Jefferson (proposed Pacific state)

Coordinates: 42°N 122°W / 42°N 122°W / 42; -122
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Proposed U.S. state
Flag of Jefferson
Official seal of Jefferson
One proposed boundary for Jefferson
One proposed boundary for Jefferson
 • Total217,005 km2 (83,786 sq mi)
 • Rank14th (hypothetical)
 • Rank33rd (hypothetical)

The State of Jefferson is a proposed U.S. state that would span the contiguous, mostly rural area of southern Oregon and Northern California, where several attempts to separate from Oregon and California, respectively, have taken place. The region encompasses most of Northern California's land but does not include San Francisco or other Bay Area counties that account for the majority of Northern California's population.

The name "Jefferson" is of uncertain origin.[1][n 1] It has been historically used for other proposed territories or states, too, such as the 19th century "Jefferson Territory,"[n 2] as well as a southern state that would be created from the Texas Panhandle region, as proposed by a 1915 bill in the Texas Legislature.[2][3] However, this region on the Pacific Coast is the most famous.[1]

President Thomas Jefferson, who sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition into the Pacific Northwest in 1803, envisioned the establishment of an independent nation in the western portion of North America that he dubbed the "Republic of the Pacific";[4] hence the association of his name with regional autonomy. The movement for independence, rather than statehood, is known as Cascadia.

If the proposal were ever approved, the new state's capital city would have to be determined by a constitutional convention; Yreka, California, was named the provisional capital in the original 1941 proposal,[5] although Port Orford, Oregon, had also been up for consideration.[5] Some supporters of the more recent revival have also identified Redding, California, as a potential capital,[5] even though Redding is not included in all versions of the proposal and its city council voted in 2013 to reject participation in the movement.[6]

19th century[edit]

The State of Jefferson has its origins in the 19th century. In 1851, gold discovered in the Klamath river basin of Northwest California extended California's gold rush further north to the Klamath river basin and into the Rogue River valley of Southern Oregon.[7] This led to the first large influx of white settlers in the area, causing conflict with local Native populations that eventually culminated in the Rogue River War of 1855-1856.[8]

Furthermore, this influx of American settlers coupled with the wealth they were able to accumulate from the natural resources of the region spurred several political movements that wanted to separate this region from the rest of California and Oregon in the 1850's.[9] Local politicians proposed an independent State of Shasta to the California legislature in 1852, but the bill died in committee.[10] The State of Shasta was revived again in 1855, and various other configurations of an independent state in the same region as the State of Jefferson were proposed throughout the decade (such as the State of Klamath in 1853 and 1854).[10]

The settlers of the region believed that they were distinct from the rest of California and Oregon both culturally and economically, and that because of the large distance separating them from the capitals of California and Oregon, their needs would be better addressed at the local and federal levels by their own State government than by petitioning the California government.[10] In 1860, Congress passed legislation that would allow the region to vote on whether they wanted to be independent from California and Oregon, but the Civil War interrupted this process and quelled independence movements for the rest of the 19th century.[9][10]

20th century[edit]

In October 1941, the Mayor of Port Orford, Oregon, Gilbert Gable, said that the Oregon counties of Curry, Josephine, Jackson, and Klamath should join with the California counties of Del Norte, Siskiyou, and Modoc to form a new state, later named Jefferson.[11]

He was motivated by the belief that these heavily rural areas were underrepresented in state government, which tended to cater to more populous areas.[12] Gilbert Gable was joined in his efforts by Siskiyou State Senator Randolph Collier, whose support led to Yreka being picked as the capital.[13]

On November 27, 1941, a group of young men gained national media attention when, brandishing rifles and pistols, stopped traffic on U.S. Route 99 south of Yreka,[1] the county seat of Siskiyou County, and handed out copies of a Proclamation of Independence, stating that the State of Jefferson was in "patriotic rebellion against the States of California and Oregon" and would continue to "secede every Thursday until further notice."[14]

The state split movement ended quickly, though not before Del Norte County District Attorney John Leon Childs (1863–1953) of Crescent City was inaugurated as the Governor of the State of Jefferson on December 4, 1941.[15]

The first blow was the death of Mayor Gable on December 2, followed by the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. Those in favor of splitting the state focused their efforts on the war effort, which crippled the movement.

San Francisco Chronicle journalist Stanton Delaplane won the 1942 Pulitzer Prize for Reporting for his articles on the State of Jefferson.[16][17]

In 1989, KSOR, the National Public Radio member station based at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, near Medford, rebranded itself as Jefferson Public Radio. It had built a massive network of low-powered translators earlier in the 1980s. By the time KSOR began building full-power stations later in the decade, it realized that the combined footprint of its translator network was roughly coextensive with the original State of Jefferson. It thus felt "Jefferson Public Radio" was an appropriate name when it decided to rebrand itself as a network.[18]

In 1992, California State Assemblyman Stan Statham placed an advisory vote[19] in 31 counties asking if the state should be split into two. All of the proposed Jefferson counties voted in favor of the split[20] (except Humboldt County which did not have the issue on the ballot). Based on these results, Statham introduced legislation in California[21] in an attempt to split the state, but the bill died in committee.

In the late 1990s, the movement for statehood was promoted by a group called the State of Jefferson Citizens Committee, which was originally formed in 1941. Two of the members, Brian Helsaple and Brian Petersen, gathered an extensive collection, including both verbal and written accounts mostly surrounding the 1941 movement. They published a book, Jefferson Saga, in 2000. This, along with revealing the lack of representation and over-regulations, fanned the flame.

21st century[edit]

Jefferson is commemorated by the State of Jefferson Scenic Byway between Yreka and O'Brien, Oregon, which runs 109 miles (175 km) along State Route 96 and U.S. Forest Service Primary Route 48. Near the California – Oregon border, a turnout provides scenic views of the Klamath River valley and three informative display signs about the republic.[citation needed] The region retains this identity reinforced by institutions such as Jefferson Public Radio.

As of the 2020 Census, if the Jefferson counties were a state (original 1941 counties), the state's population would be 484,727: smaller than any state at the time. Approximately 83% of those residents live in Oregon. Its land area would be 21,349.76 square miles (55,295.6 km2) – a little smaller than West Virginia. The area was almost evenly divided between Oregon and California. Its population density would be 22.70 inhabitants per square mile (8.76/km2) – a little more than Idaho.[22] With the addition of the more modern Jefferson movement (Coos and Douglas and Lake Counties in Oregon, and Humboldt, Trinity, Shasta, Lassen, Mendocino, Lake, Tehama, Plumas, Glenn, Butte, Colusa, Sierra, Sutter, Yuba, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Stanislaus, Siskiyou and Mariposa Counties in California), the population as of the 2020 Census would be 3,138,324, making it the 33rd most populous state in the United States.

Counties intending to leave California[edit]

On September 3, 2013, the Siskiyou County, California Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 in favor of withdrawal from California to form a proposed state named Jefferson.[23][24][25] The proposal was joined by the Modoc County Board of Supervisors (September 24)[26] and Glenn County Board of Supervisors (January 21, 2014).[27][28] On April 15, 2014 Yuba County Supervisors joined the State of Jefferson movement to separate from California and create a new U.S. state.[29] On July 15, 2014, the Tehama County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a resolution supporting the declaration of withdrawal from California[30] based on an advisory vote taken on June 6, 2014, where the public voted 56% to 44% in favor of splitting the state.[31] On July 22, 2014, the Board of Supervisors of Sutter County unanimously adopted a resolution supporting a declaration and petition to the Legislature to withdraw from California to redress a lack of representation.[32] On March 3, 2015, Lake County supervisors voted 3 to 2[33][34] to submit the question of secession to voters and on March 17, Lassen County supervisors made a similar declaration[35] that also has the voters deciding in 2016.[36] The Jefferson Declaration Committee is reportedly aiming to get at least 12 counties in support.[23]

On October 24, 2014, Modoc and Siskiyou Counties delivered their declarations[37] for independence from the state of California to the California Secretary of State's office. On January 15, 2015, three more counties, Glenn, Tehama, and Yuba, submitted their official declarations as well.[38]

The 2013 revival was based almost entirely in California.[39] It includes all major parts of California north of 39°. Although some individual residents in Oregon have lobbied for the movement, no county government in that state has endorsed the proposal to date.[40] As of January 6, 2016, 21 northern California counties have sent a declaration or have approved to send a declaration to the State of California with their intent of leaving the state and forming the State of Jefferson.[41] The population of the 21 California counties was 1,747,626 as of the 2010 U.S. Census, which would be 39th most populous state in the Union.

2016 presidential election[edit]

2016 presidential election results, showing a strong Republican presence in the proposed State of Jefferson

After the 2016 presidential election, it was noted that most of the rural California counties which would belong to the State of Jefferson were won in a landslide by Republican nominee Donald Trump, whereas Democrat Hillary Clinton enjoyed an unprecedented level of support in the rest of California, indicating a growing demographic and political divide between the proposed State of Jefferson and the rest of California.[citation needed] While Clinton beat Trump by almost 80 points in San Francisco, he led her by more than 50 points in Lassen County.[42][43] The election of Trump led to calls for a secession of California from the Union and a similar proposal in Oregon, where Clinton won the popular vote while Trump captured the majority of counties.[44][45][46]

With the election of President Donald Trump, some who are considering joining the modern State of Jefferson or are observing the movement have stated that if California secedes, the movement's supporting counties could appeal directly to the United States Congress for statehood, similar to how West Virginia was formed, claiming California would be in insurrection and petitioning to rejoin the Union as an independent state.[47]

On May 8, 2017, the State of Jefferson as "Citizens for Fair Representation" filed a lawsuit against the California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.[48] The suit alleges that California's 1862 law limiting Senators to no more than 40, and Assembly Members to no more than 80, creates an unconstitutional imbalance of representation that precludes effective "self-governance" as protected by the 14th Amendment. The desired result of suing California, for lack of representation and dilution of vote, is better representation across all of California, and ultimately an independent State of Jefferson.[49] The case was dismissed by the lower court and appealed to the Ninth Circuit.[50]

Flag and seal[edit]

Jefferson state flag

The field of the flag is green, and the charge is the Seal of the State of Jefferson: a yellow circle representing a gold mining pan, with the words "The Great Seal Of State Of Jefferson" engraved into the lip, and two capital, black Xs askew of each other.[51]

The two Xs are known as the "Double Cross" and signify the two regions' "sense of abandonment" by the central state governments, in both Southern Oregon and Northern California.[41][n 3]

The gold pan that was ostensibly the first model for the state's seal is on display at the Siskiyou County Museum, in Yreka, California.[52]

Appearances in popular culture[edit]

Jefferson was featured by Huell Howser in Road Trip Episode 143.[53]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The state was "probably" named for Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States. It may also have been a "winking homage" to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America. Journalist James Pogue, reporting on the state for Harper's in 2022, concluded that "no one is really sure" about the origin of the name. See Pogue (2022).
  2. ^ The Jefferson Territory roughly covered modern-day Colorado.
  3. ^ Harper's 2022 report referred to the region being "double crossed" by Salem and Sacramento. See Pogue (2022).


  1. ^ a b c Pogue, James (April 2022). "Notes on the State of Jefferson". Harper's. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  2. ^ "TSHA | Division of Texas".
  3. ^ Division of Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
  4. ^ "Beginnings of Self-Government". End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2011-07-21.
  5. ^ a b c Peter Laufer, The Elusive State of Jefferson: A Journey Through the 51st State. TwoDot, 2013. ISBN 978-0762788361.
  6. ^ "Redding City Council rejects "State of Jefferson" proposal". KRCR-TV, October 2, 2013.
  7. ^ "Gold Mining Along the Klamath, and the Indian Massacre - 1851". Retrieved 2023-03-16.
  8. ^ "Rogue River War of 1855-1856". Retrieved 2023-03-16.
  9. ^ a b Davis (1952-06-01). "State of Jefferson". California Historical Society Quarterly. 31 (2): 125–138. doi:10.2307/25156352. ISSN 0008-1175. JSTOR 25156352.
  10. ^ a b c d Lalande, Jeff (2017). ""The State of Jefferson": A Disaffected Region's 160-Year Search for Identity". Oregon Historical Quarterly. 118 (1): 14–41. doi:10.1353/ohq.2017.0025. ISSN 2329-3780.
  11. ^ Hall, Christopher (September 2003). "Jefferson County: The State that Almost Seceded". Via: AAA Traveler's Companion. AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  12. ^ Michael J. Trinklein (2010). Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It. Quirk Books. ISBN 978-1-59474-410-5
  13. ^ "State of Jefferson". Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  14. ^ D'Souza, Tony (December 11, 2008). "State of Jefferson dreams were dashed by Pearl Harbor". Mount Shasta Herald. Archived from the original on 2021-07-15. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  15. ^ Holt, Tim (June 24, 2011). "A modest proposal – downsize California!". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  16. ^ Gunther, John (1947). Inside U.S.A. New York, London: Harper & Brothers. pp. 62–63.
  17. ^ "Stanton Delaplane, 80; San Francisco Writer". The New York Times. April 21, 1988. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  18. ^ "State of Jefferson – Jefferson Public Radio".
  19. ^ "CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS '92 : 31 Counties to Vote on the Divisive Issue of Splitting the State: Government: Secession has backers in the rural north, but the advisory plebiscite has no legal effect". Los Angeles Times. May 30, 1992. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  20. ^ "Historical Efforts to Split California into Multiple States". Gary and Deborah Aufdenspring. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  21. ^ "The "Upstate California" campaign is déjà vu all over again for Stan Statham". Sacramento News & review. January 3, 2002. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  22. ^ Using the 2010 Census QuickFacts figures for each of the following counties: Curry, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, Del Norte, Siskiyou, Modoc.
    "DataSet.txt". State & County QuickFacts. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on September 30, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2012. (See "Download the Database Archived 2012-11-11 at the Wayback Machine" for an explanation of this data set.)
  23. ^ a b Longoria, Sean, Siskiyou supervisors support withdrawal from California Archived 2014-06-20 at the Wayback Machine, Redding Record Searchlight, September 4, 2013, accessed September 4, 2013.
  24. ^ Mather, Kate, Siskiyou County votes to pursue secession from California, Los Angeles Times, September 4, 2013, accessed September 4, 2013
  25. ^ Northern California County Board Votes For Secession From State, CBS, San Francisco, September 4, 2013.
  26. ^ "Modoc County joins Siskiyou in state of Jefferson bid for secession". 2013-09-24. Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  27. ^ "Supervisors vote to join secession effort". 2014-01-21. Retrieved 2014-01-22.
  28. ^ "State of Jefferson takes root in Glenn County". 2014-01-21. Retrieved 2014-01-22.
  29. ^ "Yuba County supervisors endorse State of Jefferson". 2014-04-16. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  30. ^ "Supervisors approve of Jefferson". 2014-07-15. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  31. ^ "Tehama County Voters Approve Advisory Measure To Secede From California". 2014-06-14. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  32. ^ "Sutter County votes for State of Jefferson". 2014-07-23. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  33. ^ "Board votes for Jefferson". Record Bee Community News. 2015-02-17. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  34. ^ "Lake County voters to weigh in on secession". The Press Democrat. 2015-03-15. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  35. ^ "Lassen County Declaration" (PDF). 2015-03-17. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  36. ^ "Lassen County Meeting Summary". 2015-03-17. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  37. ^ "2 California counties ask to form separate state". USA Today. 2014-08-28. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  38. ^ "State of Jefferson brings three more California counties on board". Sacramento Bee. 2015-01-15. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  39. ^ "Secession: Realistic hope or illusion?". Medford Mail Tribune, September 8, 2013.
  40. ^ "California secession vote fails in two counties bordering Oregon; passes in one other county". The Oregonian, June 4, 2014.
  41. ^ a b Koseff, Alexei (January 6, 2016). "State of Jefferson supporters plan bill seeking independence from California". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  42. ^ Reese, Phillip (November 16, 2016). "Clinton may have won California – but Trump carried its white rural north". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 2016-11-21.
  43. ^ Miller, Jim (November 10, 2016). "California hasn't always been so blue in presidential races". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 2016-11-21.
  44. ^ Silva, Cristina (November 12, 2016). "Will California And Oregon Leave The Union? Facts About CalExit And Democrats' Secession Movement". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 2021-07-15. Retrieved 2016-11-21.
  45. ^ Garcia, Arturo (November 11, 2016). "Oregon Secession Petition Withdrawn After 'Threats' To Organizers". Archived from the original on 2021-07-15. Retrieved 2016-11-21.
  46. ^ Acker, Lizzy (November 10, 2008). "After Donald Trump victory, Oregonians submit ballot proposal to secede from the union". The Oregonian/OregonLive. Retrieved 2016-11-21.
  47. ^ "unity-declaration - Official State of Jefferson Movement". Official State of Jefferson Movement. Retrieved 2017-05-15.
  48. ^ "A verified complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief for misapportionment and unconstitutional vote dilution and abridgment in the California Assembly and state Senate" (PDF).
  49. ^ "CFR - Official State of Jefferson Movement". Official State of Jefferson Movement. Archived from the original on 2018-08-21. Retrieved 2017-05-15.
  50. ^[bare URL]
  51. ^ The real history and meaning behind the State of Jefferson,
  52. ^ "Jefferson State Seal". Getty Images. Siskiyou Museum. January 5, 2016. Retrieved September 24, 2022.
  53. ^ "State Of Jefferson-Road Trip with Huell Howser (143) – Huell Howser Archives at Chapman University".

Further reading[edit]

  • James T. Rock. The State of Jefferson: the Dream Lives on! Siskiyou County Museum, 1999.

External links[edit]

42°N 122°W / 42°N 122°W / 42; -122