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Our History

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

1776
Spanish explorers arrived in the Payson area, making contact with the local inhabitants.

1850
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 (originally spelled “Pacen”).

1873
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.

1876
The first high school in Payson was closed in order to consolidate students into Brigham Young Academy in Provo

1884
Payson Public Schools established a school called the Central School, gradually adding grades until it became a high school.

1893
The first graduating class from the Central School of Payson Public Schools totaled 13 students.

1910
Payson wins the Utah County Track & Field Championships

1911
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.

1912
Construction on the first school building officially called Payson Senior High School was completed, a beautiful two-story red brick building.

1912
The first class of seniors from the officially named Payson Senior High School graduated.

1917
The first Utah state championship for Payson High School was won by the track & field team. See the full list of state titles below.

1928
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.

1967
A new Payson High School building was built. It is still in use in the 21st century.

1984
Payson High School and much of the surrounding community was used as the location for filming Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon.  

2008
The nearby Salem Hills High School opened, dramatically reducing the faculty and student body of Payson High School.

2017
Payson High School students were featured on the radio program This American Life, one of the most popular podcasts in the world.

2020
A global pandemic of a novel form of the coronavirus known as Covid-19 drastically affected our school life. On Friday March 13, 2020, Governor Gary Herbert of Utah announced the soft closure of all of the state's public schools. To reduce the rapid spread of the virus, schooling was moved to an online, distance learning format with only two days of preparation time. In true Lion fashion the faculty and staff of PHS moved mountains and worked miracles to not only successfully implement this new learning format, but also to help each student feel cared about and remembered. Likewise, the students showed incredible resilience as they learned to learn in this new way. The school year culminated with a newly invented "hybrid graduation" format in which the graduates attended the commencement ceremony in their cars to watch and hear the live speakers on PHS campus. The graduates then left their cars, with the explosive cheers of the attending faculty, to walk across the stage in the front of the school and receive their diploma. Many parents called it the most personalized and moving graduation they had ever attended.

2023
Ground will be broken for the next incarnation of Payson High, a completely new, state of the art school building. As we look to the future, we will remember who we have been.

State Championships:

Track & Field: 1917, 1934, 1954, 1979

Football: 1925, 1943, 1969, 1971

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

Girls Basketball: 2005

Marching Band: 2015

Winter Guard: 2016