Quilt Walk History

In 1863, Jens Neilson led 54 pioneer families across the high plateau east of Parowan to settle the new town of Panguitch. They followed the route over the rugged Bear Valley, part of the Spanish Trail. They went to work as soon as they arrived, clearing land, digging irrigation, and planting crops to establish their new home. The winter of 1864-65 was harsh, however, and crops did not mature.

Historic Quilt Walk from Panguitch to Parowan, UT

Men struggle to haul flour sacks on return trip to Panguitch.

Faced with the choice of starvation during the fierce winter conditions, seven men left Panguitch for Parowan to get flour and supplies for the starving settlers. Alexander Matheson, William Talbot, Thomas Richards, Jesse Lowder, John Butler, Thomas Adair, and John Paul Smith drove their wagon as far as the could before getting bogged down in heavy snow. At the head of Bear Valley the deep snow forced the men to abandon their oxen and wagon and continue on foot.

As they sunk knee deep with each step, the men stopped to lay down a quilt and pray. While on their knees on the quilt, the men realized they had not sunk down into the snow. They stood and walked across the quilt, then layed another. They continued their journey by walking on the quilts all the way across the mountain to Parowan.

Alex Matheson wrote, “At one time we were about to give up but we had a little prayer circle and asked God for guidance. We decided if we had faith as big as a mustard seed we could make it and bring back flour to our starving families. So we began our quilt laying in prayerful earnest. In this way we made our way over the deep-crusted snow to Parowan. The return trip was harder with the weight of the flour, but we finally made it to our wagon and oxen and on home.”

Annual Quilt Walk Festival

The journey became known as the Quilt Walk and cemented a close tie between the two communities. This life-saving trek is commemorated each June during the Quilt Walk Festival, featuring a quilt show, pioneer home tours, a vintage car and tractor parade, heritage fair and dinner theater.

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