Oregon Experience

State of Jefferson

By Kami Horton (OPB)
Sept. 29, 2014 7:53 p.m.

Anyone living in Southern Oregon or Northern California is probably also a resident of the State of Jefferson.


Known as the “Mythical State of Jefferson” and “A State of Mind,” Jefferson is more of an idea than a place. It represents the spirit of the people who live in Southern Oregon and far Northern California.

As far back as 1852, there were efforts to create a new, independent state in the area known as Jefferson.

Since then, there have been numerous secession attempts throughout the region. Some of them have been more serious than others.

The most famous effort came in 1941. Counties in Southern Oregon and Northern California staged what they called a “patriotic rebellion.” The uprising was over bad roads, which were still mostly dirt and gravel. In the winter, travel was nearly impossible.

Residents joined together and threatened to form the State of Jefferson. Armed men staged roadblocks and handed out a Proclamation of Independence to passing motorists. In Yreka, a torchlight parade made its way through city streets. Thousands gathered to watch as supporters inaugurated a governor and unveiled the state seal. It was a gold pan with two Xs, representing how residents had been double-crossed by their governments.

News agencies all over the country covered the so-called Yreka Rebellion, sending journalists and movie newsreels to report on the events. One reporter even won a Pulitzer Prize for his articles on the secession attempt. But the movement didn’t last. With the start of World War Two, the efforts died.

Was the movement genuine or just an attempt at attention? Could Jefferson have been a real state? Could it still?

Today, the State of Jefferson is a source of local lore, regional identity, propaganda, and pride for its residents.

To some, it continues to be an active movement. In far Northern California resentment over lack of representation has fueled a new effort to create a separate state of Jefferson. Supporters have signed petitions, received endorsements from county commissioners, and even gotten the issue on the ballot.

So far, in Oregon, Jefferson remains a state of mind.

With rare historical film, photos, and interviews with the people first involved with the secession attempts, Oregon Experience’s new half-hour documentary explores the history of the State of Jefferson.



Fiorini-Jenner, Gail and Tickner, Bernita L., The State of Jefferson, 2005

Fiorini-Jenner, Gail and Tickner, Bernita L., Then and Now: The State of Jefferson, 2007

Fiorini-Jenner, Gail and Tickner, Bernita L., Postcards from the State of Jefferson, 2013

Laufer, Peter, The Elusive State of Jefferson, 2014

Nelson, Shirley, Port Orford and North Curry County, 2010

Rock, James, The State of Jefferson: The Dream Lives On!, 1999

Siskiyou County Historical Society, The Siskiyou County Pioneer and Yearbook, 2003, 2014

Shaw Historical Library, The Journal of the Shaw Historical Library,  Spring 1990

Sutton, Jack, The Mythical State of Jefferson: A pictorial history of early Northern California and Southern Oregon, 1965


Geoffrey Riley, News Director, Jefferson Public Radio

Jeff LaLande, Historian

Joe Jinet, State of Jefferson band


Erik Vestnys, State of Jefferson band

Ryan Redding, State of Jefferson band

Anthony Intiso, Chairman, Jefferson Action Committee

Stan Statham, California Assemblymember, 1976 – 1994

Kit Marshall, Owner, Etna Brewing Company

Gareth Plank, Rancher

Eb Whipple, Etna Resident

Gail Jenner, Author

Peter Laufer, Author & Journalism Professor, University of Oregon

Dot Mathews, Port Orford Resident

Shirley Nelson, Author

Leon White, Former Mayor, Port Orford


Jefferson Public Radio


State of Jefferson Band


Siskiyou Senior Players


State of Jefferson Waltz Song


Jefferson Declaration


State of Jefferson 51


Jefferson News Service

State of Jefferson Music and Hemp Festival

Jefferson Backroads

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