Panguitch is a Paiute Indian word, meaning "Big Fish." Picturesque Panguitch Lake, located in the mountains above town, still produces numerous large trout.
When Mormon pioneers settled the area in 1864, both the lake and the new community took on the name Panguitch. Life was hard for those early settlers. At an elevation of 6,630 feet above sea level, in mountain country near Bryce Canyon, the growing season is short and winters can be harsh.
That first year was cold and crops froze before reaching maturity. The settlers grew dangerously hungry. A group of seven men volunteered to go over the mountain to an established settlement to obtain flour. They braved snow so deep, they had to abandon their wagons and walk much of the way. While walking, they would fall through the snow's crust. But these men found a way to get through. They placed a quilt down on the snow and walked to the end of it. Then they would place another quilt down and retrieve the first quilt. By "quilt walking" the men made it to the settlement and obtained flour to bring home to feed the starving settlers. Their return trip was even harder, because they had to carry the flour over the mountain.
If you visit Panguitch in the spring, you may learn all about the "Quilt Walk" during the Annual Quilt Walk Festival. Local quilters show quilts they have made. Both pieced and embroidered quilts, made by both hand and machine, are among the many heirlooms on display. You may also eat a pioneer feast and watch the story of the Quilt Walk performed by local talent.
The first settlement was abandoned in 1866 because of the Black Hawk Indian War, but determined settlers returned in 1871.
Part of the area's pioneer heritage can be seen in the beautiful red brick homes and buildings scattered throughout the community. Early settlers established a brick factory. They loaded horse-drawn wagons with wood and iron rich clay, then fired a kiln with wood to made their bricks. These workers were paid with bricks rather than money. This made it possible for families to build brick homes. Stately, tall homes were the first to be built. Later shorter two-story homes became popular. These beautiful homes were influenced by both English and Dutch architectural designs. Homes were built with filigree, Dixie dormers and bay windows.
Some log cabin and wood homes are still standing around town. The Alexander Cabin was preserved by a local group and may be seen at the city park on the north entrance to Panguitch. Open during the summer season, the cabin and artifact displays provide a glimpse into the lifestyle of early pioneers.
Each home and building has a unique history. An early sheriff, James W. Pace, lived in a home on Main Street. The story is told that when federal agents came to town hunting polygamists in the dark of night, Hanna Pace, the sheriff's wife, would light a lamp and set it in the window. This was the signal to all the men in the neighborhood to go into hiding.
Another red brick building, used for many purposes, is the Bishops Storehouse. First used to distribute food and clothing to the poor, it later became a schoolroom (used for religious seminary) and is now the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum. The Social Hall is another red brick building with a colorful history. Built to house major church meetings, the building was used for dances, fund raisers, as a gymnasium and now houses the annual Quilt Walk play.
Many early families found success raising sheep in area meadows. Today, cattle are a common sight around the valley. One of the first branches of the ZCMI store was built in Panguitch. This and other stores started out as co-op groups. Later a lumber mill brought new prosperity to the community.
Today tourism is an important part of the local economy. Panguitch is in the center of some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. Five national parks draw visitors to the area; they are: Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Zion, Canyonlands and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. You'll also find two national monuments: Grand Staircase-Escalante and Cedar Breaks, and Lake Powell (Glen Canyon National Recreation Area). In addition there are five popular state parks and recreation areas nearby: Red Canyon, Kodachrome Basin, Escalante Petrified Forest, the Anasazi Indian Village and Calf Creek Falls.