The area was originally settled by the agricultural and hunter gatherer Jornada Mogollon people about 200 CE whose suzerainty ended with the influx of the Apache and other plains raiders around 1450. The town was named in 1907 by the local school teacher John W. Nations after the piñon pine trees in the area.
^Whalen, Michael E. (1994) Turquoise Ridge and late prehistoric residential mobility in the desert Mogollon region (Anthropological papers (Salt Lake City, Utah), no. 118) University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, page 26, ISBN 0-87480-436-1
^Julyan, Robert (1998) "Piñon" The Place Names of New Mexico (revised edition) University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico, page 268, ISBN 0-8263-1689-1