Perkins name prominent in Placer County

By: Nancy Hagman, Colfax Record Correspondent
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Atop the bluff, overlooking the city of Colfax, is a wonderful Victorian-style structure that has been a centerpiece of Colfax residences for many years. Longtime locals refer to it as the Perkins house. The home sits at number 3 E. Church St. and has its roots with two of the major pioneer families of the rail town that became a small city in 1910.

The property is currently owned by Jeff and Karen Williams. Jeff Williams is a contractor who specializes in restorations; the building is currently a triplex for rental income.

The Perkins family history prior to arrival at Colfax is still being researched. However, the name Perkins is quite prominent in both Nevada County and Placer County history books.

Charles Crocker of the Central Pacific Railroad initially sold the property the house sits on to J. M. and Christina Graham in 1877. The Grahams built the house, but then sold it to Theodore and Eliza Perkins in 1883. Theodore Perkins operated the corner general store – today’s Colfax Market – with his partner, Jim Hayford. Upon his retirement from that business, Perkins spent time creating the gardens around the home.

The Perkins had a daughter, Jeannie, who married Morris Lobner. His parents, Josephine (nee Skoll) and Leopold Lobner, came to California in 1850 looking for a share of the golden fortune.

Leopold was born in Vienna, Austria around 1825; Josephine was born in or near Prague, Bohemia in September 1823.They came to New York in 1842, where they acquired and operated a hotel. Their first-born was a boy, Morris, in 1849. The came to California and moved to Georgetown in 1860, where they operated a general merchandise store for 12 years. In 1865, news of the Central Pacific Railroad’s completion to Colfax lured the Lobners to the area. They bought property on Front Street (now Main) and built a home next to the Central Hotel across the tracks.

Morris attended elementary school in Georgetown and was then sent to Shumate Academy in San Francisco. Due to his father becoming ill, in 1864 – at the age of 15 – Morris Lobner went back to Georgetown to take charge of the family business and assist his mother with his five younger siblings.

After the family moved to Colfax, Lobner, at age 22, applied for a position as agent with Central Pacific Railroad. He was appointed by Collis P. Huntington and served 46 years in the Colfax area. During most of the time, Lobner was also agent for the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad.

He also was involved in real estate and farming enterprises and assisted Dr. Robert A. Peers, the tuberculosis specialist, in starting his famous practice. Lobner partnered with William Barrows Hayford in the project that created Chicago Park. He was an agent for several insurance companies and a notary public and was a member of the Colfax Masonic Lodge.

There were many years that Lobner was the organizer of the annual Colfax Fourth of July events and traditionally read the Declaration of Independence on that day each year. He was on the Colfax Board of School Trustees and raised funds for schools. He was an ardent follower of Theodore Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party.

Morris and Jeannie Lobner’s daughter, Hope Lobner Cahill, wrote a description of the house and surrounding gardens where she was raised for the Colfax Area Historical Society in 1986. Although Cahill is no longer with us, her memories of growing up in Colfax gives great insight to what life was like during that era. It is available for viewing at the Colfax Heritage Museum.