Rough and Ready, California

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Rough and Ready
census-designated place
A scene in Rough and Ready near the Historic Toll House
A scene in Rough and Ready near the Historic Toll House
Rough and Ready is located in California
Rough and Ready
Rough and Ready
Location within the state of California
Coordinates: 39°13′49″N 121°8′6″W / 39.23028°N 121.13500°W / 39.23028; -121.13500Coordinates: 39°13′49″N 121°8′6″W / 39.23028°N 121.13500°W / 39.23028; -121.13500
Country United States
State California
County Nevada
 • Total 3.170 sq mi (8.210 km2)
 • Land 3.170 sq mi (8.210 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)  0%
Population (2010)
 • Total 963
 • Density 300/sq mi (120/km2)
Time zone Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 95975
Area code(s) 530
GNIS feature ID 2628785

U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Rough and Ready, California

Official name: Little Town of Rough and Ready
Reference no. 294

Rough and Ready is a census-designated place in Nevada County, California, United States.[2] It is located west of Grass Valley, California, approximately 62 miles (100 km) from Sacramento. The population was 963 at the 2010 census. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names.[3]


The first established settlement in Rough and Ready was made in the fall of 1849 by a mining company from Wisconsin known as the Rough and Ready Company.[4] Their leader, Captain A. A. Townsend, named the company after General Zachary Taylor (nicknamed "Old Rough and Ready") who had recently been elected the 12th President of the United States. Captain Townsend had served under Taylor when he commanded the American Forces during the U.S.-Mexican War. California had three towns so named of which this one survives.[5]

The post office at Rough and Ready was established by February 1851; the first postmaster was Marcus Nutting.[6] The ZIP Code is 95975. The community is inside area code 530.

The post office was closed for a time in 1855, again for a time in 1913, and again from 1942 to 1948.[7]

Secession from the United States[edit]

Rough and Ready is the only mining town to have "seceded" from the Union and then voted itself back in.[8] Populated mostly by miners from the state of Wisconsin, the town hoped to rid itself of a recently introduced tax on new mining claims and the prohibition of alcohol in Nevada County. Residents were also frustrated that the US Postal Service was demanding they change the name of the town to either "Rough" or "Ready", but not both. Another incentive for secession is found in the legend of a local con man. The con man would wager with miners that if he was able to prospect a certain amount of gold from their claims, he would pay them far more than their claim was worth. He would prospect until he had slightly less than the amount of gold needed to make good on his wager, then quit and keep the gold. Since he technically had not committed a crime, the courts were unable to prosecute him. It was decided in a town meeting in April 1850 to draw up articles of secession, forming the "Great Republic of Rough and Ready" (and according to legend, the con man was immediately hanged). Less than three months later, when discussing the issue on Independence Day celebration, community members regretted the secession, and the secession was rescinded by popular vote.[9]

Present day[edit]

The history of the "Republic" is performed annually as a play in Nevada County during "Secession Days" on the last Sunday of June.

What little is left of the town is located on State Route 20, west of the Grass Valley junction at State Route 49. Among the oldest buildings are the blacksmith shop (1850s), the Odd Fellows Hall (1854), and the Old Toll House.

The town of Rough and Ready is honored as a California Historical Landmark (#294).[10]

Popular culture[edit]

The New York City-based music duo The Great Republic of Rough and Ready takes its name from the town.[11]

The TV western show "Death Valley Days" told the story of Rough and Ready in the eighth episode of its sixth season appearing 12/7/57.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP covers an area of 3.2 square miles (8.2 km²), all of it land.


The 2010 United States Census[12] reported that Rough and Ready had a population of 963. The population density was 303.8 people per square mile (117.3/km²). The racial makeup of Rough and Ready was 886 (92.0%) White, 3 (0.3%) African American, 6 (0.6%) Native American, 16 (1.7%) Asian, 6 (0.6%) Pacific Islander, 11 (1.1%) from other races, and 35 (3.6%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 56 persons (5.8%).

The Census reported that 963 people (100% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 428 households, out of which 95 (22.2%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 203 (47.4%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 31 (7.2%) had a female householder with no husband present, 28 (6.5%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 33 (7.7%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 2 (0.5%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 132 households (30.8%) were made up of individuals and 50 (11.7%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25. There were 262 families (61.2% of all households); the average family size was 2.77.

There were 160 people (16.6%) under the age of 18, 60 people (6.2%) aged 18 to 24, 184 people (19.1%) aged 25 to 44, 385 people (40.0%) aged 45 to 64, and 174 people (18.1%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 49.5 years. For every 100 females there were 108.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 104.8 males.

There were 477 housing units at an average density of 150.5 per square mile (58.1/km²), of which 332 (77.6%) were owner-occupied, and 96 (22.4%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.2%; the rental vacancy rate was 10.2%. 755 people (78.4% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 208 people (21.6%) lived in rental housing units.


In the state legislature, Rough and Ready is in the 1st Senate District, represented by Republican Ted Gaines,[13] and the 1st Assembly District, represented by Republican Brian Dahle.[14]

Federally, Rough and Ready is in California's 1st congressional district, represented by Republican Doug LaMalfa.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Census
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Rough and Ready, California
  3. ^ "13 Town Names We Can't Stop Laughing Over". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Gallant, Frank K. (May 17, 2012). A Place Called Peculiar: Stories About Unusual American Place-Names. Courier Dover Publications. p. 30. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  5. ^ Gudde, Erwin G. (1998). California place names : the origin and etymology of current geographical names (4th ed., rev. and enl. ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 322. ISBN 0520213165. 
  6. ^ Salley, Harold E. (1991) History of California Post Offices, 1849–1990, p. 183. The Depot, ISBN 0-943645-27-1
  7. ^ Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Clovis, Calif.: Word Dancer Press. p. 548. ISBN 1-884995-14-4. 
  8. ^ Secession from the U.S.A. - Rough and Ready Chamber of Commerce, California
  9. ^ Erwin, James L. (2007). Declarations of Independence: Encyclopedia of American Autonomous and Secessionist Movements. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-313-33267-8. 
  10. ^ "Rough and Ready". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Rough and Ready CDP". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Senators". State of California. Retrieved March 10, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Members Assembly". State of California. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  15. ^ "California's 1st Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 

External links[edit]