Indigenous peoples were the earliest known settlers of this diverse and bountiful land – and others followed.
One individual, Gilbert Gable from Port Orford and others, including, members of the 20-30 club in Yreka, the Yreka Chamber of Commerce, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, State Senator Randolph Collier and Judge John L. Childs of Crescent City made the most successful and most publicized attempt at creating a new state from the bottom portion of Oregon and the top portion of California.
There have been many attempts at forming a new state comprised of northern California and southern Oregon, but none has gained so much attention and retained it as the secession movement of 1941.
The abundant supply of minerals and timber in this region was largely inaccessible due to the lack of sufficient roads and bridges into the rugged mountain border country. The local pioneering people grew weary of unfulfilled promises from Salem and Sacramento to help fund sufficient highway projects in the region while building campgrounds in the cities where there were more votes.
Representatives from the mountain border counties involved met in Yreka, CA on November 17, 1941 to form an alliance to obtain federal aid for the construction and repair of bridges and roads. The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted to allocate $100 to research the possibility of seceding from the state of California and joining the other counties to form a new 49th state. The Yreka Chamber of Commerce was very instrumental in persuading the Board.
The local newspaper ran a contest to name the new state and the winning entry was Jefferson. The winner of the contest pocketed $2 for his efforts. Yreka was designated the temporary state capital where the ‘State of Jefferson Citizen’s Committee’ was formed.
They proceeded to stop traffic on Highway 99 outside of town and handed their ‘Proclamation of Independence’ out to travelers.
Jefferson made the papers nearly every day, competing with headlines of Germany’s ravaging of Europe. The San Francisco Chronicle sent a young reporter, Stanton Delaplane, to cover the events. He traveled the rain-soaked roads to speak with locals to get a feel for the secession movement from their point of view. He got stuck in the mud down the Klamath River but that did not stop him from writing a series of colorful articles on the rebellion which earned him the coveted Pulitzer Prize.
On December 4, Judge John L. Childs of Crescent City in Del Norte County was elected governor. A torchlight parade complete with horses, marching bands and sign-carrying young people riding in trucks was held in Yreka followed by a ceremonious inauguration held on the courthouse lawn.
Hollywood newsreel companies were present to record the events, including the highway barricades. The State of Jefferson was off to a banner start.
The newsreels were to air nationally the week of December 8, but tragically on December 7th Pearl Harbor was bombed and the State of Jefferson rebellion of 1941 came to an end. The people of the region went to work for the war effort and good roads were eventually built into the backcountry to access strategic minerals and timber. These same roads have helped countless numbers of rural families make a living from the land that continues to produce abundant, quality natural resources.
The State of Jefferson ‘state of mind’ remains in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.
Source: Jefferson State
State of Jefferson Website & Archives