Payson High School HIstorical Timeline

OUR HISTORY: Where We Come From
"If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree."

- Michael Chrichton


Payson has a long, rich tradition of celebrating learning and providing an exceptional education.

What began as the first high school south of Salt Lake City in 1873 has grown into the singular Payson High School of today.

To read our unique and inspiring Origin Story, including how we were inspired by the community spirit of the Payson Lions Club to adopt the Lions mascot, visit our website or use the link above.

Timeline of Historical Highlights

The Payson area has long been home to Native Americans of the Ute, Southern Paiute, Navajo, Goshute, and the Northern and Eastern Shoshone.


A group of Spanish explorers arrived in the Payson area, making contact with the local inhabitants.


Latter-day Saint pioneers founded Payson as a city. It was first named Peteetneet Creek after Chief Peteetneet, a Timpanogos Indian chief who lived in the area. The city was later renamed as Payson after one of the founding settlers, James Pace (then spelled “Pacen”).


The first high school south of Salt Lake City was established in Payson. This school is the intellectual, if not the institutional, ancestor of Payson High School.


The first high school in Payson was closed in order to consolidate students into Brigham Young Academy in Provo


Payson Public Schools established a school called the Central School, gradually adding grades until it became a high school.


The first graduating class from the Central School of Payson Public Schools totaled 13 students.


The first year of Payson High football. The team’s first name was the Payson Farmers, later renamed the Beetdiggers, and later the Maple Leaves. The Maple Leaves mascot is what gave PHS the school colors of green and silver.


Payson wins the Utah County Track & Field Championships


Construction on the first school building officially called Payson Senior High School was completed, a beautiful two story red brick building.


The first class of seniors from the officially named Payson Senior High School graduated.


The first Utah state championship for Payson High School was won by the track & field team.


The mascot of the Maple Leaves, was changed to the Lions to thank the local chapter of the Lions Club for their generous fundraising contributions to the school. The club donated money to purchase the football team’s uniforms, bought season tickets as a way to donate to the school, and provided a banquet dinner for the team after a difficult semi-final loss in the state tournament.


A new Payson High School building was built.


Payson High School and much of the surrounding community was used as the location for filming Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon.


The nearby Salem Hills High School opened, dramatically reducing the faculty and student body of Payson High School.


Kevin Bacon (from the 1984 Footloose movie) sent Payson High School a personalized video to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie.

A schoolwide student contest was held to design a school logo. The winning design was the P with the lion face embedded in it. In the years since then, the Lion P has become the iconic symbol of PHS, often cited as one of the best high school logos around. Our logos can be viewed by clicking here.


Payson High School students were featured on the radio program This American Life, one of the most popular podcasts in the world.


An additional school logo was adopted by the school to be used primarily for athletic contexts, a fierce-looking lion head. It was also designed by a student. The P lion logo will be used primarily as the school's academic mark. Our logos can be viewed by clicking here.


Ground will be broken for the next incarnation of Payson High, a completely new, state of the art school building.

Winning Tradition


Track & Field: 1917, 1934, 1954, 1979

Football: 1925, 1943, 1969, 1971

Wrestling: 1998, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2019, 2021

Girls Basketball: 2005

Marching Band: 2015

Winter Guard: 2016