by Cameron Bridge —
You may have noticed that the names of a number of the streets and avenues in and around the original part of Merritt follow a bit of a pattern, with the original streets being named after the early settlers to the area, such as Jesus Garcia of Garcia Street, William Voght of Voght Street, and James Chapman of Chapman Street. The avenues, on the other hand, were named after a number of different communities and places around the Nicola Valley, these being Nicola Avenue, Quilchena Avenue, and Coutlee Avenue as some other examples. Many of these communities continue to exist, with one example being Granite Avenue.
Granite Avenue is named after Granite City, a gold mining city that sat on the banks of the Tulameen River to the southeast of Tulameen and Coalmont. It is believed that John Chance discovered gold in Granite Creek on July 5th, 1885, setting off an immediate gold rush in the region that saw people flood into the area. By the end of 1885, there were 60 companies operating in Granite City, with an estimated $90,000 (approx. $2.75 million in today’s money) worth of gold extracted from the area. Not only that, but by year-end, there were already 200 buildings in the community, with Steve Williams writing in an August 1974 Merritt Herald article that those 200 buildings included 14 hotels and restaurants, nine general stores, three bakers, and three blacksmiths, amongst other businesses.
Granite Creek was not the only creek that produced gold, as Murphy Shewchuk notes in his book “Coquihalla Trips and Trails,” there was a gold nugget found in Bear Creek that weighed nearly 19 ounces, which today would be the equivalent of over $41,000 in gold. This rush did provide an economic boom to the Nicola Valley, as for a period of time one of the only routes to Granite City was through a road that went through Nicola, providing the town site with an economic boost as thousands flocked to try to make their fortune.
The rush, however, was short lived, by 1889 gold production had slowed considerably and as a result, many people began leaving the city. In 1907, a fire burnt down most of the city, and while some of it was rebuilt, it would never return to its former glory. The community continued to survive for many years after the end of the gold rush, On March 31st, 1918, the post office that had been opened in Granite City on May 1st, 1886 closed. By the Great Depression, the city had been abandoned, but the economic conditions brought a handful of people back trying to eke out a living, Bill Barlee noted in his book that by the end of the 1960’s, the last of these last miners had left, and Granite City officially became a ghost town.
Today, Granite City is a recreational park through BC Parks with a nearby campground, beach, and hiking trails. As part of Canada 150, a walking tour was added with placards detailing the history of Granite City. Those placard, alongside a monument, and a handful of old abandoned wooden buildings, are all that remain of Granite City.
The Nicola Valley Museum and Archives is open from Tuesday until Saturday from 10am until 5pm, if you have any questions about the history of Merritt or the Nicola Valley please stop on by, give us a phone call, or send us an email!