As the county seat and largest community of Garfield County, Panguitch is built on the south side of the Panguitch Valley between Panguitch Creek on the west and the Sevier River on the east. The settlement was first called Fairview, but the name was changed to the Paiute word for “big fish” for nearby Panguitch Lake.
In March 1864 fifty-four pioneer families from Parowan and surrounding settlements were led by Jens Neilson across the Markagunt Plateau. A fort was built on the present school square. Cabins were built around the perimeter, pens and corrals were included for cattle, horses, and sheep. Land was soon cleared and irrigation ditches and canals were surveyed and excavated. During the first winter, supplies ran out. Seven men were sent to Parowan for grain. Their trek, using quilts to stay atop deep snows, has been memorialized as the famous Quilt Walk.
On April 10, 1865 three men were killed by Indians in cental Utah’s Sanpete County–hostilities which started the Black Hawk War. Panguitch residents were advised to leave and the town was abandoned in May1866. Residents left their homes and crops and sought safety in Parowan and other nearby communities. In 1870 Brigham Young made a trip through the valley and decided it was time to resettle. He called George W. Sevy, a resident of Harmony, to gather a company and resettle Panguitch. The following notice appeared in the Deseret News in early 1871: “All those who wish to go with me to resettle Panquitch Valley, will meet me at Red Creek on the 4th day of March, 1871 and we will go over the mountain in company to settle that country.” The company arrived March 18th or 19th, found no snow on the ground, the dwellings and clearings undamaged, and even the crops of earlier settlers still standing. The re-settlers first moved into the fort. Progress later brought a gristmill, sawmills, a shingle mill, post office, tannery, shoe-shop, lime and brick kilns, a hotel, and a co-op store. The meeting house built in the fort continued to be used as a school and for church services.
On March 9, 1882 the territorial legislature created Garfield County and set the current boundaries. Panguitch was named the county seat, and the city was incorporated in 1899. Its 1890 U.S. Census population was 1,015 persons. Agriculture along with cattle and sheep raising formed the basic economy. A dam was built at the lake to enable it to hold more water for irrigation. The West Panguitch Irrigation Company operates ditches and canals that follow courses laid out by early surveyors.
Panguitch’s architecture is characterized by beautiful, locally made, red brick. Making brick was a community affair. The two-story brick structures are generally the oldest; the second generation of red brick homes were one-story dwellings. Electricity arrived in 1910. The Social Hall, built about 1900 and destroyed by fire before1920, was rebuilt and was the center of drama, dance, social, scout, and youth activities,including court games. It is still in use today.
In 1940 Panguitch reached its largest population of 1,979 persons. During World War II, many people left town to work in war industries. In 1954-55, Croft Sawmills began operations and brought many new people to the town. In 1970 Kaibab Industries acquired the sawmill and became the largest employer. At the present time, tourism is the most economically feasible industry. Panguitch is near five national parks as well as monuments and near class A trout streams and lakes. Campgrounds, recreation areas, a ski resort, and mixed conifer forests surround the town. According to the Five County Association of Governments, Panguitch City’s population in 2005 was approximately 1,600 persons.
With the addition of new baseball diamonds, the Triple C Arena, Business Incubation Center and a very active Main Street Committee, Panguitch has become the host of many festivals and events. These include the Cowboys Aren’t Dead Festival, Ice-Breaker Baseball Tournament, Quilt Walk Festival, Balloon Festival, Homecoming, Garfield County Fair, Indian Pow Wow, and the 200-mile Desperado Dual road bicycle race. July 24, Utah’s Pioneer Day, is celebrated as Homecoming, the largest local celebration. Events include a parade, family and class reunions, community breakfast, pit barbecue dinner, races, games, rodeo and a dance.
Panguitch Historic District
On November 16, 2006, The Panguitch Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The district includes the historic town plat, which is only slightly smaller than the current city limits. A beautiful historic cemetery lies about two miles east of the town on Highway 89 with tombstones dating back to the 1870s. There are 386 contributing primary resources, about 59 percent of the total number of resources. The historic district is significant for its association with the history and development of Panguitch from an agricultural outpost to a growing city with tourism as a major part of its economic base. The themes of Panguitch history have been early settlement, farming, ranching, mercantilism and tourism. An isolated pioneer outpost for many years, the residents of Panguitch formed a close-knit community consisting of mostly descendants of its earliest settlers. Ranching made many residents prosperous and by the early 1920s, Panguitch was the richest per capita town in Utah. After the depression years, when many ranching fortunes were lost, tourism grew to augment ranching in the city’s economy.
Tourism in southern Utah grew with the proliferation of the automobile. The community’s proximity to five national parks and other recreational areas has been a boon to Panguitch and the surrounding area. Because of the significant impact tourism had in the early 1960s, the historic period extends from the earliest settlement resource, an extant log cabin constructed in 1864, to the construction of the last motel court in 1964.
The District is significant for an intact concentration of historic buildings, which exhibit a high level of integrity, craftsmanship, and creativity. The large number of historic buildings constructed of locally-made red brick is particularly impressive. This brick is distinct to the Panguitch community in color, and in the early twentieth century, in texture. Overall, the brick is darker red than in most Utah towns of the same age. Panguitch residents take great pride in their unique brick buildings. Although there are a number of architecturally significant institutional and commercial buildings, the district is primarily significant for the high number of architecturally significant residences from throughout the period of significance,including a large number of individualistic Arts & Crafts bungalows. The architectural legacy includes a distinct hybrid house-type of the 1920s and 1930s, unique to the Panguitch community. This Panguitch house-type of the1920s and 1930s is large with a square footprint under a pyramidal-with-projecting-bays roof, and an eclectic mix of Victorian, Bungalow and Period Revival stylistic elements. The unique Panguitch house dominated the 1920s and 1930s; and unlike most Utah communities, only a few examples of traditional period cottages are found in the town. Prior to listing, three buildings within the district were individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Despite some late twentieth century intrusions, the Panguitch Historic District represents and contributes to the history of Panguitch, Utah.