It's all relative

After at least 75 years of being moved from one family closet to another, a sturdy metal box of genealogical treasures has found its way into happy hands.

Tim Colvig, of Orinda, Calif., has been researching his Southern Oregon Colvig roots for a number of years and periodically returns to the Southern Oregon Historical Society to see what's new in the collection.

It was on one of those trips, a few years ago, that he met Ben Truwe, local historian and owner of the website. Since then, Truwe has been updating Colvig with any fresh information he finds during his research.

About a month ago, Truwe called Colvig to say he had tracked down a box that contained items Colvig would "be very interested in."

Truwe had found a March 1, 1959, Mail Tribune story about local family treasures, including some Colvig papers, in a box owned by Mrs. Mary Warner, whose maiden name was Colvig.

"So, I was thinking, I wonder where those are now," Truwe said. "What happened to those?"

Truwe contacted Vicki Bryden, library volunteer coordinator for SOHS, hoping she could help find a surviving relative of Mary Warner. Bryden wondered whether that relative might be Bill Warner, a former classmate she hadn't seen or talked with for nearly 40 years. She decided to give him a call.

"I asked him about the box, and right away he said, 'Oh, yeah, I've got the box right here,' " Bryden said. "It was just that easy."

She asked Warner whether he knew a Tim Colvig.

"He said no. Then I told him Tim Colvig was his cousin. He was so surprised. He didn't even know he had a cousin."

Warner said he thought the box had been passed down from his grandmother Mary Warner for at least 75 years and that it had been sitting in his closet unopened for decades. He told Truwe he wanted to give the box and its contents to Colvig.

Tuesday morning, Colvig visited Warner and opened the box.

"It was described to me as just a box of documents," he said. "I didn't know it's like a strongbox that a stagecoach driver would throw down on demand."

"It's about 20 inches square by about 14 inches deep and just chock full of stuff," Truwe said.

Inside, Colvig found photos, diaries, journals, certificates and correspondence going back to the 1860s, most of it related to Jacksonville's William Mason Colvig and his son, Vance Colvig, better known as Pinto. Pinto Colvig was the original Bozo the Clown and the original voice of many Walt Disney characters, including Goofy.

Colvig's grandfather was Don, older brother to Pinto.

William Colvig was always in demand as a speaker during holidays and any other special occasion. He practiced law and was known as Judge Colvig, but he never sat on the bench.

"The only judge I've ever been," he was fond of saying, "was a judge of fine whiskey."

One of the documents in the box Tim Colvig thought he would never see was a map of Paris. He had seen a reference to the map years ago on a typewritten card during one of his visits to SOHS.

"The card said, 'We came from Paris, and I have before me a map showing where the family home is,' " Colvig said. "At the time, I'm thinking, where's that map today? Now I know. Now I can actually touch it."

Bill Warner didn't want to be quoted, but said he was glad he could give the box to his newfound cousin, someone who will really appreciate it.

Colvig doesn't plan to keep the box.

"I'm going to borrow it for a few months, just to enjoy it," he said, "but then I'll donate it to the historical society in Bill Warner's name."

"It's like opening a time capsule," he said, "just a treasure trove of old, old family documents that I would have thought were lost to posterity, but here they are. I'm very, very happy."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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