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
State of Jefferson 51
Jefferson News Service
State of Jefferson Music and Hemp Festival
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Think Out Loud - Exploring the State of Jefferson