Frank Petchner is one of Riverside’s pioneer settlers. He arrived in Riverside in December 1870 and has ever since been identified with her interests and enterprises. Mr. Petchner had spent many years in frontier life in the Territories, and had been engaged in mercantile and mining enterprises, and had made and lost fortunes; but when he located at Riverside he was without means, and dependent for the support of his family upon such labor as could be obtained. He was a blacksmith and opened a blacksmith shop on the corner of Sixth and Main streets; he also bought a block of land bounded by Sixth and Seventh and Almond and Chestnut streets; and later purchased other lots on Market Street. The first brick residence in the city was built by Mr. Petchner in 1875, on his block of land. The first year or two he worked at any labor that offered, as there was not a demand sufficient to occupy his time at his trade. He also improved his land by the planting of citrus and deciduous fruit trees. In 1874 he entered into partnership with Samuel Alder, and established a carriage-making and blacksmith shop on Main Street. This enterprise was a success, and, under the able management of these gentlemen, became one of the leading industries of the colony. Mr. Petchner was engaged in that business until 1884, when sickness compelled a retirement from labor and active business pursuits. Since that time he has been engaged in the care of his real-estate interests and horticultural pursuits. He has made many building improvements in the city, and is the owner of a fine residence on Market street, and also several cottages.
He has been a very liberal man in supporting the various public enterprises of Riverside. Upon the organization of the Citrus Fair Association, Mr. Petchner and his partner donated to that organization the valuable lot on the corner of Seventh and Main streets, upon which now stands the Loring Opera House block, and also was a large contributor toward the Y. M. C. A. building. He is a member of Riverside Lodge, No. 282, I. 0. O. F., and Star Encampment, No. 73, of the same order; he is also a member of Riverside Post, No. 118, G. A. R., and the Veteran Association of Colorado.
The few facts gathered regarding the life of Mr. Petchner are of interest and forcibly illustrate those traits of industry and honesty, his characteristics, so well known to his circle of friends and acquaintances. He was born in Saxony, Germany, in 1839. His parents were Gotleib and Rosanna (Eichler) Petchner, both natives of that country. His father was a mechanic, a brick mason by trade, and reared his children to labor. Mr. Petchner was given the advantages of schooling in the public schools until fourteen years of age, and then apprenticed to a blacksmith. The death of his father in 1855, left him entirely dependent upon himself and in 1856 he determined to seek the new world. In that year he came to the United States, and shortly after landing in New York proceeded to Pittsburg. There he readily found employment at his trade, and also devoted his attention to mechanical engineering, and later was employed as an assistant engineer on the Mississippi river steamers. In the spring of 1860 he found himself at St. Joseph, Missouri, and decided to try his fortunes in the mines of Colorado. He accordingly went to Pike’s Peak and spent the summer in mining, after which he located in Denver and worked at his trade. In 1861 he entered the military service of the United States as a private of the First Colorado Battery, and served his term of enlistment, receiving an honorable discharge. In 1863 he continued his westward march and located in Virginia City, Montana. There he established a bakery and confectionery store, and a bakery in Helena, and also engaged in mining enterprises. He was among the pioneer businessmen in those cities, and was successful in adding by thousands to his world’s goods. It was in the day of high prices. Mr. Petchner states that he has paid $150 a sack for flour, and other necessaries of life in proportion. This was in the winter of 1865-’66. In the spring of 1866 he went to Fort Benton and purchased $20,000 worth of flour at $25 per sack and shipped it to his city. It was a year of high water, and steamer after steamer dumped its cargo of general merchandise in the Territory. Flour fell to $5 per sack and even lower, and he was financially ruined. Nothing daunted, he closed up his business, meeting all obligations, and in 1868 located at Green River, Wyoming, and there established himself at his trade. He sold that in the summer of 1870, and deciding to try his fortunes in Southern California he came via Salt Lake City, overland to San Bernardino, and thence to Riverside.
Mr. Petchner married, in 1863, Miss Annie O’Connor, a native of Ireland. She died in 1878, leaving four children, viz.: Carrie, Charles, William and Louis. His second marriage took place in 1883 when he married Mrs. Mary Murphy. There are no children by this marriage, but Mrs. Petchner has one son living from her former marriage: Thomas Murphy, who is a member of Mr. Petchner’s household.