Chaffee County

Granite History

Gateleys in Granite


Granite, Colorado; circa 1870
Photo courtesy of
Denver Public Library

Looking west from the east side of the Arkansas River.

Cache Creek comes from west through the gap on the right side of the photo





By Sandra Dallas 

Granite was as hard and as bleak as its name, the scene of brawls, vengeance, and one of Colorado's famous murders.  In 1875, Judge Elias Dyer, son of Methodist preacher John Dyer, was shot to death in his courtroom.  Dyer, who had sided with the wrong faction in a feud, was "in the discharge of his duty as an officer of the law," noted one newspaper.  But another reporter claimed: "He was well-known to have been the associate of midnight assassins, incendiaries, and thieves...."

The feud began when a man named Elijah Gibbs was acquitted of killing a neighbor.  The dead man's friends quickly formed a vigilante committee to threaten anyone who sided with Gibbs, including Dyer.  When the judge issued warrants for the arrest of several of the vigilantes, he apparently signed his own death warrant.  Only minutes after the charges against the men were dismissed for lack of evidence, Dyer was shot.  No one was ever arrested for the murder.

Placer gold was discovered in the Granite area in 1859, but the diggings quickly played out.  In 1867 the discovery of gold lodes caused a second rush to Granite.  Within a year, the Rocky Mountain News reported: "It's pleasantly situated, and with its stores, hotels, and saloons, bears quite a business, sir."

But Granite's life was erratic.  In 1872 the News noted: "Granite looks a little rusty, and most of the houses are for let."

Granite boomed again at the time of the Dyer controversy, which was called the Lake County War.  Among investors in local mines at the time was H. A. W. Tabor, a former Granite storekeeper, who purchased an interest in Elias Dyer's mine after his murder.  In 1880, Granite lost its designation as Chaffee County seat to Buena Vista.  The booms stopped in the 1880s, and Granite, supported by a little mining and transportation slid into obscurity.

Note:  Elias, along with John and several other relatives, is buried in the Castle Rock Cemetery in Castle Rock, Colorado.


Gateleys in Granite--by Bill Gateley

In the mid-1930s, my father, Sydney, was running a placer operation on the Arkansas River near Granite, and my mother, Edna, my sister, Betty, and I spent part of the summer with him.  Betty panned some gold, and I learned the pleasures of operating a penny slot machine.  I don't know how much gold either my dad or Betty found, but I'm sure it wasn't a fortune by any means.

In the summer of 1943 I spent a few weeks helping Charlie Brandon (my mother's companion in her last few years) do some logging on Cache Creek west of Granite.  It was an interesting experience, and I  briefly drove a Caterpillar tractor for the first and last time in my life.