Granite, OR – An “Almost” Ghost Town

31 08 2016

Granite town sign

On our North Fork John Day River trip, we’d made up our mind to head east to Anthony Lakes, OR. The route passes straight through Oregon’s forgotten past – its 19th Century Gold Rush region. The spotlight was thrown on this region on Independence Day July 4th, 1862, when A.G. Tabor struck gold on Granite Creek. Today, there are still active mines and claims being worked!

Mining Posted

Just like a Clint Eastwood film!

Word of Tabor’s strike spread like lightning, and within 10 years as many as 5,000 hardy fortune seekers and their families had descended on Granite. More towns emerged, with names like Sumpter, Greenhorn, and Susanville. Folks from back east, European immigrants and Chinese all came. The area was a cultural hot spot until the early 1900’s. Dance halls, bars, pharmacies, general stores, churches and more served the families, with more than 80% involved in mining.

Fortune seekers worked the land in any number of ways. Some worked in “placer mines,” which is essentially mining a river bed. It might involve hydraulics blasting jets of water to excavate. Or, simple panning for gold. By 1914, placer mining had found over $2,000,000 of gold in the North Fork John Day River and Granite Creek. In other places mines were dug into hillsides in search of veins of gold. Some of these can be seen today.

Granite Mine

I don’t suggest exploring this old mine!

It was a tough life. Work was dog tired hard. And dangerous. Winters brutal. It was remote. Granite’s telephone and electrical service were cut off after WWII. Well, the telephone returned in 2000. These days, there is a single wireless router that operates intermittently from the telephone switch box.

Granite Bell Tower

Granite Town Hall.

By 1960, Granite almost joined sister towns of Greenhorn and Susanville as ghost towns – its population had dwindled to 2. But by the 2010 Census, Granite’s population swelled to 38!

Today, there are two businesses in Granite. The Outback, and The Lodge. The Outback Gas and Supply Store was our only resource out here. It has a closed down cafe in the rear. Out front it’s got limited supplies of fishing and camping gear, plus non perishible foods, toiletries and some ice cream. As we were car camping in Anthony Lakes, I was seeking something for the barbeque. When asked, the response from the owner was, “Well, you know, we haven’t got much. This IS Granite after all.” She dug out a package of hot dogs, but they were past the expiration date. However, she was resourceful, and managed to dig out some hockey puck hamburgers from the freezer. Well, with that my only option, I went ahead and bought them along with some gas, and a few supplies. Total bill was $36.

Outside, Laura found something familiar in Portland! A Little Free Library!

Little Free Library Granite

Granite General Store

This was the old Mercantile Store.

Despite the remote living and challenges of survival, people kept going. Families had kids – but the mortality rate was very high. The palpable evidence of hardship was illustrated by our walk of the Granite Cemetery. Way back when, folks often listed cause of death on tombstones.

“Suicide.” “Mining accident.” “Bear attack.” Plus diseases. Not all the headstones had a name. For us, the most heart rending was a section for infants and still births. There were so many who died at birth. Or in the first week. Clearly, life was tough.

Headstone

Laura and I walked what is left of Granite. Many homes in a state of near collapse. But others showed signs of care – many in a state of “project” status. So, Granite still is home to about three dozen souls! It escaped true Ghost Town status!


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4 responses

31 08 2016
cikitaokt

Nice post!

1 09 2016
Rod C. Richards

Thanks so much!

31 08 2016
Marilyn McLeod

Thank you for some history of Granite! I’ve been there a few times back in t he mid-90’s.. looks like it’s about the same! And I loved Sumpter and I think it is pretty inhabited now.. what a beautiful area too. Love it! How neat that there is a Little Free Library there…. they can be found in the most unusual places!

1 09 2016
Rod C. Richards

Marilyn, thanks! It’s an under-the-radar Oregon region. We even spotted some 21st Century gold diggers!

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