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Granite was predated by the Cache Creek mining camp, started in 1860. The miners of Cache Creek built a flume system to bring more water for the hydraulic mining operations. The town sprawled on each side of the Arkansas River, which flows gracefully in its center. Granite became the Lake County Seat in 1868. In 1875, the circuit judge, Elias F. Dyer, started a trial against a group of vigilantes in the “Lake County War”. During a recess, unknown assailants shot the judge right in the courthouse. No one was ever brought to trial for the murder.
When Chaffee County split off from Lake in 1879, Granite remained the county seat for the new county. However, Buena Vista had a population over 2,000 and Granite’s population had dwindled. Buena Vista held an election which they claimed they won. The folks in Granite claimed the election was illegal. Some of the upstanding businessmen in BV “borrowed” an engine and flat car one night, steamed up to Granite, broke into the courthouse and hauled all the records and some of the furniture back home.
As with many towns wholly dependant on prospecting, when the mining played out, the town was nearly abandoned. Today, only a handful of people live in Granite all year round.
The Granite school house, now a private residence, is on the hillside. The cemetery is on the hill to the west. Geologically, Granite is located at the north end of the Rio Grande Rift Valley. The Arkansas River runs through town.
Located between Leadville and Buena Vista on U.S. Highway 24, it’s true a person could drive through Granite within a minute or two and not think much of it. However, if you crave solitude, enjoy uncrowded hiking trails, or are a 4-wheel-drive enthusiast, slow down and stop.
Granite has something to offer. Drive above timberline toward Quail Mountain on Lost Canyon Road. Hike the Low Pass Gulch Trail. Tour some of the historic structures still standing. Fish on the Arkansas River. Or camp in the San Isabel National Forest.
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