The Great State of Jefferson

Strange Maps posts a picture of what was nearly our 49th state, carved out of the California hinterlands and Oregon’s southern counties. For more on Jefferson’s abbreviated history, check out John Schwenkler’s great article on homegrown secessionism:

Consider the movement that sprang up on the border of California and Oregon in 1941, when a group of disgruntled miners and loggers stormed the courthouse in Curry County, Oregon, brought several counties from Northern California on board to form a provisional government, and established the mining town of Yreka—pronounced “why-REE-kuh”—as the unlikely capital of the even more unlikely State of Jefferson. (The state’s name, which recalled the independent streak of the most rebellious of the American founders, was settled on only after such proposals as “Orofino” and “Mittelwestcoastia” were mercifully rejected.) The rebel flag bore a pair of X’s to indicate that the region had been doublecrossed by the governments in Sacramento and Eugene, and storekeepers put out change buckets for shoppers who wanted to redirect their sales-tax pennies from the state treasuries. Local men armed with hunting rifles set up roadblocks along the Klamath River Highway, distributing copies of a Proclamation of Independence that explained that they were in “patriotic rebellion against the States of California and Oregon” and planned to “secede each Thursday until further notice.”

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11 thoughts on “The Great State of Jefferson

  1. There’s still a building off I-5 with a “State of Jefferson” written on its roof. You can see it as you go over the mountains.

    What went wrong? I can’t imagine California caring much about losing a bit of the far north. As far as most people round here are concerned the state stops somewhere just north of Sacramento.

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  2. Not sure if my comment got eaten or is being held for moderation because it included a link to my website (sorry if that’s uncool, guys). So I’ll try to recollect what I wrote:

    I did some research in various proposed states and nations within the US (like “West Florida”) for my “Trumanverse” map (an alternative map of the US to help preserve my anonymity). It’s really fascinating stuff. Have you guys seen the map of the proposed State of Deseret? Spans all the way from San Diego to Wyoming.

    It’s not hard to see why Deseret didn’t pass muster. Even leaving aside the likely hom0genous population with unacceptable social customs, a state that large would be ripe for independence.

    I suspect that Jefferson has the opposite problem. While Deseret was too big, Jefferson too small. It’s hard to imagine the other states being cool with giving two senators and three electoral votes to such a small area.

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    • @Trumwill, Wasn’t the main problem with Deseret the fact that they initially proposed it as a completely independent nation? I’m a bit hazy on the history, but they didn’t initially accept US sovereignty, right? I’m sure like Spain they didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of what they were claiming.

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      • @Simon K,

        By the time the Mormons had set up shop in the Great Basin, everything North of the future Gadsen Purchase was in American hands. Deseret’s was a bid for statehood, not sovereignty. The reasons sovereignty were never granted can be summarized as thus:

        *The Mormons wanted to keep their theocratic leadership structure in power, and the Fed didn’t much like the idea.

        *One big Free State. The South was not ready to take in two more free state Senators, and the Northerners only had so much political capital to spend on bringing free states in – a polygamous theocracy did not make the cut.

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