1871-72. Returned to Oregon, October 1875, and admitted to bar at Salem, Ore., in 1888. Member of Company C. First Regiment, Oregon Cavalry, 1863-66. County School Superintendent, 1882-1886; District Attorney, 1886. Member Oregon Textbook Commission. President Medford Commercial Club. Member Masonic fraternity. Republican.
History of the Bench and Bar of Oregon, 1910, page 112
William M. Colvig, erstwhile from Missouri, longer ago, however, than many of us have lived, has at last been "showed." For the past decade Bill Colvig has been going up and down through the land proclaiming his nativity of the state where people "have to be showed," and at the same time his abiding faith in the past, present and future of his adopted state, Oregon--or it may be some day, Siskiyou--but never in all these years has William ever owned an orchard tract--he hadn't been "showed" yet.
But Saturday he went to Woodville, where he and E. C. Sharpe of the Home Telephone Company for the trifling consideration of $13,500 bought from R. A. Pierce 50 acres of the land on Evans Creek, which the said William might have had for the asking when in his younger days he traveled around in that neighborhood. "I am from Missouri," declares Mr. Colvig, "and I have to be 'showed.' I have been showing other people for a good many years, and it finally permeated through my head that I might as well show myself something while I was at it. Hence the buy. Good buy? Of course it is. Evans Creek property is worth all a man is asked for it, and then some."
"63,000 Paid for 121 Lots on Nob Hill," Medford Mail Tribune, March 20, 1910, page 1
September 9, 1910 Oregonian
8 Laurel Street, Medford, Oregon
William J. Warner, 26, postal clerk, born in Nebraska, head of household
Mary C. Warner, 23, born in Oregon, wife
William M. Colvig, 64, lawyer, born in Missouri, father-in-law
Addie Colvig, 53, born in Oregon, mother-in-law
Donald Colvig, 21, stenographer, born in Oregon, brother-in-law
Vance Colvig, 17, born in Oregon, brother-in-law
Ira J. Dodge, 29, real estate agent, born in Minnesota, boarder
Harry Houston, 29, real estate agent, born in Minnesota, boarder
U.S. Census, enumerated April 18-19, 1910
Medford Mail Tribune, September 19, 1910
LIGHTS ARE PUT TO SHAME BY JUDGE COLVIG
Judge William M. Colvig made such a strong speech in favor of that stalwart reactionary Republican, that firm friend of the assembly, that staunch enemy of Statement No. 1, and that invincible opponent of the rule of the people, William M. Colvig, and indulged in so many incandescent periods and verbal fireworks that the electric light plant got ashamed of itself and went out of business Saturday evening, leaving the orator the only luminous object in the city.
Judge Colvig spoke on the street corner like a monk and lowly socialist, but unlike the meek and lowly socialist, he spoke from that emblem of the rich and the four-flusher, the automobile--no popcorn stand for this champion of the rights of the few in their rule of the many. He had a good audience to start with, but when the lights began to fade, so did the audience, in spite of the brilliance of the speaker.
"The Two Georges" might have been styled the subject of the judge's oration, as most of it was devoted to George E. Chamberlain and a local George much less known to fame [probably George Putnam]. The heartiest cheers drawn forth were when he said he was a friend of "our George." With honeyed words he depicted the benefit accruing to the people by letting a few choice spirits do their thinking for them and select their candidates. He lovingly dwelt upon the glorious character of the 1200 eminent citizens and corporation employees who constituted the assembly, and chose for the incompetent people their candidates.
Judge Colvig spoke of Congressman Hawley's admitted incompetence and told how he had advised Mr. Hawley never to show up in Medford unless he got an appropriation, and how that Mr. Hawley had made good by selling his birthright for a mess of pottage, and thereby become worthy.
At the conclusion, the crowd dispersed in silence, and no collection was taken to aid the candidate in his Don Quixote tilt against the windmill of popular government.
Medford Mail Tribune weekly, September 15, 1910, page 2
RESIDENTS OBJECT TO DANCE HALL
The residents of Laurel Street near the west school are up in arms over the prospect of having a dance hall in their neighborhood and are preparing a petition to the city council asking that a license granted to Al Stroud for that purpose be revoked. If the council does not grant their petition, the matter will be carried to the circuit court and an injunction sought on the ground that it is a public nuisance.
Mr. Stroud proposes to start a dance hall in the building occupied temporarily by the Cuthbert company. This building adjoins the home of W. M. Colvig [at 8 South Laurel], and Mr. Colvig and others are remonstrating.
It is pointed out that the location of a dance hall at that point would prove very annoying. Hence the protest.
Medford Mail Tribune weekly, September 22, 1910, page 7
I am a candidate for state senator. I am a Republican. If nominated at the primary, and elected at the general election, I will give my best efforts to serve the interests of the people of Jackson County.Medford Sun, August 13, 1911
I will not vote to elect a Democrat to the United [States] Senate, but I will vote to elect to that office the Republican candidate who shall have received the highest number of votes therefor at the general election next preceding. [This was before the popular election of senators.]
I want this statement to be plainly understood so that no person who desires the election of a Democrat to that important office will be misled into voting for me by thinking that possibly I might, under certain circumstances, aid in bringing about such a result, for I will not.
I believe that as a representative of those who elect me I should carry out their political views.
I favor the permanent maintenance of a state normal school at Ashland, Oregon, and if I am elected I will use every effort to secure such institution.
I am in favor of good roads, and have given much study to the subject, and as to the manner of procuring them. Important legislation is needed before much can be done in this matter.
In order that the fish that run in the streams of the state may be enjoyed by all our people, the greed of the cannery men at the mouths of the rivers must be checked in some legitimate way so as to allow a free run of fish to the interior localities. I feel that I am thoroughly acquainted with the condition of such affairs, and will, if elected, be able to render efficient service therein.
I came to Oregon in October, 1851, when I was six years old. I have worked in her forests, her fields, and her mines, and I believe that I know her needs. I am known as a "progressive"--in fact I am called a "booster"--and if elected I shall esteem it a great honor to boost for the whole state, but particularly for Jackson County.
If I am not nominated at the primary convention, it will give me great pleasure to assist the victorious Republican candidate who defeats me, to election in November, and to urge my party friends to give him a cordial support. I will not during the campaign personally make a request of any voter to support me. I will be pleased to meet my fellow citizens, and publicly address them on political matters.
WM. M. COLVIG
Central Point Herald, September 22, 1910, page 1
Medford Commercial Club Head Out
MEDFORD, Or., June 5.--(Special.)--After three years of service William M. Colvig, president of the Medford Commercial Club, today tendered his resignation to the directors of that organization saying that he must devote more of his time to his private affairs. It has been largely due to Mr. Colvig that the club has maintained its high degree of efficiency.Judge Wm. M. Colvig, the Grand Young Man of the Valley
Morning Oregonian, Portland, June 5, 1911, page 7
Here's an awfully good joke on the judge. You see the illustration that accompanies this article. Well, the judge won't like that. Neither will Mrs. Colvig. But what can they do. Their own son Vance executed it one day from life while the judge was addressing the bar.
And it isn't so bad at that. Turned upside down it looks a little like the map of Crater Lake, but the Websterian brow is there, as is the twinkling eye and the claret-colored necktie, and someday that picture will be worth money, for V is after the laurels of Davenport and McCutcheon [celebrated cartoonists Homer Davenport and John McCutcheon], although there is at present a conspiracy in the family to make an engineer out of him.
But we are not dealing with the present generation. This is a story of the youngest old man--or is it the oldest young man--in Jackson County.
Just think of it. When Fort Sumter was fired upon few of us were peeping. But ten years before that--10 years--Judge Colvig trundled into the city of Portland, Oregon, with his father and mother and four other children behind a yoke of oxen, and camped amid the pine stumps near what was then the Weekly Oregonian.
When Franklin Pierce was in the White House and Daniel Webster was orating for the benefit of our grade school readers, away back there when women wore hoop skirts and young men sported silken whiskers instead of creased trousers and rainbow socks--Dr. W. J. Colvig decided that he would take his wife and five children from St. Joe, Missouri, and make what was then a five months' voyage across the plains to the Pacific Ocean.
They started with five yoke of cattle and they arrived in Portland with two, which indicates briefly was traveling was in those days.
Portland was a sad, dismal place at that time and in the spring of 1852 the family hitched up the oxen again and started for the south, finally settling in Canyonville, Douglas County, where Judge Colvig's father started to practice medicine and run a drug store on the side.
And here you could write about Indians and massacres and pioneering to your heart's content. For the judge is no ordinary resident. He's an institution. He's got a history longer than the Constitution of the United States. He could fill the congressional library with yarns of the old days and they would be calculated to instruct as well as amuse.
For let it be said . . . that the judge, for an Oregonian, has one surpassing distinction. He has a sense of humor. Oregonians in general are supposed only to have a sense of locality.
This gives him the subtle insight which makes him a keen judge of the weaknesses as well as the virtues of the mossback pioneers. He perceives their lack of progressiveness, but he also perceives their sturdy and reliable qualities.
But to return to Canyonville and the early days. The judge planted some watermelons in the sticky and they grew like Newfoundland puppies, but finally the sun came out and the soil warped and cracked until there were crevices from four to eight inches in width running through the melon patch. In these the melons fell, but the judge still had hopes and would pull them up every now and then and thump their sides in great expectancy. But one night it rained and the next morning the sticky was as smooth as a mud puddle and the melons were never recovered until potato digging started the next fall.
The judge remembers the time the government started a military road through the state to Southern Oregon, and Col. Joe Hooker, who afterwards fought the "battle above the clouds" at Lookout Mountain, was in charge of the work at Canyonville. The colonel put in most of his time during the winter playing "seven-up" for the drinks in the hotel barrooms, while the boys under him were at work up the canyon.
News from the states was fresh then if it was three months old.
"I remember," says the judge, "that it was about January, 1853, my father put me on a pony and sent me some miles distant to borrow a St. Louis Dispatch that was reported to have been received by a neighbor. My father was a Whig and wanted to hear that General Scott was elected president. I got the paper but under the strict promise to keep it and return it the next day.
"When we take a comparative view of the wild freedom of life in those days, its careless simplicity and its utter lack of social distinctions, we almost regret the advanced position into which we have been crowded. In those days we boys all wore buckskin breeches. You couldn't wear them out. When they were outgrown they went on down the line to the next boy in size. If there was any special reason to have them look clean then Mother would send us down to the riverbank where we had a kind of an otter slide in the sand and we would sit down and slide and then lie down and slide until they were clean fore and aft."
You'd never believe that today as you see the judge walking up and down the street with that erect square-shouldered walk of his, or presiding over the Commercial Club, of which he has so long been president.
But speaking of the street walk, there is a reason for that. If you look sharp you will notice that there is a copper-colored button in the lapel of the judge's coat which signifies that he fought for Uncle Sam and Abe Lincoln in the war of the rebellion. On the fifth of April, 1863, he enlisted at Camp Baker, half a mile from the present town of Phoenix, and remained in the service exactly three years, Company C, 1st Oregon. After service in Eastern Oregon, Idaho and Nevada he was discharged at Fort Vancouver, April 5, 1866.
At this point Billy Colvig had just reached his twenty-first birthday, had traveled across the continent in a wagon and had served three years in the Civil War. Think that over for a few minutes.
But the young man wanted to see something of the world. In his memory Jacksonville, Oregon represented the nearest approach to a metropolis that he had seen. Medford had not been born yet. What is now a city was a wilderness of trees and grass with an occasional sawmill between Bear Creek and the present county seat.
So the judge set sail for San Francisco, and with all his earthly possessions done up in a handkerchief re-embarked there for New York City via Nicaragua. And here, of course, is where the villain steps in. Someone copped the handkerchief with all the $480 in it, and Billy had a view of his first city and his first railroad with just $1.75 in his pocket.
It was while making his way to Uncle Three Balls, that traditional savior of genius and rescuer of the unfortunate [a pawn shop], that our hero saw an announcement of the discovery of oil fields in Pennsylvania. John D. Rockefeller had not organized the Oil Trust then, and if the judge had had that $480 in his pocket and followed the impulse he would now be the proprietor of a marble palace on Fifth Avenue and eating nightingales' tongues before breakfast, instead of getting up at 5 a.m. and sprinkling the lawn. And whether a kind Fate or an unkind Fate was responsible let some of our master moralists decide.
But after pawning his watch and other valuables the judge hied to Pennsylvania but did find work there so followed the oil excitement through town to Virginia, then tackled Illinois and finally felt drawn to his old birthplace, Missouri, where he went to work threshing hemp with a hand break on the 1,200-acre plantation belonging to General Joe Shelby of the Confederate Army. The confederate liked the Union soldier's work so much that the appointed him foreman and in the fall of 1868 the judge moved back to Tremont, Illinois with $500 in his pocket.
At this time the judge was twenty-four years old. He had never been through the fundamental rules of arithmetic. Had never seen a grammar. His education had been neglected. He went two years through an independent course in Tremont Collegiate Institute and secured a first-grade certificate to teach. For a month he taught in the Tremont schools, which, by the way, was the home of the late Harvey Scott, and meanwhile studied law under Judge A. W. Rodecker of Pekin, Ill.
The judge came back to the coast by the publishing route. Becoming interested in some sort of concern that put out county and state histories, the Pacific Coast Publishing Company was established and Wm. Colvig was appointed manager, going to California just in time to see the concern go into the hands of a receiver. Meantime revenue was coming in from the history of Richland County, Ohio he had written and also a history of Minnesota, and deciding not to return to the East the judge returned to his father and mother and there was a glorious family reunion after an absence of thirteen years.
After serving as school superintendent for two terms the judge was elected district attorney for the district which then comprised Jackson, Josephine and Lake counties, and later opened a law office in the metropolis of Jackson County, Jacksonville. It was not until 1906 that the president of the Commercial Club moved to Medford, although he joined that body the year before. For three years he has held that position, and although he tried a few months ago to resign, the members of the organization would have none of it. The judge is a member of the Oregon State Text Book Commission of five members, and he was supreme master of the A.O.U.W. when it had a membership of three-quarters of a million.
But above all he is Medford's grand young man. When any distinguished visitors come to the city, when there is any representative delegation for the city, the judge is the man to welcome the one, and form a part of the other. Just now he is in Astoria representing Medford at the centennial celebration; and needless to say he will represent it well.
Medford Sun, August 13, 1911, page 3
William M. Colvig gave one of his interesting and entertaining talks [at the meeting of the Oregon Development League in Astoria]. He is known to be one of the best and wittiest public speakers in Oregon, and he was at his best. He spoke as follows:
"For three years past I have been the president of the Medford Commercial Club, and, with my associates, have induced a great many people to come to Oregon, many of whom are now basking in the sunshine of happier and more prosperous days than they had ever known before, and yet I am sorry to say there are a few others who seem to have been 'over-much persuaded,' and who have either returned to the familiar faces of their old homes in the East or are found wandering up and down the Pacific Coast cussing the country and everybody in it. These few need parental guidance and should not have crossed the threshold where the 'old folks stay.'
"As loyal citizens of Oregon we should be glad to welcome among us all those who are not afraid to face the obstacles which lie in the pathway of every new civilization. We should not hesitate to sing the praises of our home in this land of rich endowment, but there is danger that we may overdraw the picture and offer inducements that will never be realized by those who may come. We must, therefore, be careful in all our statements so that we will not be afraid to face the newcomer when he arrives.
"At the last meeting of the Development League one of the members who addressed it advocated the plan of sending agents to the cheap labor countries of Southern Europe for the purpose of inducing immigrants from there to this state. In my opinion no greater calamity could possibly befall us than to have a heavy immigration of that class to Oregon. We do not need them; they do not assimilate with our people nor add any strength to our civilization. They are incapable of appreciating the liberty which we enjoy, and so I am constrained to say that the fewer we have of such people the better it will be for the welfare of the commonwealth. But we may joyfully receive among us people from Great Britain, from the Scandinavian and Germanic countries of Europe, from France and from Russia, because their standards of life are not dissimilar to our own and they readily understand the duties of enlightened citizenship.
"These fertile valleys, held aloft in the arms of the mighty mountains that surround them, are gems in the diadem of Nature's God, and the time will come when this power and the influence of the civilization here established will be recognized and felt throughout the nations of Earth, and for these reasons it is not alone numbers that we should seek to attract hither, but quality as well."
"Awaken, Pleads Wilcox to Oregon," Morning Oregonian, Portland, August 15, 1911, page 1
HOUCK HAS HIS FACE SLAPPEDBecause he called William M. Colvig, president of the Commercial Club and booster-in-chief of Medford and the Rogue River Valley, a liar, Jesse Houck had his face slapped--and Colvig did it.
Judge Colvig Resents Being Called a Liar and Despite His Age
He Retaliates with Well-Placed Blow--Heated Argument Over Roads
The passing of the lie came during an argument over the good roads bond issue. Colvig and Houck , who is fighting the issue, had had it up and down for several minutes when Houck asked:
"And what have you got for all of your efforts in this valley?"
"I've got about $5000," was the reply of the judge, "and I earned every dollar of it--that's more than you can say, for your father left you yours."
"You're a liar," declared Houck.
Thereupon Judge Colvig, though 66 years of age, slapped Houck's face, in spite of the fact that Houck is a much younger man. Then bystanders interfered.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 26, 1911, page 8
COLVIG TAKES OVER WORK
Medford Attorney Quits Law to Conduct Publicity Campaign.
MEDFORD, Or., Nov. 9.--(Special.)--At its annual meeting Monday night the Medford Commercial Club adopted an entirely new system of management. William M. Colvig, who retired after three years as president, was made president and manager at a salary of $250 a month, and the entire management of the organization will be in his hands.
Heretofore Mr. Colvig has served as president without pay, and the active management has been in the hands of a salaried secretary. Under the new arrangement President Colvig will only have a stenographer to look after the routine work of the office and will devote his entire time to publicity work, retiring from the practice of law after 30 years as an attorney.
George Boos, former secretary, retires to take the secretaryship of the newly formed Southern Railway Company, now applying for a franchise for an electric line in Medford and through the valley from Ashland to Eugene.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, November 10, 1911, page 10
Home Sweet Home for this Judge
MEDFORD, Ore., Jan. 16.--"Oregon for mine. No more Los Angeles and San Francisco. I met Jim Jeffries in Los Angeles and lost my diamond scarf pin in San Francisco. That's enough to discourage any tourist," said Judge W. M. Colvig, aspirant for Congress, who has just returned from a tour of the South.
"In San Francisco," said the judge, "I was seeing sights New Year's Eve when a young woman with a three-foot feather plume threw a bag of confetti in my eyes. When I got them open my diamond and the girl had gone.
"In Los Angeles I was introduced to Jim Jeffries. I told him I had heard a little about him. He merely grunted, glared at me and then walked away."
The Tacoma Times, January 16, 1912, page 1
Judge Wm. Colvig left for Portland Saturday in answer to a telegram stating that Mrs. Colvig, who is in a hospital in that city, was not so well.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, February 12, 1912, page 2
MRS. COLVIG RETURNS; IS SERIOUSLY ILL
Mrs. William M. Colvig, who was brought to this city Saturday from a Portland hospital, has suffered no relapse from the journey. Last night her condition, while serious, was as good as could be expected, as she stood the trip well. She was resting as well as could be expected late last night.
Judge and Mrs. W. M. Colvig returned Saturday from Portland. Mrs. Colvig is very ill and has been in a Portland hospital for several months. Superintendent L. R. Fields of the Southern Pacific very kindly placed his private car "California" at the disposal of Mr. Colvig, and the car was attached to passenger train No. 15 this morning, and upon the train's arrival it was put on a siding in the Medford yards to be returned to Portland Sunday. This act of courtesy on the part of Mr. Fields was greatly appreciated by Mr. Colvig in that it gave him an opportunity to administer to the needs of Mrs. Colvig while en route, which he could not have done had they made the trip in a standard car.
Medford Sun, February 25, 1912, page 2
MRS. W. M. COLVIG DIESMEDFORD, Or., Feb. 25.--(Special.)--Addie Birdseye Colvig, wife of Judge William M. Colvig, one of the oldest settlers in Southern Oregon, died at her home in Medford this morning, aged 66 years. Mrs. Colvig was operated on in Portland, January 3, for cancer.
NATIVE OF JACKSON COUNTY SUCCUMBS TO CANCER.
Woman Born in 1846 Is Survived by Widower and Five Children Who Live at Medford.
Realizing the seriousness of her condition, Mrs. Colvig requested that she be taken to her home in this city, and a private car of the Southern Pacific Company was placed at the family's disposal. She was taken to Medford Saturday, attended by her nurses and physician, Dr. Geary, of Portland. She lived only 12 hours after her arrival.
Mrs. Colvig was the daughter of David and Clara Birdseye, who came to Jackson County in 1852. She was born at Fort Birdseye, on the Birdseye donation land claim, at the mouth of Foots Creek, near Woodville.
She was married to W. M. Colvig June 8, 1879, and they lived on the Birdseye farm until 1886, when they moved to Jacksonville. In 1906 the family came to Medford.
Mrs. Colvig was Grand Chief of Honor of the Degree of Honor of the Ancient Order of United Workmen of the state eight years ago and was well known throughout this section of Oregon.
Five children survive, all living in Medford. They are: Mrs. Clarence L. Reames, Mrs. R. G. Gale, Mrs. Will Warner, Vance and Donald Colvig. The funeral will be held Monday, Rev. Joseph Sheerin, of the Episcopal Church, officiating, and burial will be at the Jacksonville Cemetery. Her son-in-law, Clarence L. Reames, is Exalted Ruler of the Medford Lodge of Elks and her son Donald also is an Elk. The Medford Elks will accompany the body to the grave.
Oregonian, Portland, February 26, 1912, page 5
MAY NAME NEW STATION "COLVIG"
When shown the article in the Mail Tribune of yesterday stating that the station between Foots Creek and Birdseye Creek would be named "Rosey," A. S. Rosenbaum, local agent of the Southern Pacific Company, said that while he could not make the statement officially, he was satisfied the station would be called "Colvig," the same being appropriate inasmuch as Judge Colvig lived in that section of the county for years and has been prominent in the history of Southern Oregon. It is intimated a suggestion to that effect has been sent the Southern Pacific Company, and the railroad directory shows no "Colvig" as a railroad station in America.
Medford Mail Tribune weekly edition, May 2, 1912, page 3
COLVIG ENTERTAINS OUT OF GRATITUDE
In gratitude to the Southern Pacific for perpetuating his name by naming a new station just south of Grant Pass "Colvig," Judge W. M. Colvig last evening entertained John M. Scott, general passenger agent of the Southern Pacific, at the Hotel Medford. Other guests were W. H. Jenkins, A. S. Rosenbaum and Harry H. Hicks.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 10, 1912, page 3
Judge Colvig is the original and only booster--all others are imitations. He was born in Missouri, and lived in Jacksonville for a time, both for which we forgave him, as he now spends all his time convincing people that the best place on earth is Medford in Southern Oregon.
At a recent meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, during which all the local members spoke in glowing terms of their own city, Judge Colvig, being present, was invited to speak. The Judge arose and said he did not feel that he could add anything to the beautiful tributes that had been paid to Los Angeles, but that what he had heard reminded him of the following story:
"A party of Los Angeles people who had departed this vale of tears were being shown through the Celestial Regions. As St. Peter pointed out the pearly gates and golden streets their admiration was unbounded, and they expressed themselves with such exclamations as 'Beautiful'; 'This reminds us of Los Angeles'; 'This is just like home.' As they proceeded they came to a beautiful place wherein a group of people were chained to the floor with heavy chains. Upon asking St. Peter who these people were, and why they [were] chained, he replied: 'Those people came from the Rogue River Valley, and we have to chain them to keep them here.'"
Minnie (Mrs. H. C.) Stoddard, "Medford's Hall of Fame," Medford Mail Tribune, December 18, 1912, page 4
Mr. Houck Gives His VersionTo the Editor of The Sun:
In an article published in the Medford Tribune a statement was made in large headlines, "Houck Has His Face Slapped," and following purports to be a statement of an altercation between the undersigned and W. M. Colvig.
I desire to state that Houck didn't have his face slapped by Mr. Colvig nor by anyone else, and the statement given by the Tribune regarding the altercation is entirely erroneous, to use the mildest term that can be applied to it. Perhaps the recital of the affair is maliciously wrong rather than simply erroneous.
Mr. Colvig came into the Nash Hotel, where Elmer Oatman, W. M. Smith and myself were sitting, and engaged in a conversation regarding the proposed bond issue, when Mr. Oatman expressed his objections to the proposed issue, when Mr. Colvig replied that the country would amount to but little if we had such citizens only as several citizens whom he named, including myself, mentioning me by name, although I had not participated in the conversation or argument relative to it, Mr. Colvig's remarks being directed to Mr. Oatman more particularly. And at this juncture turned to me and said, "You haven't done anything for Medford." I answered by stating that I thought I had done as much as he had for Medford, when Mr. Colvig said: "You haven't done anything but what your father left you; you never earned a cent for yourself." I did not resent this statement at all.
Mr. Colvig then said that the bond issue was opposed by George Dunn and Josh Japperson and other citizens because they were turned down and were "sore." To this statement I replied that if these men were opposing the bond issue it was for substantial reasons and not because they were sore--that they were too much of the gentleman class to be guilty of opposition for that reason, and that if anybody had asserted that this was the cause for their opposition it was a lie.
When I made this statement Mr. Colvig struck at me while I was sitting in my chair. I warded off the blow with my shoulder, rising at the time, when he struck at me a second time. He did not strike me either time, although he struck with his clenched fist and not with his open hand. I backed away from him, saying: "Mr. Colvig, you are too old a man for me to strike." I repeatedly told Mr. Colvig that I did not call him a liar and did not intend to convey the idea that I was calling him a liar.
The argument over the bond issue was started by Mr. Colvig and not by myself, nor did I make any statement during the course of the argument to call for Mr. Colvig's assertion that I had nothing but what my father had left me, and merely defended the reputation of George Dunn and Patterson against the assaults of Colvig, that they were "sore" and therefore were opposing the bond issue. My statement did not convey the idea that Mr. Colvig was a liar or that I thought he was--but did convey the idea and impression that these statements . . . made indiscriminately about Dunn and Patterson were lies.
There was no occasion for Mr. Colvig's hostility to me, and the attack was unprovoked on my part. Mr. Colvig was entirely the aggressor in this trouble.
Medford, Sept. 27.
We desire to state that we were present at the difficulty mentioned in the foregoing article, and the statement made above is a correct statement of the affair.
W. M. SMITH
E. R. OATMAN
Medford Sun, September 28, 1911, page 4
May 15, 1912 Medford Mail Tribune
COLVIG, William Mason, Lawyer; born Ray Co., Mo., Sept. 2, 1845; son, William Lyngae and Helen (Mar) C.; grandson of Jacob Lyngae Colvig, who fought under Napoleon and received a medal of honor for bravery at Lodi. "Educated in a log school house." Married, Addie Birdseye, June 8, 1879, at Rock Point, Ore. Dir., Medford Natl. Bank; Pres., Medford Commercial Club. 3 years enlistment, 1863-66, Co. C, 1st Ore. Cav. Vols. 2 terms Co. Supt. Schools, Jackson Co., Ore., 3 terms, Dist. Atty., 1st Jud. Dist., Ore.; 12 years, member of Oregon Textbook Commission; 4 years, Adj. Gen., Ore. State Militia. Democrat, until McKinley campaign, since a Republican. Has lived in Oregon 61 years. Address: Medford, Ore.
Harper, Franklin, ed., Who's Who on the Pacific Coast, 1913, page 120
William H. Crane [, "Dean of the American Stage,"] who is 68 years old, only one year younger than Sarah Bernhardt, says the reason he can gallop about like a young, frisky colt is because Sarah has lived abnormally and he has lived normally.
* * *Right in the midst of the chat Mr. Crane fished a long, yellow envelope out of his pocket, and, laughing as gleefully as a mischievous boy, spread out its two closely written pages and read this aloud. It was dated Medford, Or., and written on the 19th. After the usual preliminaries it began:
Thirty-seven years ago I applied to you for a position with the Hooley Stock Company, of Chicago, and received the enclosed letter from you in which there is a promise to let me hear further in regard to the matter. Ever since then I have been standing on the very tiptoe of expectation--waiting for the opportunity to appear before the footlights and "hold the mirror up to Nature." I have always believed that your forgetfulness on that occasion robbed the world of a great actor and imposed on the innocent public a very indifferent lawyer. About the time your present appearance in Portland was announced I was overhauling some old papers and ran onto your letter of January 23, 1875. In those ancient days I often met you, thought it is not probable that you remember it. I think it probable that I will run down next week and be one of your audience. Sincerely,
WILLIAM M. COLVIG.
And this is the letter enclosed with Mr. Colvig's. It is dated January 25, 1875, in Chicago, and written on a sheet of ruled tablet paper:
Your letter rec'd. Mr. Hooley desires me to say that there is really no position vacant in the Co. at present that could benefit you in any way. Will keep your address and should any chance occur where you could attain what you desire, will advise you of the same. Very truly yours,
WM. H. CRANE,
Stage Manager, Hooley's Theater.
Leone Cass Baker, "Crane Gives Secret," Morning Oregonian, Portland, March 22, 1913, page 9
Medford Mail Tribune, March 21, 1912
Pioneer Days, the War and Crater LakeAn Oregon pioneer of distinguished lineage tells Mr. Lockley about his ancestry and about his coming to Oregon in 1851, and about a trip to Crater Lake at a time when few white men had seen that world's wonder. The narrative of this pioneer will be concluded in this space tomorrow.
By Fred Lockley in Oregon Journal
"When I was a boy of 17," said Judge W. M. Colvig, an Oregon pioneer of 1851, "they were raising two Oregon regiments to go to the front. Probably the recruiting officers acted in good faith in promising us we would soon be in active service and on the firing line, but the Secretary of War ruled otherwise. He took all the regulars from the West and had the Oregon troops take their places so we never got any nearer Gettysburg and Cold Harbor than the Cascade Mountains or Crater Lake.JUDGE COLVIG GETS WRITE UP
"Oregon raised a regiment of infantry and a regiment of cavalry. I enlisted at Camp Baker, near Phoenix, in southern Oregon, in Company C, First Oregon Cavalry. Our captain's name was William Kelly. Frank B. White was first lieutenant, and D. C. Underwood was second lieutenant.
"On July 11, 1863, our colonel, Charles S. Drew, was ordered to go to the Klamath country and find a location for a government post. That was a central point for the Modoc, Klamath and Piute Indians. We located Fort Klamath. General W. H. Odell surveyed out the mile square for the government headquarters.
"Supplies were brought in from Jacksonville, about 98 miles distant. The road was extremely bad, so Captain Frank B. Sprague was ordered to take a detail of twenty men and find a lower pass over the mountains and if possible find a more feasible route for a road to Jacksonville.
"I was company clerk, and I was at headquarters when Captain Sprague returned from his trip and reported. He told of discovering a most wonderful lake in a crater-like depression in the mountains. He said, 'I believe it is the most wonderful lake in the world.'
"This was in October. Next Sunday a party of twenty or more of us went to see the lake. Its grandeur and majesty simply rendered us speechless. Colonel Ross was one of our party. Historians have since wrongfully given him the credit for discovering the lake.
"In writing a report to the government of the result of his exploring trip, Captain Sprague wanted to give some name to the lake. It was discussed by various officers. Captain Sprague wanted to call it Lake Mystic, but finally yielded to the others and named it Lake Majesty. Look in the old government reports and you will see that that was the original name given to Crater Lake. The Indians had known of the lake, and a few white trappers had spoken of it.
"After three years of serving in the army, I went east. In 1872 I was teaching school at Fremont, Ill., the birthplace of Harvey Scott and of Mrs. Abigail Scott Duniway. They always called me 'Oregon Bill' back in Illinois. Colonel Acquilla Davis, one of my school directors, came to me and said:
"'Oregon, I want you to come up to my house tonight and take supper with me. We have a relation of mine--a lady from Oregon--I want you to meet. Her name is Abigail Scott Duniway. She is the editor of a paper called The New Northwest, published in Portland. She is going to talk at the church tonight.'
"I was an enthusiastic worker for Horace Greeley, who was running for president. I took tea at the Davis house and met Mrs. Duniway. I was asked to serve as chairman of the meeting and introduce Mrs. Duniway. I did so. She had met Grant and Greeley, and how she did go for Horace Greeley. She told of her interview with Greeley, and of asking his position on the woman suffrage question. 'This is what he told me,' said Mrs. Duniway: 'I'll tell you ladies plainly, God made men and women different physically and mentally: I like to see women women, and men men, and I don't want to see a lot of women usurping men's functions.'
"Mrs. Duniway probably to this day doesn't know why her audience was so much amused while she was pitching into Horace Greeley. There I was working tooth and toenail for Greeley, and acting as chairman of a meeting where my candidate was being vigorously assailed. Mrs. Duniway, however, has lived to see her cause triumphant."
Medford Mail Tribune, September 1, 1913, page 4
RIGHT-OF-WAY MAN NAMED
Medford Attorney Gets Local Office with Southern Pacific.
William M. Colvig, attorney for the Southern Pacific at Medford, will become tax and right-of-way agent of the same road January 1, to succeed the late Colonel J. B. Eddy.
The appointment has been made by E. E. Calvin and W. F. Herrin, vice-presidents of the Southern Pacific, D. W. Campbell, general superintendent in Portland, was advised by wire yesterday.
Mr. Colvig is a pioneer in Oregon, a veteran of the Civil War and an attorney of wide experience. He is preparing now to come to Portland with his family and take up his new duties.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, December 27, 1913, page 11
"I am looking for a house," said Judge William M. Colvig, late of Medford, at the Cornelius yesterday.
Judge Colvig has been appointed right-of-way agent for the Southern Pacific in Oregon, and proposes to remove his family to Portland soon.
"But I am telling these landlords, when they tell me the advantages of their properties as reasons for charging a high rent, that I intend to rent for a term of years--I never did like to move, anyway, and that I am in other ways a most desirable tenant. I want a place where I can have some grass and a few rosebushes, and I'll take care of these things as though the premises were my own."
Judge Colvig is an ex-president of the Medford Commercial Club and has been prominent in every movement for the advancement of Medford and Southern Oregon for more years than is embraced in the memory of a majority of the residents of that region.
One of the first things Judge Colvig did to make Southern Oregon a better country to live in was to serve as a volunteer in the war against the Modoc Indians [sic] in the '60s.
He was one of the earliest white men to see Crater Lake, and was one with a party of regular soldiers who took a number of Indians down to the water's edge and pushed them in for the purpose of dispelling the idea of the savages that the devil dwelt in the blue bosom of the lake and rewarded whoever looked upon it with death.
Mrs. C. L. Reames, wife of the United States District Attorney, is Judge Colvig's daughter.
"Hotel Lobbies Furnish Tales of Varied Tenor," Oregonian, Portland, January 5, 1914, page 5
JURIST GETS MUD BATH
As a Result of Runaway Judge Colvig Has Lame Arms and Sore Eyes.
Judge William Colvig, tax and right-of-way agent for the Southern Pacific, came back to Portland yesterday with lame arms and obscured vision and otherwise suffering bodily aches, as a result of a runaway accident in which he participated while in Lane County.
The horses, according to the judge, ran for a long distance, and he was blinded early in the excitement by the shower of mud precipitated upon him from the flying heels of the animals. No longer able to see, he hung on to the lines and trusted to his good luck, which vindicated itself by switching the team into a bog. They came to a sudden stop and Mr. Colvig was thrown over the dashboard, painfully bruising his arms.
Finally extricating himself from the bog and wiping enough of the mud out of his eyes to allow him to see, he made his way back to Eugene and let an oculist finish the job of removing from his vision the keepsakes of Lane County good roads which he had collected.
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, March 1, 1914, page 14
Judge W. M. Colvig arrived in Medford yesterday and the first of the month will resume his home in this city. Judge Colvig, former attorney in this city, former president of the Commercial Club and one of the best-known pioneers in southern Oregon, left Medford three or four years ago to take the position of tax adjuster for the Southern Pacific. He resigned the position several months ago, the resignation to take effect May 1st.
"Local and Personal," Medford Sun, April 14, 1918, page 2
IN THE PORTLAND DAILY JOURNAL.
"I was born in Ray County, Missouri, September 2, 1845," said Judge William M. Colvig, when I visited him recently at his home in Medford. "My father, William Lyngae Colvig, was born at Leesburg, Va., September 19, 1814. My mother, whose maiden name was Helen Woodford, was born at Hartford, Conn. My father's father, Jacob Lyngae Colvigne, was born in Paris. His father, Jean Baptiste Colvigne, married Zelesta Lyngae, the daughter of a Greek sea captain. She was born in Athens. My grandfather, Jacob L. Colvigne, served as a soldier under Bonaparte. They were sent to the island of San Domingo to quell a slave insurrection. In those days Britannia ruled the waves and, not wanting to be captured by the English, Jerome Bonaparte, with my grandfather and other French soldiers, came to America.
* * *"Jerome Bonaparte was the youngest brother of Napoleon. He was born in 1784. On December 27, 1803, he married Elizabeth Patterson, one of the belles of Baltimore. His marriage was more or less of a tragedy, as Napoleon refused to recognize it. He made his brother, Jerome, king of Westphalia. His life was a stormy one. Napoleon refused to recognize his marriage to Elizabeth Patterson and compelled him to marry Catherine, daughter of King Frederick I of Wurttemburg. With the fall of Napoleon, he went to Switzerland. Napoleon's return from Elba resulted in Jerome's being made a peer. With Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, he went to Switzerland and later to Florence, where he lived in exile for the next 30 years. His petition to return to France, in 1847, was denied by the chamber of peers. However, he was later allowed to return to his native country, where he died in 1860. There was born to Jerome Bonaparte and Elizabeth Patterson a son, who was named Jerome Napoleon. He was born in 1805 and died in 1870. One of his sons, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, became a well known and successful lawyer of Baltimore and was a member of Roosevelt's cabinet.
* * *"My grandfather, Jacob Lyngae Colvigne, settled at Leesburg, Va., where he married Winifred Hoffman. He became an American citizen. In making out his naturalization papers the clerk by accident wrote his name Colvig instead of Colvigne, so our family name became Colvig instead of Colvigne. My father, William Lyngae Colvig, married Helen Mar Woodford, whose people came to America from Banbury, England, in 1740. In looking over my mother's family tree I found the following relatives served in the Revolutionary War: Abel, Amos, Enoch, Isaac, Jonah, Joseph, Judah, Noah, Samuel, Selah and Zebulon Woodruff. You see my mother's mother was a Woodruff. She married a Woodford.
"My father and mother met in Ohio, where they were married in 1836. From Ohio they moved to Richmond, Mo. That was in 1844. I was born there the following year. Jesse James was also born there, and was about a year old when I was born. His people were very fine people. Bad companionship when he was a boy led Jesse James astray.
* * *"There were 10 of us children. Mother felt she ought to have enough to make it worthwhile, so she took three of her brother's children. Their mother died when they were crossing the plains, so Mother reared these children and they were the same as our brothers and sisters. This made 11 boys and two girls in the family. Of these 13 children three are still alive. My brother Volney lives at Ashland, my brother George at Grants Pass, and I live here in Medford. We left Parkville, Mo., May 5, 1851. We had two wagons, our provision wagon and three yoke of oxen and the family wagon and two yoke. We reached The Dalles October 5. We left our heavy wagon at Fort Hall, on account of losing some of our cattle. Mother and the children came down the Columbia in canoes with Indian rowers. At the foot of the Cascade Rapids they transferred to the steamer Lot Whitcomb. We were met in Portland by Tom Carter, who took us to his home, which at that time was one of the best in Portland. His daughter Nancy married Lafayette Grover, later Governor Grover of Oregon. She now lives in Portland. In the winter of 1851 I went to school in Portland to John Outhouse. We had left Father at The Dalles. He was going to bring the cattle down the trail. For five weeks we thought he was dead, as we heard nothing of him. He had been caught in a heavy snowstorm in the Cascades, and all but three of our oxen starved to death.
* * *"A man who had a donation land claim in East Portland said to Father, 'I'll give you my claim for your two oxen, your light wagon and your Kentucky rifle.' Father said, `I haven't come from across the continent to settle in the dense forest.' So he turned the offer down. Father put in that winter working in a sawmill. The next spring we struck out for California. Our team played out at Canyonville, so father took up a claim where the team lay down on him. This was in the summer of 1851. Another man had squatted on the claim, but was willing to relinquish his rights for $50; so Father paid him $50 for his 640-acre claim.
* * *"I look back upon my boyhood as a very happy time, for in those days the whole country was full of deer, elk and smaller game, while the streams were full of trout and salmon. I went to school to Rufus Mallory in 1862. Later I went to school to I. N. Choynski. This teacher was a rather timid man. He was no fighter. The larger boys in school threw him out of the window and kicked him out of the school yard, so our school quit before the term was half over. His son, Joe, was of a very different type, for Joe Choynski became a famous prize fighter.
* * *"I enlisted on April 5, 1863, in Company C, First Oregon volunteer cavalry. Company C was recruited at Jacksonville. Colonel C. S. Drew was in command of the regiment. We went to Klamath Lake where in the summer of 1863 we built Fort Klamath. In the summer of 1864 we rode across country to Fort Boise, returning that fall. I spent part of the summer of 1865 at Fort Douglas, in Utah, on detached service. When we came back to Fort Klamath, in the fall of 1865, Captain F. B. Sprague, who had been looking for a better route across the Cascades, told us he had seen a wonderful lake. One of his men while hunting had glimpsed Crater Lake. Dad Ross, our guide, a most excellent guide but a very illiterate man, said, 'I hearn tell of that there lake way back in 1852, from Hillman, but I ain't never seen it.' The following Sunday, which was early in October, about 25 of us, on horseback, went to Anna Creek canyon and reached the rim of the lake at about where Crater Lodge now is. Colonel John E. Ross was with us. He said, 'Hillman stayed at my house and told me about this lake, but I didn't believe it.' Hillman died a year or two ago in Louisiana. We named the lake Lake Majesty, though some of the men wanted to call it Mystic Lake. However, later it was named Crater Lake." Fred Lockley in the Portland Journal.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 27, 1922
Judge Colvig's story is here concluded. A feature of his account of his career as writer of local histories in eastern states and how he became such in the first place. His later career, after his return to Oregon, is traced in detail.
Judge William Colvig of Medford came to Oregon by ox team in 1851. "After putting in three years in the army," said Judge Colvig, "I was discharged at Vancouver in 1866. I had saved over $700 and so I decided to see something of the world. I went to San Francisco, where I took passage aboard the steamer Moses Taylor for Nicaragua. From there I went to New York City. When I counted my money a few days out from New York City I found I had $480. Just before arriving in New York City I looked again and found my $480 had been stolen. My total capital was $1.75, so my plans for taking in the sights of the metropolis went glimmering. As a matter of fact, I didn't have enough money to get a room at a hotel.
* * *"Taking my revolver and some of my other possessions, I pawned them and raised $40. I went to Wheeling, W. Va., in search of work. Not succeeding in getting a job, I went to Ohio, where I struck a job drilling an oil well 14 miles from Zanesville. We struck lubricating oil at a depth of 300 feet. From there I went to Burning Springs, W. Va., and helped drill the Louis Wetzel well. We struck oil at a depth of 1750 feet. That became one of the famous producers of that district. I landed a job as an expressman, later worked on a steamboat, and in the winter of 1867 I got a job on General Joe Shelby's plantation in Missouri. He had 1200 acres in hemp. Most of his workers were negroes. After a while he made me foreman.
* * *"I saved my wages there until I had a few hundred dollars. I decided I would get an education. At Fremont, Tazewell County, Ill., I found a little college called the Fremont Collegiate Institute. I went to school there, and when my money ran out, Colonel Aquilla Davis, a relative of Harvey Scott, gave me a job as school teacher. Everyone in that county called me 'Oregon Bill,' because I talked so much about the beauties of Oregon. When I was there Abigail Scott Duniway came there and gave a lecture in the Presbyterian church. Because we were both from Oregon, I was asked to introduce her. I taught there until 1872. That was the year Greeley was running for president, and politics was very warm.
* * *"In the spring of 1873, after my school was out, I went to Bloomington, Ill., to land a job for the summer. The job failed to materialize. It is strange that a little incident will often change one's whole life. I have always been very fond of Shakespeare. As I passed down the street after supper I saw a sign in front of the theatre to the effect that Edwin Booth and his wife, Agnes Booth, were to appear that night in 'Hamlet.' I took in the play that night and greatly enjoyed it. The next day I went to Peoria, in search of work. That night as I walked down the street I saw that the Booths were appearing there in 'Hamlet,' so I decided to invest another quarter and take it in. The man at the ticket office told me all of the seats were gone and all he had left was a box at $10. Naturally I did not feel like investing $10. As I stood there a prosperous-looking man stepped up to the window and asked for a ticket. He was also told that all seats were gone and that there was nothing left but a box for $10. Pulling out a roll of bills, he peeled off a $10 bill and said: 'All right; I'll take a box.' Turning to me, he said, 'I'll have lots of room in my box; don't you want to occupy a seat with me?' I accepted with alacrity. He said: 'My name is Captain A. T. Andreas. I am president of the Lakeside Publishing Company of Chicago. What is your name and where do you hail from?' I told him my name was William Colvig, that I was a teacher, and was looking for a job during the summer. He said: 'How would you like to write up a history of the old pioneers? I am getting out a state history,' I told him that was the very job I would like. He hired me on the spot at a very satisfactory salary.
* * *"At Mansfield, Ohio, I ran across Judge Brinkerhoff, who had a wonderful memory of the early days and who had files of the early papers. I camped right at his place and secured the data I needed. I have always written a good hand, so I wrote out the early history of the county and sent it in to Captain Andreas. He was delighted with my work and persuaded me not to go back to teaching. He made me advertising manager for the state histories he was getting out of the states of Iowa and Minnesota. I worked with him for the next year or two, with profit to myself as well as to him. He sent me to San Francisco as manager of the Pacific Publishing Company. After staying in San Francisco a while I came north to Jackson County to visit my people. That was in the fall of 1875. In the spring of 1876 I visited all the old pioneers of Santa Clara and Sonoma counties in California, and got out county histories.
* * *"That summer I came back to Oregon and campaigned for Tilden. All of my people are Republicans. I was the only Democrat in our family. In 1878 I ran for the Oregon legislature on the Democratic ticket. There were two wings of the democracy that year, the Pintos and the Bourbons. I was defeated by nine votes. On June 8, 1879 I married Addie Birdseye. My wife was born in the stockade at Fort Birdseye, 21 miles west of Medford, in 1856. I was elected school superintendent of Jackson County and served two terms. I was then elected district attorney and served three terms. My district embraced Lake, Klamath, Jackson and Josephine counties. When I was elected district attorney I knew very little about the law. At that time it was not necessary to be a lawyer to be elected to the office. While serving as district attorney I studied law and was admitted to the bar. Some time later I was the author of a bill which provided that unless one had been admitted to the bar he could not be elected district attorney or judge. After having served three terms as district attorney I practiced law at Jacksonville. Clarence Reames, who married my daughter, was my partner in the law business. Some years ago W. D. Fenton, the Southern Pacific attorney at Portland, offered me a position of right of way agent for the Southern Pacific. I stayed with them five years.
"I have seven children. My daughter, Helen May Gale, keeps house for me. My daughter, Mary, married William J. Warner, who is postmaster at Medford. My son Donald Lyngae is a lumber operator at Weed, Cal. Another son, Vance DeBar, is a newspaper illustrator. He signs his work by the nickname we have always called him, 'Pinto.' He syndicated his work and it is published in a number of newspapers." Portland Journal, Fred Lockley.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 1, 1922 From the Oregon Journal of July 26, 1922, page 10.
"The Covered Wagon."
To the Editor:
I cannot entirely agree with you in regard to the advertising value to Oregon of that great picture entitled "The Covered Wagon," and which is based upon the story of that name written by the late Emerson Hough.
I saw this picture in the Egyptian Theatre at Hollywood, California, on the night of its first presentation. It probably will not be as well presented in any other theater in the United States.
In the prologue given, fifty gaudily dressed Indians--prominent men and women of the Arapaho and Sioux tribes--personally appeared upon the stage, and the spokesman gave a short biographical sketch of each of these old warriors, one of whom is a survivor of the Custer Massacre. The spokesman also told us that before this picture was ever presented to the public it was submitted to one hundred of the best critics in New York City.
As I am one of the argonauts that came to this state in a covered wagon, I am presumptuous enough to believe that I am a better critic of that picture than those to whom it was submitted. I am not thoroughly acquainted with Hough's story, "The Covered Wagon," but I think the scenario writer has taken great liberties with the historical phase of the subject.
The first picture thrown on the screen shows the usual tumult occasioned by the gathering together of the train at Westport, on the Missouri River: The audience is told that Westport is now Kansas City. I do not know what it was called in 1845, but we lived within six miles of that place continuously from 1847 until May 5, 1851, when we started with ox teams to the Oregon country, and during all that period it was known as Kaw Landing, it being at the mouth of the Kaw River.
The two hundred wagons are shown in the picture, each of which is covered with a snow-white sheet, and I may observe right here that in the final picture the wagon sheets are as white as they were on the day of departure. I also noted that each of the wagons had a brake to deaden the wheels. None of the wagons of our train of about 50 which started in 1851 were equipped with brakes; mankind had not yet devised such a useful contrivance.
The scenario writer deals with the emigration of 1845, and in order to bring California prominently into the picture he blends it with the gold rush of 1849, showing a division of the train at some point in Utah, a portion of it going to California and the remainder coming on into the Oregon country, and at this point I want to make the following criticism of the picture: The final scene showing the part of the train which came into Oregon discloses a group of wagons huddled together in a small mountain valley, with snow one foot deep on the ground and the landscape ornamented with rocks and bull pine. I thought to myself, after all the hardships and struggles endured by those bold pioneers, that this particular spot was poor compensation for the toil and danger they had undergone.
It shows mothers standing in the snow, with babes in their arms, exclaiming, "Oh, my God, will this journey never end!" Just then there appears an old mountaineer, dressed in buckskin, with a Kentucky rifle in his hand, long hair hanging down his back, evidently one who has been in Oregon for some years, and he replies to the wail of these travel-worn people by saying: "Why, you are already in Oregon." Whereupon, the captain of the wagon train holds up his hands, and the emigrants gather about him and return thanks to God for safely bringing them to the end of their long and perilous journey.
Now, no person ever knew the ground to be covered with snow in the valleys of Oregon as early as the middle of October, the time of this final picture.
Jesse Wingate, the captain of the train, is evidently intended for one of our old pioneer citizens, Jesse Applegate, and if the picture had ended in the beautiful valley of the Umpqua, where Applegate settled, it would show our eastern people that these brave emigrants had at last arrived, not in the lonely and forsaken spot suggested by the picture, but in one of the fair valleys that border the sundown seas: a land of fertile soil, warmed by a genial sun, and where all nature seems to smile a welcome.
I believe that this picture will be seen by millions of people who will wonder why anyone would undergo the hardships, struggles and privations that were endured by these pioneers to reach such a miserable God-forsaken-looking place as that shown in the final picture.
There are some fine pictures shown of the California end of the journey, and its beautiful valleys and rich gold mines are displayed in direct contrast to the miserable ending of the Oregon Trail.
WM. M. COLVIG.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 4, 1923
I met a distinguished-looking man on the street who wore an emblem that suggested a certain conventional relationship. He returned my salutation with a friendly handshake, and we at once became very communicative. He admitted a residence in this valley of only fifty-one years, during which he seems to have prospered, for he has one of the finest residences in the city, and has retired from the active practice of his profession at the age of going on eighty-five. He was born in Missouri, served thruout the war in the Union army and voted the Democratic ticket until the party declared for the free and unlimited coinage of silver. After the war he settled in St. Paul, Minn., and it was like a visit back home to hear him tell of his acquaintanceship with such of the old politicians as Mark H. Dunnell, William Windom, John S. Pillsbury, Cushman K. Davis and the inimitable and unquenchable Ignatius Donnelly.
In helping to compile a State Gazetteer for Minnesota this man, who admitted that his name was William M. Colvig, says he visited every county seat in the state, when it was necessary to traverse some of the distances on horseback. Old as he is, and nearing the time when he must give an accounting of his earthly stewardship, he boosts for Oregon as against anywhere also on earth. Nineteen above is the lowest recorded temperature here this winter, he says, while California went 2 degrees lower. And he chuckled when he said it.
Ammi L. Bixby, "Daily Drift," Sunday State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, December 23, 1923, page 18
COVERED WAGON SAVED BY RUSE FROM INDIANS
Judge W. M. Colvig Tells of Coming Across Plains in 1851--
Indians Flee when Cholera Scare Is Raised.
The stories being handed in to the Mail Tribune by Jackson County pioneers who came to the coast in a covered wagon continue to arouse more local interest than anything that is happening in the outside world, and printed below is one of the most interesting of all, given by Medford's well-known pioneer, Judge William M. Colvig. Many pioneers attended the Rialto at all the free performances which closed yesterday, but "The Covered Wagon" is being shown to the public this afternoon and tonight.
Judge Colvig, with his brothers Volney Colvig of Ashland and Geo. Colvig of Grants Pass, crossed the plains in 1851.
"We--Father, Mother and five of us children--left Platte City, Missouri on the 5th day of May, 1851, bound for Oregon. Our train consisted of 27 families and between 40 and 50 covered wagons, all drawn by oxen. We had two, the heavier one loaded with five months' supply of provisions. We reached The Dalles about October 10, with the lighter wagon and five oxen. Here father hired a couple of friendly Indians to take Mother and us children down to the head of the Cascade Rapids in a canoe. We walked to the foot of the rapids, where we were met by an old friend, Thomas Carter. He had come over in 1847, and was owner of half the town site of Portland. At the foot of the Cascades we went on board the steamer Lot Whitcomb and reached the town of Portland in the night time. We were bareheaded, barefooted, ragged, dirty and about all in. Father came through the Cascade Mountains with the wagon, and reached Portland three weeks later. He lost two of the oxen in the mountains. We remained in Portland during that winter, and in the spring of 1852 came to southern Oregon in the old covered wagon with one yoke of oxen."
Some interesting details of Judge Colvig's journey are given in an address called "The Covered Wagon," which he delivered at a pioneer's meeting in Jacksonville in 1898.
"No picture in all the memories of the past is more vividly retained by me than that little wagon home. It was there, during the summer, that Mother taught me to read. Our library consisted of the Bible, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the Christian Hymn Book, Frost's Pictorial History of the United States, McGuffey's First and Second Readers and Webster's Elementary Spelling Book. At the end of the journey I had become a second grade graduate.
"All our family treasures were in this wagon home. The old Kentucky rifle rested in a rack fastened to the hickory bows that supported the No. 2 canvas cover. The powder horn and bullet pouch also hung from the same rack. Some useful article was tucked into every available place. On the side of the wagon bed an old-fashioned coffee mill was fastened. We parched and ground our own coffee in those days.
"Somewhere near the Sweet Water River we encountered a great many buffalo; the plain, as far as the eye could see, was literally black with the moving mass of their numbers. Here we laid over for several days and put in the time jerking buffalo meat. From that time on, for many days, long strings of the dried meat hung from the bows of the wagon, and any plea of hunger from us kids during the day was silenced with a strip of 'jerky.'
"One day, just as we were moving out of camp, and the train had begun to stretch its length like a huge serpent along the sand dunes of the Platte, a number of Indians, mounted on ponies, suddenly came over the nearby hills and distributed themselves alongside of the moving train. In a few minutes others, on foot and closely blanketed, came near and peeked at us over the sagebrush. Every appearance indicated an attack. Our company was made up with the western breed of men and women--people who had spent their lives on the frontier and were not easily frightened. The front of the caravan halted and soon the wagons were in close order. An old mountaineer and trapper had joined us at St. Joe and was giving his services as hunter and scout for board and keep until we should reach Ft. Bridger. He immediately sized up the situation and devised a plan. He ordered one wagon to pull out to the side and a group of wailing women and children to surround it. One of the leading Indians inquired the cause and was told by the old scout that one of the emigrants was dying of cholera. When this announcement was made, the old chief hastily told it to the other Indians, and in a few minutes there was not one of them in sight. The cholera had ravaged the entire Missouri River country, from St. Louis to Fort Benton, during the preceding summer of 1850, and had exacted a heavy toll of lives from the Sioux, Pawnee, Arapahoe and Blackfoot tribes. This clever ruse tabooed our train from all intercourse with Indians until we had crossed the Rocky Mountains. Our reputation spread from tribe to tribe, and we were avoided by them."
Volney Colvig was 11 years old at the time of the journey, William 7, and George 3. The two elder brothers served during the Civil War in Company C, 1st Oregon Cavalry, G.A.R.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 13, 1924, page 1
Judge Colvig Spends $400
A Bit of Pioneer History
Changing the name of [the] Josephine County seat from Napoleon to Kerbyville by the legislative session of 1884 cost William Colvig $400 in litigation. He had been elected district attorney to succeed Thomas Benton Kent, defeating Kent's law partner at the polls. It was the law and custom in those days for the secretary of state to mail out certificates of election to newly elected officials, these certificates to be signed by them and returned to the secretary of state. Colvig had been holding the office of county school superintendent at Jacksonville. He was somewhat impatiently awaiting the arrival of his certificate of election as district attorney when one day a jaundiced citizen bounced a rock off the head of a fellow citizen and was arrested for assault.
Tom Benton [Kent] next day met Colvig on the street and with some acrimony in his voice remarked: "Well, you've got a job now; go over to the court and prosecute the prisoner."
Colvig, knowing in his heart that he was on exceedingly dangerous ground, had to admit that he had not yet qualified in the office.
"What? Not qualified yet!" his enemy shouted. "Don't you know that the law says you shall qualify on or before the first Monday in July after your election--and today is Tuesday!"
"Yes, but my certificate hasn't come."
"Well--you're out," the other declared--"it is my duty, therefore, to continue in and retain the office of district attorney." Whereupon Thomas Benton Kent calmly sent a telegram to the secretary of state protesting Colvig's election and then went over to the courthouse to prosecute the prisoner, whither Colvig had already repaired. At once the atmosphere became ominous. Judge Webster was on the bench, and [Kent] announced his intentions. Colvig replied grimly that he would prosecute the case or there would be immediate trouble. Both men began removing their coats. Then Judge Webster, who in any emergency was a man of drastic action, rose up on the bench. Shaking his finger at both combatants he said: "Now, see here, you fellows; I shall fine each of you one hundred dollars for contempt if you fail to put on your coats and sit down--right now!" The threat had the desired effect. The judge then recognized Colvig in the case, [and] [Kent] departed in dudgeon and appealed the election for the supreme court.
Shortly afterward the next clash came between the two rivals when an insane case came before the judge. Both lawyers were on hand to represent the county. The insane man sat there while they argued it all over again, and again the court held for Colvig. The next fall they went up to Salem and had it out before the supreme court, [Kent] being represented by Judge Hanna and three other strong lawyers, but Colvig's election was affirmed. It came out that the secretary of state had mailed his certificate of election to Napoleon instead of Kerbyville, and it had been delayed by various transfers in the stage mail.
It is not so long ago that Colvig was an after-dinner speaker before the Klamath Falls Kiwanis. He began by telling that many years ago he had for six years been district attorney of the four counties, and that he felt quite at home with friends in Klamath Falls, having at one time or another convicted most of them. He then proceeded to recite a case in which he had prosecuted John and Dave Shook, prominent cattle ranchers, for gambling. He had John on the witness stand and was questioning him as to the particular saloon in which the game took place. "Did you play cards?" he demanded sternly of John.
"Yes; a few."
"What game did you play?"
"Well, the same old game I played with the district attorney." (Rising uproar in court.) The judge rapped for order.
"Where did you play this game with me?" the prosecutor asked, more mildly, but with excessive dignity.
"You remember, in '82," [the] witness replied, "When you went up on the Sprague River fishing with Captain Day and some army officers, don't you?"
"Yes, sir, I do."
"You all were playing poker in a tent, and Dave and me came along and you invited us to set in the game--and we did, and you lost a--" The prosecutor had by this time regained his complacency and with a gesture signed the witness to stop.
"That will do," he said. "It has nothing relevant to this case. I would call your attention to the fact that the statute of limitations on poker is three years, and the episode you mention was considerably prior to that period."
Probably no Oregon lawyer of frontier days has lived whose career has given rise to more pioneer stories than has that of Judge Colvig. He was born in Ray County, Missouri, 82 years ago, and is still active, robust and a resident of Medford, Ore., where his shady porch [at 519 South Oakdale] is a sort of shrine for old-time tale mongers. He was seven years old when he crossed the plains with his father's ox teams. The covered wagon was the boy's alma mater. His mother taught him to read while crossing the plains. His aunt, a mother of three children, died on the road. They split cottonwood logs, covered her body between them in a trench and left it in this lonely grave, marked only by the transient furrows of the covered wagons that were driven over it to conceal the burial from Indian eyes. Thus three more small children were added to his mother's young brood.
At The Dalles the family took canoes as far as the Cascades, where they were met by Thomas Carter, who platted Carter's addition to Portland. He took them to Portland, while the elder Colvig, with four oxen and the wagon with its battered household goods, took the Barlow route over the Cascades. Three weeks later, when they next saw him, he was slowly picking his way with the wobbly wagon and three lean oxen through the stump clearing of Carter's farm to the house where they were lodged. But still they had not reached the journey's end. Father Colvig was a Virginian, and he had not yet found familiar scenes. The following spring he loaded them all into the covered wagon and started the ox team south. At last they found the place, near Canyonville, where they settled on the farm where the Colvig family was reared.--(C. M. Hyskell, in Portland Telegram.)
Medford Mail Tribune, August 22, 1926, page 5
PIONEER GOES VISITING VIA AIR
Flight Thrill Less than 1851 Trip
The thrill of a six-hour air voyage from Medford, Or. to Los Angeles, crossing the Tehachapi Range at an altitude of more than 10.000 feet, is not to be compared with that which comes from crossing the continent behind an ox team with bands of Indian marauders in almost constant pursuit, according to Judge William M. Colvig of Medford, Or., 83 years of age, attorney, who arrived here late yesterday afternoon via air mail for a visit with his son Pinto Colvig, 1221 Hyperion Avenue.
And Judge Colvig, former Oregon Superior Court jurist and a Past Potentate of Hillah Temple of the Shrine, has tried them both.
It was in 1851 that Judge Colvig set out from St. Joseph, Mo. with his father and mother and eleven brothers and sisters for the perilous trip across the continent. Indian attacks and a never-ending search for food and water were among the hardships that attended that trip.
It was at 10 o'clock yesterday morning that the judge took off from the airport at Medford, and the staving off of the pangs of hunger before he reached the Ryan Airport here yesterday afternoon was the principal hardship of the trip.
The big Ryan monoplane that carried the mail on the Coast run made but three stops between the Oregon city and Los Angeles--San Francisco, Fresno and Bakersfield--and these were for gasoline and oil alone: There was no time to eat. The judge made one confession, however.
"Just before I climbed into the cockpit I took a big gulp of something of which Volstead wouldn't have approved," he declared. "I was going to fly for the first time and I was afraid of but one law--the law of gravitation."
His fears were groundless, however, the pioneer of the West declared, and the principal thrill he received was in passing over Mt. Shasta, which he described as "reaching up into the skies, apparently a stopping place on the way to heaven."
Judge Colvig was greeted on his arrival here by his son and daughter-in-law, and four grandsons, Bourke, William, Mason, Byington and Vance.
Los Angeles Times, October 28, 1926 Colvig complained (below) that much of this story wasn't true.
November 1, 1926 Oregonian
MR. COLVIG DESCRIBES AIR JAUNT
Impressions of Plane Ride to Los Angeles Told in Letter--
Pioneer Has Respect for Law of Gravity--First Desire at Start--Gives Vivid Description.
To the Editor: I promised you a full account of my trip to Los Angeles by Pacific Air Transport. We left the landing field at 8:55 a.m., October 27th, and we reached Los Angeles at 4:40 p.m.m same day, making four stops on the journey, viz: Concord, San Francisco, Fresno and Bakersfield. To me, it was a day full of thrills. In my lifetime of more than four score years, I have traveled in many different ways. I came to Oregon in a covered wagon drawn by oxen in 1851. We were five and a half months coming from Westport, Missouri to Portland, Oregon. Our airplanes travel over the same route in less than fifty hours.
I spent three years in the U.S. cavalry service, riding wild broncos and scouting over the sage plains west of the Rocky Mountains. In 1886, I went to New York by ocean steamer, and since that time I have traveled over every transcontinental railroad to the East. And so I had an intense desire to travel by airplane.
There is always nervous fear on the part of anyone who has kept his feet on the ground through a long life, but that only lasts a short time, and is succeeded by a joyful confidence in the venture and a great feeling of pleasure in looking down on the swiftly changing pictures of earth. Mountain, hill and dale, but no time to meditate on this or that, as a new scene is always replacing that of the moment past.
So it was with a silent and unspoken prayer in my heart for the guidance and protection of the great God of Nature, and, at the same time, a hope that there was no hidden defect in the construction of the delicate machinery of the airship.
I entered and was chucked down into a little cubbyhole, where only my venerable head reached above the sides. Just at that time, when the engine began to whir, and the windmill in front commenced to revolve, I would have violated the Eighteenth Amendment, the Volstead Act, or any other old law for a rousing drink of Hennessey's "Three X." Speaking of law, there is one for which, during this trip, I will have great respect, and that is the law of gravitation. We are now "rarin' to go." We are off! Goodbye!
For two minutes, I did not feel entirely at ease. I thought to myself: "After all, this is a good old world. I have enjoyed its many pleasures, and endured its vicissitudes for more than four score years, and I hate to leave it." After a few long breaths, all gloomy and foreboding thoughts were dissipated, and I was enraptured by the grand panorama which spread out beneath and over which we were flying. The weather was at its "best." There were only a few fleecy clouds flying, and no fog to hide the landscape below. We gradually rose to a height of nearly 9000 feet, and then I looked down upon the evergreen summits of the Siskiyou range of mountains, and looking back I took a farewell glimpse of Rogue River Valley--"the gem of the sundown seas." Yonder in front, old Shasta lifts his hoary head above all the earth around him, and seems an island rising from out the great sea, or a "resting place on the way to the stars." We did not attempt to compete with its snow-white summit, but swiftly moved o'er the dark forests around its base. In a few minutes, the castellated crags of the Sacramento mountains were in view. Dunsmuir, Redding and other towns and villages could be seen in the abysmal depths below. They looked like toy structures--playthings of the children of men.
Courage, old heart? Don't beat so fast! Slow down! Yonder, just ahead, is the wide expanse of the Sacramento Valley, and many a good landing place, should we be forced by circumstances to make a forced landing. I had had dread of this casualty nearly all the way over, thus far. The crags and peaks, the interminable forests of fir and pine, the deep and dark canyons, were not places in which such a landing could be made, but now, thank God, we can go down to Mother Earth as gently as the falling snowflake. That is, of course, if nothing causes the law of gravitation to act hastily.
While riding in an airship and going at the rate of 125 miles an hour, you do not seem to be going fast. When an auto in which you are riding reaches forty-five or fifty miles an hour, objects along the road seem to pass very swiftly, but not so in an airplane.
The Sacramento River looks like a silver ribbon as it winds across the valley miles and miles in advance of your position in the plane. You can see the autos moving along the Pacific Highway, and they look like big black spiders. I never expect to look upon a more beautiful picture than is presented while looking down on the cultivated fields of California. It reminded me, especially around Fresno, of patchwork quilts that my grandmother used to make. The houses did not look larger than grains of corn; it was seldom that I could see people on the earth below. This cannot be done when you are over 4000 feet elevation. Deducting the four stops made, each about fifteen minutes, the entire distance from Medford to Los Angeles was covered in six hours and forty-five minutes actual flying time.
Anyone who has never ridden in a plane gets a great thrill when the ship is making a landing. It turns up sideways, flies in a swift circle, just before it touches the earth. Some of the landing fields are very rough. This is particularly true of Fresno and Bakersfield. The field at San Francisco is along the bay, out about the Presidio. We stopped there fifteen minutes (there wasn't any earthquake while we were there). Rising from that field, we skirted along the foot of Market Street and very close to the Ferry Building. There, we took out across the bay, and across a large portion of South Oakland, Richmond and other villages. The airship then rose to the height of about 4000 feet. We crossed the Contra Costa hills, and into the San Joaquin Valley. In passing over San Francisco Bay, we were very close to Fort Alcatraz and the other islands of the bay.
At Bakersfield, the plane gradually rises to a height of 10,000 feet [and] crosses the desolate and scarred summits of the Tehachapi Mountains. I would dread a forced landing at any point between Bakersfield and Los Angeles.
This is a hurried account, and I will state in conclusion that I enjoyed every moment of the trip, but there is one thing that I will mention. It is rather aggravating to sit all day within two feet of an intelligent pilot and cannot speak one word to him because the whir of the engine makes it impossible for two people, though sitting side by side, to converse.
Before I conclude, I want to say a word for these brave young pilots who are managing the airships of the Pacific line. They are brave, intelligent and loyal to every duty of their position. They do not try any stunts or unique features in flying or landing, and I believe that the time is near at hand when people who want to make a quick trip to any given point up and down the coast will go by air. I rode with the following pilots: Arthur Starbuck from Medford to San Francisco, Vance Brees from San Francisco to Fresno, and Charles Warner from Fresno to Los Angeles. "Pinto," my son, and his wife and my four grandchildren were at the landing field awaiting my arrival, also a reporter from the Los Angeles Times took a picture of myself and the pilot and from some source got up a story that appeared in the Times this morning. I am afraid that my Oregon friends will see it because a great portion of it is not true.
WM. M. COLVIG.
Los Angeles, Oct. 28.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 29, 1926, page 1
Judge Colvig Tells Story
"Jesse James and I were born in the same town and in the same year," said Judge William M. Colvig, when I interviewed him recently at his home in Medford. "We were both born at Richmond, Mo. September 2, 1845. I spell my name 'Colvig,' though my father's grandfather signed his name 'Jean Baptiste Colvigne.' He was a sea captain and merchant trader. He became a partner of Mr. Lyngae, a wealthy Greek merchant. He married his partner's daughter, Zelesta Lyngae. She was born in Athens. My great-grandfather had charge of the Paris branch of the firm. Their son, Jacob Lyngae Colvigne, my grandfather, was born in Paris in 1776. When he was 18 he enlisted under Napoleon. He was wounded at the battle of Lodi, in 1795, when he was 19. With Napoleon in Egypt, he took part in the battle of the Pyramids. In 1800 he crossed the Alps. He took part in the battle of Marengo. In 1801 he was part of a detachment of French troops sent to put down a slave insurrection in the West Indies, led by Toussaint L'Ouverture. L'Ouverture acclaimed himself governor, promulgated a new constitution, abolished slavery, adopted free trade and confiscated the estates of the absentee French landlords. Napoleon sent a naval force to put down the insurrection. France and England at this time were at war, and Napoleon was threatening to invade England. Jerome Bonaparte, in charge of the expedition, to escape a battle with a superior English fleet put in at Baltimore, a neutral port. Here Jerome met, wooed and won a Baltimore belle, Miss Elizabeth Patterson.
"Meanwhile, my grandfather's enlistment had expired, so he took French leave and settled at Leesburg, Va. As a young man he had been apprenticed to a cabinetmaker, so he took up his old trade, and soon his cherry and walnut furniture was in demand, and he had all he could do to supply his handmade chairs, highboys, bedsteads and tables to the wealthy planters. In 1809 he married Winifred Hoffman, a cousin of Robert E. Lee's father. She was only 15, and her relatives bitterly opposed the match. They promised to forgive her if she would leave her husband, but she was a high-spirited southern girl and refused. Her relatives bought up a note of my grandfather's, and when it fell due refused to renew it. They had him imprisoned for debt, thinking his wife would leave him. Instead of this she sold her jewelry, paid the note and, with her husband, moved to Ohio.
"My father, Dr. William L. Colvig, was born at Leesburg, Va. in 1814. When he was 23 he was married at Marietta, Ohio to Helen Woodford. My mother, Helen Woodford Colvig, was born at Hartford, Conn. in 1816. The Woodfords and the Woodruffs came from England to Connecticut in 1640, and the families have intermarried till I have a host of relatives in both families.
"On May 4, 1851, when I was 6 years old, we held an auction in our home at Parksville, Platte County, Missouri and sold everything that Mother did not want to take to Oregon. Our home was six miles from Westport, now Kansas City. Though I was only 6 years old, I still remember hearing the neighbors bid us goodbye and Godspeed. We camped at Platte City. Father and four other men who were on their way to Oregon decided to organize a wagon train. They constituted themselves a committee to pass on all applications of those wanting to join. Many applicants were rejected, either because they did not have the required amount of bacon, cornmeal, brown sugar and other supplies, because their firearms and ammunition were not up to the standard required, because their wagons and oxen were not considered heavy enough to make the trip across the plains, or because their moral character was not up to requirement. Some others who were acceptable refused to subscribe to the regulations drawn up by my father and the other four charter members of the company, so that when they were ready to go there were but 23 families who had signed, agreeing to obey the captain and stand by and assist the other members through thick and thin till their destination was reached. James Dunn, who located in Benton County, was elected captain. My father was elected assistant.
"I can still visualize our family wagon. In it were my father and mother, we four boys and my baby sister, Wilda, nine months old. On a rack, fastened to the hickory wagon bows, was Father's Kentucky rifle, and beside it his powder horn and bullet pouch. On the side of the wagon bed the coffee mill was fastened. Mother had reduced the library to just a few books--the Bible, a hymn book, Pilgrim's Progress, Frost's Pictorial History of the United States, Webster's elementary spelling book and McGuffey's First and Second Readers. During the six months or more we were on the plains Mother had me recite to her, so that by the end of the trip I was reading in the Second Reader.
"On the Sweetwater the men killed a number of buffalo and jerked the meat. After that, whenever we boys begged for something to eat, Mother would give us a hunk of buffalo 'jerky' to chew on. To every member of the train certain duties were assigned. My job was to gather buffalo chips for Mother to cook supper over at night. The Indians had burned the grass, so our fresh cows soon went dry, and we had to do without fresh milk. One day we had a heavy thunderstorm, and one of the wagons was struck by lightning. The lightning exploded a can of gunpowder in the wagon bed and wrecked the wagon and scattered its contents over the prairie. On one occasion the Indians gathered to attack the train. An old trapper and mountain man in our train had one of the wagons pull out to one side of the road and told the women to cry out loud. The Indian chief, dressed in his war paint, rode forward and asked why the women were wailing. The trapper said, 'They are crying for their dead, who have died of the cholera.' The chief rode back to his braves, and a moment or so later all we saw was a cloud of dust. They were deathly afraid of the cholera. They passed the word to the other tribes, who gave us a wide berth.
"Four of our oxen died, so we had to abandon our largest wagon at Fort Hall. Near Salt Lake City our train divided, some going to California, and others decided to lay over for a while. With six other families we pressed on to the Willamette Valley, where we arrived on October 5. We went to the home of Tom Carter, at the head of Clay Street, in Portland, where we spent the winter of 1851 and '52." --(Portland Journal)
Medford Mail Tribune, May 15, 1927, page B4 Reprinted from the Oregon Journal, May 11, 1927, page 20
IMPRESSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS OF THE JOURNAL MAN
By Fred Lockley
"It takes all kinds of people to make the world," said Judge William M. Colvig, when I visited him recently at his home in Medford. "Take the matter of crossing the plains, for example. Some were natural leaders; others had no initiative and were natural leaners. Some were helpful, others helpless. In our wagon train, in 1851, there was a fat, bald-headed little old man who had started out with two yoke of oxen. Two of these oxen played out in Utah, so Captain Dunn of our wagon train went over his load to see what best he could abandon. Among the things Captain Dunn threw out first were some flatirons, a heavy grindstone and some bricks. The owner of the wagon was greatly distressed and said, 'I swow, Captain, I can't allow you to throw them bricks away. I've hauled them upwards of a thousand miles, and I might need them in Oregon.' The captain proving adamant, the old gentleman turned to the other members of the wagon train and said, 'By zounds, gentlemen, I don't want to leave them bricks. They might come in mighty handy out in Oregon.'
"Just east of Grand Ronde Valley two disreputable-looking Indians rode up to our camp and unsaddled their horses. Captain Dunn said to Father, 'If you have anything left from supper, scraps of any kind, we'd better give it to these two Indians, and then I'll make them move on; I don't like their looks.' Mother had a few bones left from our supper. She put these on a piece of canvas with some scraps of bread and Father motioned for the Indians to sit down and eat. The two Indians sat down, took off their hats, bowed their heads, and the older of the two said, in excellent English, 'Father, we thank Thee for this food. Bless it to our use and us to thy service. Bless our white friends. Guide them on their journey safely, and at last take them to be with Thee. Amen.' Captain Dunn gave my father a peculiar look and motioned him to one side and said, 'I guess, Doc, I won't make 'em move on after all.' The Indians told us they were members of Doctor Whitman's church at Waiilatpu and, though Dr. Whitman had been dead four years, they still gave thanks at their meals and tried to practice what Dr. and Mrs. Whitman had taught them.
"At The Dalles Father hired a couple of Indians to take Mother and the children by canoe to the head of the Cascades, while he took the wagon on to the Willamette Valley over the Barlow Trail. My father and Tom Carter of Portland were old-time friends and neighbors at Athens, Ohio. Carter had crossed the plains to the Willamette Valley in 1847. He and Father had both planned to go that year, but Father was delayed and didn't get started till 1851. Father sent word to Carter by some emigrants that we were on our way. When we got to the foot of the Cascade rapids it was dusk. The steamer Lot Whitcomb was just pulling in. Carter stepped off the gangplank, recognized Mother and took us all aboard the Lot Whitcomb and we went with him to his newly finished, large and comfortable house at the head of Clay Street in Portland. When we got to his home Mr. Carter gave my brothers, Volney, Mark and George, and myself new hats and shoes, for we were barefooted and bareheaded from our long trip. Mr. Carter's daughter married Lafayette Grover, a rising young attorney, who later became governor of Oregon and United States senator. We spent the winter of 1851 and 1852 at the Carter home. Mr. Carter wanted Father to take 640 acres at Mount Tabor. Father said, 'Tom, I haven't crossed the continent and come clear out to the Willamette Valley to settle in a dense fir forest way out in the country.'
"In the spring of 1852 Father hitched John and Charlie, our faithful oxen, to our prairie schooner and we went down the valley to Winchester, in Southern Oregon. Colonel William Martin told Father we could move into his cabin and have all his garden truck we needed. We stayed on the Martin place till the following October, when Father took up 640 acres near Canyonville. The following year, 1853, Father was appointed postmaster at Canyonville. B. F. Dowell, whose widow now lives in Portland and whose son, 'Biddy' Dowell, was chief of the Portland fire department some years ago, carried the mail from Jacksonville to Oakland. I used to watch eagerly to see him coming on his mule, leading another mule with the mail on it.
"Father started a drug store at Canyonville in the winter of 1852. The winter of 1852 was severe. At one time we had over 20 travelers staying in our house who were trail-bound, not being able to go through the 12-mile canyon. Mother kept two kettles over the fireplace all the time, one filled with boiled wheat, the other with venison, so our guests had plenty to eat, even if there wasn't much variety. Among these storm-bound travelers was Judge Orange Jacobs, then a resident of Jacksonville but later supreme judge of Washington Territory.
"The settlers near Canyonville decided to have a school, so they employed Samuel Strang as teacher. They made him sign an agreement not to get drunk for three months, the penalty being forfeiture of salary. He was a well-educated man and a good teacher. He died a few years later at Jacksonville, of delirium tremens. Later the directors employed I. M. Choynski. He taught one term and was employed to teach a second term, but the big boys put him out of the schoolhouse through the window and ran him off. His son, Joe Choynski, later won a national reputation as a prize fighter. Binger Hermann, later congressman from Oregon and commissioner of the general land office, taught several terms. Later a young man from Iowa, Rufus Mallory, who had come out to Oregon to die of consumption, served as teacher. He recovered from his lung trouble, represented Oregon in Congress and became an able and honored judge.
"My brother Andrew was buried in Ohio. My brother Volney was county judge of Josephine County. He died two years ago. It must have been about January 1852, or possibly a little earlier, that Tom Dryer, editor of the Oregonian, who lived next door to us in Portland, gave Volney a job running the press once a week to get off the Weekly Oregonian. Mark was a miner, prospector and telegraph operator. He died at Canyonville. My brother Manson died in Missouri. I was the next child. My brother George is an attorney and lives at Grants Pass. My sister Wilda, who was a baby when we crossed the plains, married H. S. Emery of Ashland. John was chief of scouts under General McKenzie. He was killed by the Indians in Arizona. Oren and Aphia are dead."
Oregon Journal, Portland, May 12, 1927, page 16
In the spring of 1863, I enlisted in Company C, First Oregon Cavalry, under Captain William Kelly. We located at Fort Klamath in the summer of '63. John W. Hillman was the first man to see Crater Lake. This was in 1852. No one believed his report of it, however, until Captain F. B. Sprague and his soldiers rediscovered it in 1865. I was at Fort Boise in 1865, and was sent to Vancouver to be mustered out. I received my discharge on April 5, 1865, and five days later I left Portland by steamer for San Francisco. From San Francisco I went on board the steamer Moses Taylor, en route for the Isthmus of Panama, crossed the Isthmus and went to Santiago, Cuba. I was on my way to New York City. I had $480 in gold coin in a buckskin pouch, which I carried in the inside pocket of my shirt. I tied the purse strings to my suspenders, so I could not lose it. The day we got to Santiago someone cut the buckskin strings of my purse and took my purse. I landed in New York with less than $2 in my pocket. I went to the Hotel Lovejoy, opposite the city park. I had a silver watch worth $40, a United States army Colt's revolver and some gold nuggets which I was taking back as presents to my friends. One of them weighed $20. I also had a new copy of Byron's poems. I took all of these things to a pawnbroker, who loaned me $47 on the lot. That was the last I ever saw of them.
I bought a ticket for Wheeling, W.Va., where my father's brother had a store. I visited him for a short while and, borrowing $50 from him, I went to Zanesville, Ohio, to the oil fields. The oil wells were about 300 feet deep. The drills were operated by manpower. At first I got work running a drill. Later I learned to run a portable engine that pumped oil from the wells. I was paid $2 a day in greenbacks, which were worth 60 cents on the dollar. My employer later installed me as clerk in his store while he went to the mountains in West Virginia to drill a well at Burning Springs. Later he sent for me to run the engine, and we drilled the Lewis Wetzel oil well, which later became a big producer. I ran a store for him there all winter.
I cast my first vote in 1864, when I was stationed at Fort Klamath. I was 19 years old, and I voted for Abraham Lincoln for president. There was some question about my voting before I was of age, but they finally decided that if I was old enough to fight for Lincoln, I was enough enough to vote for him.
Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, May 13, 1927, page 16
Celebrates 83rd Birthday
Judge William M. Colvig, well-known Jackson County pioneer, is celebrating his 83rd birthday today. He has been a resident of this section since 1852. He crossed the plains as a boy of six years, with his parents, and is one of the oldest pioneers of the state, arriving in 1851. The judge was downtown this morning, as usual, greeting his numerous acquaintances.JUDGE COLVIG ON TRIP TO PORTLAND
For many years Judge Colvig was connected with the legal department of the Southern Pacific. In his colorful life he was for three terms district attorney of Jackson County, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, a veteran of the Civil War, a schoolteacher, and has the distinction of being the oldest passenger ever to fly in the planes of the P.A.T. service. He made the trip from this city to Los Angeles. He also was a soldier in the Indian wars in Klamath County. He is the only man in Jackson County who reads the Congressional Record with regularity, and gets up at four o'clock every morning, though he doesn't have to. He has also made more speeches, and knows Southern Oregon history better, than any other man.
Judge Colvig received many congratulations and tokens from friends. His son Vance, connected with the movie industry at Los Angeles, sent him a cartoon depicting a happy incident.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 2, 1927, page 5
GRAND OLD PIONEER OF JACKSON COUNTY
ENJOYS SELF ON 83RD BIRTHDAY
One of Southern Oregon's grand old pioneers, 75 years a resident here, Judge William M. Colvig celebrated his eighty-third birthday yesterday.
The venerable old patriarch, who learned to read while crossing the plains in 1850, has been linked with Jackson County politics and affairs for so many years, scarcely a home but knows his name.
"Yes sir," he said yesterday, "if someone was to ask me to fly across the ocean with him in an airplane, I'd go. I'm kind of a fatalist anyway."
Judge Colvig flew to Los Angeles in a plane last winter and figured prominently in coast news by his feat.
Starting from the time he was born in Richmond, Mo., his has been a life of continual activity. He has probably held more different kinds of jobs than any man in the country.
By turns he has been an Indian fighter, lawyer, school superintendent, soldier, district attorney of this county, president of the Medford Chamber of Commerce, historian, book agent, would-be legislator and writer and publisher of books.
"How did you happen to be called judge?"
""I guess because I was judge at a baby show once," he answered with a twinkle in his eye, once keen, but now grown dim with age.
Judge Colvig was district attorney of the judicial district comprising Lake, Josephine, Jackson and Klamath counties and during that time prosecuted and convicted 10 out of 11 cases of homicide.
He was county school superintendent from 1882 to 1886 and was for 12 years a member of the Oregon textbook commission.
He was admitted to the bar, equipped with almost no actual legal learning, but despite his handicap he won six out of seven cases for men charged with murder.
As a lawyer he fostered the first bar days of George M. Roberts, local attorney who recently finished the successful prosecution of the d'Autremont trio, and was also a partner of Evan Reames.
During the Civil War he was in the army but did not see actual fighting. Later her fought Indians at Fort Klamath and is an old friend of Captain O. C. Applegate.
That his memory is still good is seen when he remembered that three instead of two redskins were killed in the Klamath encounters, a statement as was made recently by Captain Applegate.
Judge Colvig has seven children, four of whom are living: Vance "Pinto" Colvig, Don Colvig, Mrs. Helen M. Cook and Mrs. W. J. Warner. Besides that he has eight grandsons and six granddaughters.
Although he said he was "sort of a fatalist," Judge Colvig does not expect to die. He wears a yellow ribbon advertising Medford's Jubilee of Visions Realized and rejoices to see the city today where once he gazed on nothing but weeds and scrub oak trees.
"See you next year," were his parting words as he moved off, leaning on this cane, to chat with old friends who were congratulating him on his birthday anniversary.
Medford Daily News, September 3, 1927, page 1
COLVIG TO BACK SMITH
Judge William M. Colvig, in his eighty-fourth year, is hale and hearty, still an optimist, still interested in politics.
He is going to vote for Al Smith because he does not believe Hoover is qualified to hold down the job of President.
Since 1864, when he voted for Lincoln while he was a soldier in the cavalry at the age of 20, Judge Colvig has been voting for presidents.
Each time he has picked the man who seemed to him to be the best fitted for the post and so has voted many times on both sides of the ticket.
Back in Ray County, Missouri, in 1845, on the second day of September, he was born. Since that day his life has been as varied as the styles of clothes have been the last few years. Oil mining engineer, storekeeper, fair spieler, railroad man, hemp breaker, ranch office clerk, historian, school teacher, school superintendent and district attorney, Judge Colvig has been all of them during his 84 years of life.
He is one of the happiest men we know. When he rises from his chair to greet you there is something in the clasp of his firm, old hand, in the look of his age-dimmed eye, that boosts your morale. It probably isn't his partisanship. It is his optimism.
Had he been a Democrat or a Republican, he would have probably been just as cheery, although he swears he was born with his optimism and his human slant at life. He doesn't say the country will go to the dogs if Hoover is elected, but for him the sun rises and sets on Smith.
And so the venerable old man, who has been both a Republican or a Bourbon [i.e., a Democrat], will cast his vote for President in November just as he has done 17 times already, and it happens to be this time on the Democratic time of the ticket.
Medford Daily News, September 4, 1928, page 2
TELLS AGE SECRET
Medford post of the Grand Army of the Republic had some 70 members not so many years ago, but now only seven are living, and the other day when William M. Colvig, 85, the adjutant, called a meeting, not enough could respond to hold a gathering at all. Mr. Colvig was in Portland yesterday, registered at the Imperial, to give away his granddaughter, Rowen Gale, daughter of Mrs. Floyd Cook, who was married at noon to William Crawford. It was quite a family reunion, as Winsor Gale, Rowen's brother, who is in his third year at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, an appointee from Medford, was not for the occasion [sic]. Asked for his secret of longevity, Mr. Colvig's eyes twinkled. "Well, I was very good when I was young," he said. He came to Oregon in 1851, when 6 years old, and attended the old school down near the foot of Oak Street, where John Outhouse was teacher. The next year the family moved to southern Oregon. Mr. Colvig responded to the call for volunteers in the Civil War, joining the cavalry. The regulars were taken from the army posts, however, and the volunteers substituted in the posts, so he saw only Indian campaigning. After his discharge he joined a tramp schooner at San Francisco, crossed the isthmus by way of the lake of Nicaragua, and arrived in New York. From there he went to the oil fields of Ohio and was in Zanesville for a time, then at a big well in Worth County, West Virginia, that flowed 700 barrels a day. He was a clerk, worked in the harvest fields of the Middle West, and was barker for a revolving ride at county fairs. For exactly one hour he wielded a shovel on a railway job. He was hired in Missouri by the famous Confederate general Joseph Shelby, and the general, finding his workman was a magnificent penman, had him keep the accounts. Then he studied law under Judge Rodecker at Pekin, Ill., and taught school at Tremont, Ill., the home town of Harvey Scott, destined to become famous as the editor of the Oregonian, and of Abigail Scott Duniway. He joined the Lakeside Publishing Company of Chicago and was in California promoting a western branch when the company failed. He returned to Oregon, was elected school superintendent and later district attorney of the four counties. Later he practiced law, then joined the Southern Pacific and now is retired.--From "Those Who Come and Go" column, in Portland Oregonian.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 22, 1929, page 3
JUDGE COLVIG HOME FROM HOLLYWOODLast rites for Judge Wm. M. Colvig, Oregon pioneer, who crossed the plains in an ox wagon from Missouri in 1851, to become one of the state's first citizens, were held at the Perl Funeral Home Monday afternoon with friends present from many sections of the state to pay their last tribute to one who was interested until his death in the development of the Oregon country.
Judge W. M. Colvig, who has been visiting in Hollywood for the past month, returned to Medford last night, bringing with him his grandson, Byington Colvig, who will remain in this city until next fall.DEATH OF JUDGE COLVIG
Byington is the eight-year-old son of "Pinto" Colvig, who is now under contract with Universal Pictures, doing fake and trick photography and writing titles. The latter is well known in Medford, where he made his home for many years.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 15, 1930, page 8
Judge Colvig, 88, Plans Centennial Celebration
Judge Wm. M. Colvig, Medford's beloved veteran of the Civil War, and an authority on Indiana, war and law, is anticipating his centennial. For he has made a date with Mrs. Daisy Metschen of Portland for his one hundredth birthday party, he announced Friday, when receiving congratulations on his 88th birthday.
Adopting his very best storytelling tone of voice, he reviewed the events which have been conducive to his good health, such as "life out of doors, riding and eating of common foods," and ended with the following explanation: "I've never passed up a drink of good whisky, nor failed to admire a good-looking woman."
"I was awfully good when I was young," he added with a wink as he tapped his walking cane on the floor. "And I was born in Missouri."
September 2, 1845 was the date, and Judge Colvig counts it in with the rest of his birthdays, bringing the total up to 88, "and why shouldn't I?" he asked yesterday. "It was the most important day in my life."
Excerpt, Medford Mail Tribune, September 5, 1932
RECALLS VARIED CAREER OF OLD PIONEER
Polk Hull and J. C. Woods, fellow veterans of the Civil War, stood the guard of honor at the funeral home, where services were in charge of the Warren Masonic Lodge No. 10 of Jacksonville, of which Judge Colvig was a member. Ritualistic services at the graveside in the old Jacksonville Cemetery were conducted by the Medford Post of the American Legion. The last military salute was fired by the National Guard.
Acting as pallbearers were A. S. Rosenbaum, A. E. Reames, Col. W. H. Paine, W. F. Isaacs, T. W. Miles and W. R. Coleman.
All veterans' organizations of the city were represented at the services, including the Grand Army of the Republic, whose few remaining members were in the guard of honor.
As a veteran of the Civil War, a pioneer, whose stories of the early days were told in inspiring words; a friend of the American Indian and a citizen, working always for the advancement of Jackson County, Judge Colvig will be remembered in varied circles of the valley.
He was a self-educated man, whose learning extended far beyond the walls of the little log schoolhouse where he studied for the few years that schooling was possible in the early date in Oregon. He was a student of Shakespeare, an orator of note, whose addresses were the life of many pioneer reunions, and an able attorney.
From the Indians he learned to speak their language, and to understand many beauties of the Oregon country, not always appreciated by the settlers. He often said that he could speak "Indian better than English." His friendliness for the Indians developed when he was six years old and a group of red men appeared when the emigrant train, of which he was a member, reached the Snake River. There the Indians sat down to supper with the whites and offered an English prayer, which Judge Colvig never forgot. The Colvig family lived at Canyonville, Oregon, throughout the Indian war, but no one was harmed.
In 1853 the government undertook construction of a military wagon road through the southern territory. The work was directed by Colonel Joe Hooker, who later fought in the "battle of the clouds" at Lookout Mountain. Judge Colvig remembered him well and the stories, which circulated about the territory. The colonel put in most of his time "playing seven-up for the drinks at the hotel bar," he often related.
Interesting stories of his first schooling were also among Judge Colvig's favorites. His first teacher, Samuel Strong, he used to tell, was so fond of liquor that he had to sign a contract not to get drunk during the school term. If he did he would forfeit his wages. He got the money but later died of delirium tremens at Jacksonville.
Judge Colvig's tales were always told with authenticity. That is why his death has deprived Oregon writers of an outstanding and dependable source of information.
Judge Colvig was born at Knoxville, Mo., September 2, 1845, the son of Dr. William L. Colvig and Helen Woodford. Crossing the plains in '51 the family settled near Canyonville in Douglas County, which was scene of some of the most interesting stories recalled by the late narrator. In 1862 he enlisted in Co. C 1st Oregon Cavalry and was with the party which mapped a greater part of Klamath, Lake, Harney and Malheur counties. He was with the group of soldiers who first saw Crater Lake.
Following his discharge from the Union Army, he spent eight years in the East and Middle West. Returning to Jackson County, he was married in 1879 to Addie Birdseye, a member of one of Southern Oregon's best-known pioneer families. He served as school superintendent of Jackson County, district attorney for the first judicial district, including Jackson, Lake, Josephine and Klamath counties. He was attorney for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Jackson County for several years, and in 1913 was appointed tax and right-of-way agent for the company with offices in Portland.
In 1918 he retired and came to Medford, where he had since made his home with his daughter, Mrs. William Warner. He also leaves a daughter, Mrs. Floyd Cook of Portland, and two sons, Vance (Pinto) Colvig of Hollywood and Don Colvig of Weed, Cal., all of whom were here for the funeral services. Grandchildren present were: David Colvig of Weed, Courtney Colvig of Hollywood and Gordon and Margaret Warner of Medford.
Among others from out of town for the funeral were Mr. and Mrs. James Lathrop of the Southern Pacific offices in Portland, Sam Mathis and Mrs. Effie Birdseye of Rogue River.
Medford News, January 22, 1936, page 1
Last revised August 11, 2014