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First established by miners after the discovery of gold along Granite Creek on July 4, 1862, the area was originally called Granite Creek Mines. During the following year, a settlement called Granite City was established about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) downstream of where Granite City is now. It was moved to its current location in 1867 and renamed Independence after the date—July 4, or Independence Day—of the earlier gold discovery. However, when the community's post office was established in 1878, it could not use the name Independence because that name was already taken by another Oregon city. Instead, the name Granite was chosen. The post office closed in 1957, but the city retained the name. The creek takes it name from the granite rocks that are common to the area.

In 1878, miner and business owner A. G. Tabor became the first postmaster. Grant Thornburg became the first mayor after the city incorporated in 1900.[8]

A 1939 interview "Occupational and Social Life of Granite" recorded by William "Bill" Haight as part of the Federal Writers' Project, described the town and surroundings of Granite.

In 1942, during World War II, the War Production Board shut down gold mining in the United States via Order No. L-208. The board deemed gold mining to be non-essential to the war effort, and it wanted gold miners to mine "essential" metals instead. Since Granite depended so heavily on gold mining, its economy collapsed when the mines shut down. Telephone and electric services to Granite ceased after the war. From 86 residents in 1940, the city's population dropped to 2 in 1960.

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