A Virtual Walk Through Jacksonville History

Stop 28: The Colvig House

Let’s continue up to Fir Street and make a left downhill toward Oregon, where we’ll take a few minutes at our next stop. Known as the Colvig House, it was originally home to George Schumpf.

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Kingsnorth.

This is a one and a half story, wood frame rectangular building, was finished around 1880; its builder and architect are unknown. It is basically Classic Revival style, with a gabled, steeply pitched roof. While difficult to pinpoint an exact date of construction, Gail E.H. Evans was able to piece together an approximation based on review of old maps and deeds. There was no structure on this lot in 1864, but the roof is clearly visible in photographs of the area from the 1880s. George Schumpf bought the land in 1877, and the house was very likely built for him shortly thereafter.

George Schumpf. SOHS #13542. Schumpf was the successful owner and proprietor of Schumpf’s Barber Shop. Initially housed in Jacksonville’s El Dorado Saloon at the corner of Oregon and California, he rebuilt on West California Street after the El Dorado burned in 1874. A native of Germany, George operated his barber shop complete with bathing rooms and bathtubs until his death in 1897, making him one of the longest-term barbers of Jacksonville.
 
Adelaide Birdseye Colvig. SOHS # 1361.

 

In 1887, the house was sold to Addie Birdseye Colvig, wife of William Mason Colvig. Adelaide has her own story to tell, but for the moment we’ll focus on her husband’s long and interesting life.

Colvig House with Family Members, 1895. Photo Source: SOHS #852.

William Mason Colvig was born in Missouri in September of 1845 and came across the Oregon Trail with his family in 1851, eventually settling near Canyonville. In his tales, the family’s remaining one yoke of oxen couldn’t make it over the mountains to get further south. His father, William L. was a doctor and became postmaster of Canyonville by 1853.

At the age of seventeen, William M. joined the Union Army in 1863, thinking he would fight for his country and see something of the States. Instead, his company was ordered to Fort Klamath and William served his three-year enlistment in Oregon and Washington. While mapping a road between Jackson and Klamath counties, his company came across Crater Lake, which they called Mystic or Majestic Lake. William drew a crude map of the area, the first made, which as company clerk he sent back to Washington, D.C. for copying.

Once William was discharged in 1866 at Fort Vancouver, he took the money he had saved and once again set off to see something of his country, and maybe even of the world. He took a steamer to San Francisco, then to Nicaragua and eventually to New York. Between Nicaragua and New York, William discovered he had been robbed of all but a few dollars, so he pawned some possessions and traveled to Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia, doing odd jobs and saving his money. When William arrived in Illinois he went to school. After his money ran out, he found work teaching school and writing historical pieces for publication. William also made time to “read” the law with a judge in Illinois. William Mason Colvig. SOHS #1360.

Thirteen years later, William returned to Oregon, where he met and married Adelaide “Addie” Birdseye. They lived on her family’s property (now part of Del Rio Vineyards) for a number of years prior to William running for and winning the position of Jackson County School Superintendent. At that point, they moved to Jacksonville.

In 1886, William ran for District Attorney for the First Judicial District here in Southern Oregon, which then included Jackson, Josephine and portions of Lake Counties. In an interesting (and eerily familiar) election twist, William defeated the incumbent, T.B. Kent, but Kent refused to give up the office he had lost fair and square. William’s certification had not yet arrived from the Secretary of State by the “first Monday in July,” when the certificate would “qualify” him to take office. Kent, a sore loser and certainly embittered by his electoral loss, demanded of the Secretary of State that he, Kent, remain in office, despite having clearly lost the election. The Rogue River Courier of Grants Pass had this to say about Kent’s attempted power grab:

“Mr. Kent’s haste in this instance clearly shows the sad mistake he thinks the people made by failing to place him in the office in the start. …. The people in the First Judicial District elected officers at the late election in whom they have the utmost, implicit confidence, and they do not want their choices tampered with.”

Kent took his case all the way to Oregon’s Supreme Court, where the justices promptly threw it out as, in essence, a ridiculous and nonsensical reading of the applicable statutes. William became District Attorney and held that office for some years. He even went so far as to eventually pass the bar examination while in office.

By 1900, William and Addie had four children. They lived in Jacksonville until 1906 when they moved to Medford where William opened a law practice and continued a political career including runs for state senator and elector. He became known as “one of the best and wittiest public speakers in Oregon,” and as President of the Medford Commercial Club is credited with helping to create the Rogue Valley “Orchard Boom” of the early 1900s.

In 1926, then 83-year-old William was one of the first Rogue Valley residents to fly from Medford to Los Angeles, becoming the subject of nationwide news coverage.

William was visiting his youngest son Vance, who had his own storied career as a cartoonist, clown, circus barker, voice artist, and gag man. Vance was known as “Pinto” Colvig, the first Bozo the Clown, an animator for Walt Disney, the voice of Goofy, Pluto and others for the Disney studios, and the author of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.”

Because this was Pinto’s childhood home, the house is also known as the “Bozo the Clown House.”

 


Sources Cited

Medford Pioneers: William M. Colvig, 10 Dec. 2020, truwe.sohs.org/files/colvig.html. 

Kingsnorth, Carolyn. “William Mason Colvig, Parts 1 and 2.” Jacksonville Review,
                      December 2018; February 2019. 

Evans, Gail E.H. State of Oregon Inventory of Historic Places, “Judge Colvig House.”

 


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