The State of Jefferson

A detailed map of the United States is photographed. Where is Jefferson located?

Photograph by John-Mark Smith on Pexels

The State of Jefferson

Have you ever heard of the state of Jefferson? Nearly 81 years ago, the United States of America almost adopted Jefferson, made up of western Oregon and northern California counties. How close to becoming a recognized state was Jefferson? Does Jefferson still have interest today?

When did the state of Jefferson originate?

In the late 1930s, citizens of rural counties in northern California and southern Oregon felt their region’s needs were not addressed adequately by their respective states’ governments. They would eventually seek to better serve their communities by forming Jefferson. Gilbert Gable, Port Orford, Oregon mayor, was the originator of the breakaway effort in creating Jefferson. Gable wanted to build a railroad through the mountains connecting the coastal-city Port Orford with the Southern Pacific line located in Grants Pass, Oregon. The state’s railroad commission rejected his plan.

In late 1941, dissatisfied with unmet demands, Gable and other Curry County leaders threatened to leave Oregon and join California. The neighboring state declined the notion, but the publicity stunt did entice northern California politicians. Citizens from northern-California counties and nearby southwest-Oregon counties united after watching the federal government’s increased defense spending neglect their rural regions. By November 1941, the people sustained hope of securing funds for building roads and infrastructure. Several counties from each state debated about declaring independence. Five counties followed through with the idea. Curry County in Oregon, Siskiyou, Del Norte, Trinity, and Modoc Counties in California declared Jeffersonian independence. At the time, Jefferson would have become the 49th state. The state received its name from the founding father of the Declaration of Independence and 3rd U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. California state senator Randolph Collier assisted Jefferson by making his constituents’ city of Yreka the capital. The city courthouse steps served as the setting for declaring independence.

By popular demand, Mayor Gable was to be declared Jefferson’s first governor, but on December 2, 1941, Gable passed away from a heart attack. On December 4, major news organizations arrived in Yreka, California, to witness the inauguration of Jefferson’s first elected governor, Judge John Childs of Crescent City, California. The jubilation was short-lived for Jefferson when three days later, the horrific events of the attack on Pearl Harbor brought an end to the creation of the new state. On December 8, the Jeffersonians and the rest of the entire country unified as they entered the second world war.

What are more facts about the state of Jefferson?

Did you know that Jefferson has a state seal and flag? The state seal features a gold circle with two ‘X’s inside. The words ‘The Great Seal of State of Jefferson’ encompass the outside of the design. The emblem represents the original Jeffersonians’ belief that their two state governments double-crossed them when they failed to provide regional support. The state flag features the golden seal on a field of green. In 1941, as more people began to support Jefferson, citizens patrolled the borders and constructed barriers on U.S. Highway 99. The Jeffersonians stopped cars that crossed the state line to hand out flyers with details about Jefferson.

Does Jefferson still exist?

Today, Oregon’s Curry County and other southwestern Oregon counties have not expressed interest in forming the state again. In northern California, seven new counties have assembled with the original four Golden State counties to acknowledge the formation of Jefferson. Residents in these areas still proudly call themselves Jeffersonians. Their endeavors to become the 51st state remain unfruitful. But perhaps in the future, the state of Jefferson will become official.

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About Joey Hinojosa

Joey Hinojosa graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in mass communications. He began working at Empower Brokerage in early 2022 and enjoys being creative in his writing, photography, videography, and other projects.

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