STATE OF JEFFERSON HISTORY
by James T. Rock
Tragedy struck the "State of Jefferson" on December 2, 1941 when Gilbert Gable died. The news was not all bad. Shortly before his death, Gable had been told that the Trinity County Board of Supervisors had voted unanimously to join the secessionists. Ten minutes after the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors was informed of his death, they voted to carry on the work he had started. The secessionist leadership now fell to State Senator Randolph Collier and O.G. Steele of Yreka, the Oregonian reported on December 4. Flags flew at half mast in Siskiyou, Del Norte, Lassen, Trinity and Curry counties in memory of Gilbert Gable. Shortly after, Lassen County left the movement.
The Oregonians appear to have taken the movement less seriously than the Californians. When Klamath County was asked to join, the response was "No." If they seceded, they were more inclined to join Portugal since they felt they could whip Portugal.
The Chronicle kept the faith with the "State of Jefferson" and reported on December 2 that elections were set for December 4 in Yreka. The three candidates for provisional governor were 1) Albert Herzog, 78-year-old Mayor of Yreka and a Siskiyou County veteran of the Modoc War; 2) Edwin Regan, District Attorney, from Weaverville, Trinity County; and 3) John C. Childs, 78-year-old judge from Crescent City, Del Norte County.
Thursday, December 4, 1941 saw the movement at its peak. This was the second Thursday and secession got fully underway. There were four Hollywood newsreel companies in Yreka along with the Time and Life magazine photographers. Locals were urged to wear western garb by the local newspaper and to make the most of the publicity, U.S. Highway 99 was again the scene of gun-toting handbill-passing citizens. The schools in Yreka were let out and the inauguration took place on the Court House lawn as news crews directed the crowd to make the best scenes possible. Cannons boomed, the Yreka girls' drum and bugle corps paraded in their scarlet uniforms and John C. Childs of Del Norte County was inaugurated governor. A boy wearing a coonskin cap and leading two bear cubs was there. In fact, the governor was photographed with one of the bears.
Governor Childs commented that changes were long overdue. Fifty years ago the roads were not passable in this area and they still were not. Randolph Collier introduced the new state's officers, who represented each of the four participating counties. The governor, chief justice, attorney general, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, chaplain and U.S. Congressman were divided between Siskiyou, Trinity, Del Norte and Curry counties.
A torchlight parade was punctuated with slogans like "California Forgot Us" and other hand-lettered signs saying:
"OUR ROADS ARE NOT PASSABLE, HARDLY JACKASSABLE:
IF OUR ROADS YOU WOULD TRAVEL, BRING YOUR OWN GAVEL:
THE PROMISED LAND -- OUR ROADS ARE PAVED WITH PROMISES."
The celebration was on.
On December 8, 1941 the newsreels were to be released in theatres around the U.S.
The Chronicle reported on December 5, "More on Jefferson - Yreka Goes Wild at Inauguration of the 'State's First Governor." This statement appears to have been more literal than figurative since Governor Childs was indisposed on the 5th resulting from too indulgent a celebration the day before.
The governor eventually proclaimed that the federal government should do something about federal land in the area that was timbered and also used for grazing while it paid no taxes. He also began at once to attempt to convince California's lawmakers that the need for roads to get timber and mineral resources out was real. The newly elected officials met on the night of December 6 to reorganize and get moving.
December 7, 1941
PEARL HARBOR WAS ATTACKED
Judge Child's last act as chief executive was to close the book on the "State of Jefferson" saga. "In view of the National emergency, the acting officers of the Provisional Territory of Jefferson here and now discontinue any and all activities. The State of Jefferson was originated for the sole purpose of calling the attention of the proper authorities...to the fact we have immense deposits of strategic and necessary defense minerals and that we need roads to develop those. We have accomplished that purpose and henceforth all of our efforts will be directed toward assisting our States and Federal Government in the defense of our Country" (Davis 1952:135-136; San Francisco Chronicle, December 9, 1941).
December 8, 1941, the Siskiyou Daily News reported the disbandment of the State of Jefferson: "Jefferson" is no more. At noon today the men who conceived, bore and nourished the State of Jefferson signed its death warrant. This document was submitted for the "Jefferson" Territorial Committee by J.P. Maginnis, Secretary."
In 1942 the Trustees of Columbia University awarded Stanton Delaplane the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for "distinguished reportorial work during the year 1941."
The 1941 "State of Jefferson" movement was defeated by World War II, but the dreams, desires and needs were not crushed or lost. In 1956 the "State of Shasta" was proposed. This movement was slightly different in that it was a two-issue one. It accentuated local dissatisfaction with the State over water rights and deer-hunting policies. The movement lasted only 30 days but it included California's eight northern-most counties and was based on the same feeling that these rural areas were neglected by the State Legislature and the populous areas of the state.
By the 1960's the momentum of the mythical "State of Jefferson" appears to have shifted northward into Oregon once again. Hal Ward of Cave Junction, Oregon started The Jeffersonian Journal in December of 1961. This journal was designed to stress the livability of this area as its greatest resource. Ward emphasized the state-of-mind nature of the state rather than that of a physical entity, but he still physically located it as extending from a line east to west below Redding, California to a line east to west above Coos Bay, Oregon. Livability, combined with the natural resources of timber, ranching, mining, fishing (recreational and commercial), recreation and tourism potentials all lend themselves to the uniqueness of the area. He also observed that some of the same old problems still existed. The roads for example, left something to be desired, just as they did 20 years ago.
On November 28, 1971 the San Francisco Examiner reported, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Josephine County Commissioner Kenneth W. Jackson launched the "State of Jefferson" statehood movement once again at the Association of Oregon Counties' meeting in Pendleton, Oregon on November 19, 1971. Jackson and his associates had "State of Jefferson" T-Shirts and an "Official Flag" for the new state. Some changes had occurred. The state was now to be the 51st state in the Union and its capital was to be Grants Pass, Oregon.
Some basic similarities remained. "Jefferson" was to be made up of Southern Oregon and Northern California counties. Specifically, the counties involved or implicated were Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties in Oregon and Siskiyou and Del Norte in California. Jackson observed that not much had changed in this area since 1941 except that there now were fewer working jackasses. The Oregon Journal carried a two-part report on this movement on December 6 and 7.
When Ernest Hayden, chairman of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, was asked about this revival, he commented that he felt the idea's value was primarily propagandistic rather than political. Earl Ager, a board member who had been in the 1941 movement, was still for the formation of the state, but not with Grants Pass as its capital. Another Yrekan, Judith Garner, receptionist to the president of Scott Valley Bank, said once the state got going, she might become the chairman of the Ladies' Republican Club of Jefferson. The dream still held some of its magic.
Today, the myth, magic and mystique still remain as part of the "persona" of Northern California and Southern Oregon. All one must do is look around to find it. In 1978 Jerry Murphy of Yreka wrote the play, The State of Jefferson and it was produced by the Siskiyou Performing Arts Center. Klamath Falls annually has a picnic and election of officers for the State of Jefferson; Medford has a Jefferson State Bank, and the "State of Jefferson" Cultural Resource Management meeting occurs annually in either Northern California or Southern Oregon.
Jefferson Public Radio is listened to and enjoyed throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California. Many businesses and civic groups names still reflect the State of Jefferson area. In Grants Pass, Oregon, there is the Jefferson State Plumbing Company, Jefferson State Mortgage and Jefferson State Pest Control. Modoc and Siskiyou counties, California have the Jefferson State Sanitation Service. Ham radio operators in Northern California and Southern Oregon have labeled their ham directory after the state. In Yreka, the State of Jefferson play was adapted and presented at the Yreka Community Center in 1988.
The federal government recognized the historic importance of the State of Jefferson when they created a scenic byway that runs from Yreka through Happy Camp and on into Oregon to Cave Junction. In 1995, the State of Jefferson Agricultural Monthly began publication. This publication redefined the areas included in the state.
The State of Jefferson dream changes over time, but the dream lives on. For over 25 years you can see the State of Jefferson on the web https://www.stateofjefferson.com at ARCHIVE.ORG.
Anonymous, n.d., Unreleased Report on the "State of Jefferson." Yreka, California: Siskiyou County Museum Files, xerox.
Davis, W.N., Jr., 1952, "State of Jefferson." California Historical Society Quarterly. Vol. XXI, No. 2. pp. 125-138.
Di Leo, Michael and Eleanor Smith, 1983, Two Californias: The Truth About the Split-State Movement. Island Press, Covelo, California.
Reinhardt, Richard, 1972, "The Short Happy History of the State of Jefferson." The American West, Vol. IX, No. 3 pp. 36-41, 63.
Sutton, Jack, 1965, The Mythical State of Jefferson. Josephine County Historical Society. Klocker, Medford, Oregon.
Thomas, Chant, 1984, "States in Time, State of Mind: Shasta, Klamath, Jackson, Siskiyou, Jefferson." Siskiyou Country, No. 13, pp. 14-19.
Wacker, George, 1974, "Bear Claws and Eagle Beaks." Air California Magazine.
Ward, Hal T., 1961, The Jeffersonian Journal. Charter Issue, Vol. 1, No. 1 Published by Jason, Cave Junction, Oregon.
JOURNALS & NEWSPAPERS
California Assembly Journal, 1859: 291, 552, 752-753.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 19, 1941.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 26, 1941.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 27, 1941.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 28, 1941.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 29, 1941.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 30, 1941.
San Francisco Chronicle, December 1, 1941.
San Francisco Chronicle, December 2, 1941.
San Francisco Chronicle, December 5, 1941.
San Francisco Chronicle, December 9, 1941.
Curry Coastal Pilot, July 7, 1982.
Daily Alta California, December 19, 1853.
San Francisco Examiner, November 25, 1941.
San Francisco Examiner, December 6, 1941.
San Francisco Examiner, November 28, 1971.
Roseburg, The Grapevine Gazette, May 1983.
Oregon Journal, December 6 and 7, 1971.
Yreka Mountain Herald, December 30, 1853.
Portland Oregonian, October 4, 1941.
Portland Oregonian, December 4, 1941.
Siskiyou Daily News, November 3, 1941.
Siskiyou Daily News, November 25, 1941.
Siskiyou Daily News, November 27, 1941.
Siskiyou Daily News, December 1, 1941.
Siskiyou Daily News, December 8, 1941.
New York Times, October 4, 1941.
Oakland Tribune, October 14, 1941.
Oregon Tribune, November 27, 1941.
-James Rock received his B.A. and M.S. at Kansas State University, Fort Hays and his M.A. from the University of Arizona. He was an archaeologist with the National Park Service at the Western Archaeological Center, Tucson and is a member of the Society of Professional Archaeologists.
He has worked as an archaeologist for the Klamath National Forest since 1975 and is
presently Heritage Program Manager and Tribal Relations Program Manager. He has
published over 100 articles on Western history, the mining West and Historic Archeology.