For thousands of years, Native Americans came for the bounty of fresh water and wild game. It was the Osage who met the first Europeans to travel through this territory; the first were probably French trappers.
Later, Spaniards claimed this land as their own. They sold the territory to the French who hoped to find gold. They found none.
In the early 1800’s, after the United States bought this land as part of the Louisiana Purchase, homesteading was the main reason to come here. Among the American settlers who came was a man named Madison Vickery. According to official history, Vickery discovered lead while digging for water. That created a whole new reason for coming to Granby. News of Vickery’s strike, around 1850, spread quickly. The resulting flood of prospectors was so wild the time came to be known as the Granby Stampede. By 1855, Granby’s air was ringing with the sounds of picks and shovels against the rocky hillsides. The population swelled to 8,000.
By 1859, over 25 million tones of lead had been shipped from Granby mines. Granby had the largest lead mining and smelting operations in the state and was one of the most important lead resources in the country. During the civil war, both North and South came to Granby for ammunition. Granby lead flew both ways during the Civil War. In October of 1862, the Battle of Granby finally established Union control of the mines, though the smelter was destroyed in the fighting. After the war, mining resumed with a fury, aided by new technology and improved rail transportation. Gradually, the people put down more than shafts into the red loam and rocks; they put down roots.
In 1868, Granby’s petition for incorporation was accepted by the state and in 1875 the city of Granby was officially chartered. The mines thrived through the first and second World Wars, but when the payable ore deposits began to run out, many people stayed on. They had found something more valuable than mineral deposits. They had discovered that Granby was a good place to live.
Our history is as colorful as any mining boom town of the era and you have only to walk down Main Street still graced by several turn of the century buildings with high false fronts and covered porches to get the feeling of the old days. It’s easy to imagine the miners who prospered in places with names like the Klondike, the Morning Glory and the Golden Rule, coming to town for supplies, and to socialize. And the people here love to remember. Granby holds Old Mining Town Days every summer with a three-day, 4th of July celebration that draws thousands of visitors for a slice of pure Americana. There simply isn’t an event quite like it anywhere.