By Gina Smith
April 21, 2011
The history of Lincoln County goes back to the settlement of Panaca in 1864 by Mormon pioneers. The town holds the oldest building in Panaca. Made of adobe, the structure was built as a chapel but also functioned as a school house and recreational hall. It still stands today on 4th Street on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stake center property and is designated as an important historical site by the State of Nevada.
Life in Panaca in the early days was both joyous and challenging. Kids who lived on outlying farms oftentimes had to board with other families during the week to attend school, usually only seeing their family on the weekends. The late Martha Hollinger Bleak, at the age of 97, was honored in 2009 during the Lincoln County High School 100 year anniversary as the oldest living graduate and grand marshal of the celebration weekend. In a 2009 interview, she recounted the days her family lived in Eagle Valley. She stayed with a family in Panaca during the week and said she would hope to go home on the weekends. “If the weather was too bad, you couldn’t go,” she said.
In talking to Mrs. Bleak, you couldn’t help but notice the fondness and good memories she had growing up in Lincoln County. She passed away in 2010.
The first high school, which no longer stands, had an upstairs portion that not only was used for sports but also dances and activities for kids. The building was small, but the community made due with what they had.
Another historical landmark still standing today is the Panaca Mercantile. This building was built in 1868, and housed the “Panaca Co- Op.” Mule teams from Salt Lake would bring goods to town, and take Panaca produce back to Utah. This building is still in use as the town’s grocery store.
Another historical spot is the sweet, warm water of Panaca Springs, which was a popular destination for kids both then and now, especially in the summer time. In a day when air conditioning did not exist, these welcoming waters provided residents relief from the hot desert sun. These outdoor springs are a perfect place to sit by one of the shade trees and read or swim and play with the tadpoles in the water.
Panaca has maintained its peaceful, rural environment through the years. And with much of its historical landmarks still standing, it is a great place to explore where Lincoln County all began.