Gunlock is located on the west side of Washington county in a charming narrow valley along the Santa Clara Creek on the Old Spanish Trail.
Gunlock was one of the earliest areas settled in the county with the first home built in 1857. It was not as most communities in the county, a planned Mormon community, but was the result of expansion and one man finding a place with water and land enough to settle and then having his relatives and a few friends join him at that location with their families.
The town was named for its original settler, William Hamblin. His nickname “Gunlock” is said to have come from the fact that he was an excellent gun mechanic and skillful hunter and the fact that he kept his fellow pioneers’ gun locks in such good condition as they traveled to Utah.
William “Gunlock” Hamblin was a brother of the well-known Indian scout and missionary Jacob Hamblin, he was the first settler of Gunlock in 1857. Legend says his wagon broke down at that location and he liked it and stayed, other historians say he was looking for a new place to settle and found this a good spot. Whichever way it happened, Gunlock was a good place for him having water and land that could be farmed and he built a home there. His brother-in-law Dudley Leavitt soon joined him with his large family and also built cabins. Dudley’s brother, Jeremiah, and their friend, Isaac Riddle joined the settlement with their families in the next few years.
The flood of 1862 washed away much of the settlers’ fields and homes and left them clinging to the hillside in the night. The settlement was then moved to its present location upstream from the original one where they took more land and began to farm again. There was trouble with the Indians in the early years and also more intermittent flooding but the new settlement held.
The small settlement was located along the Old Spanish Trail and the settlers were able to trade with the travelers passing through. A few travelers stayed on and the Holt and Hunt families joined the settlement several years later moving down from Hebron expanding the community. Baker Dam was built upstream and Gunlock Dam downstream have helped with the flooding problems. The community eventually turned to raising cattle as available farming land was limited.
Today there are still ranching, mining, and farming in the area but it serves mainly as a bedroom community for St. George twenty miles away. Gunlock has kept its early charm and is a wonderful, peaceful home to its present residents. Many of the residents are descendants of the early settlers.