Nataqua Territory

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Nataqua Territory
Unofficial territory
The Nataqua territory covered the deserts of western Nevada.
The Nataqua territory covered the deserts of western Nevada.
By implication the east slope of the Sierra Nevada was intended to be part of Nataqua Territory
By implication the east slope of the Sierra Nevada was intended to be part of Nataqua Territory
Coordinates: 40°15′N 118°30′W / 40.25°N 118.5°W / 40.25; -118.5Coordinates: 40°15′N 118°30′W / 40.25°N 118.5°W / 40.25; -118.5
ProclaimedApril 26, 1856
SubsumedMarch 1861

The Nataqua Territory was a short-lived, unofficial territory of the United States. It consisted of a portion of what is now northeastern California and northwestern Nevada. Nataqua Territory was the first incarnation of the proposed "State of Jefferson". In 1849, the border between California and the Utah Territory was defined by geographical coordinates that were not surveyed.[1] On April 26, 1856, local residents took advantage of this ambiguity and justified their resistance to tax collectors from Plumas County, California, by proclaiming themselves part of a new "Territory of Nataqua." The twenty men of the Susanville convention who announced the Nataqua Territory had defined a rectangle-shaped territory by latitude and longitude, which inadvertently did not include their own Honey Lake Valley but did encompass most of what soon became western Nevada, along with 600 unsuspecting inhabitants.[2] The Territory of Nataqua was a frontier land club or claim association, designed to protect the property rights of individual settlers until regular government reached the area.[3] The movement was led by Peter Lassen and Isaac Roop.[4] Association with the Utah Territory was unpalatable to the residents due to anti-Mormonism.

By 1857 the leaders of Honey Lake were working in close co-operation with other settlers on the eastern slope, in the movement centered in Carson Valley for the severance of the political ties of Utah and California and the creation of a new territory along the western rim of the interior plateau.[2] During these years of self-government, Honey Lake Valley, though officially organized as a California township, was mostly left alone by the Plumas County officials. The uncertainty of the boundary and the possibility that the eastern slope would be detached from California and added to a new territory encouraged them to hold off their jurisdiction over the area. The "on-the-fence" status of Honey Lake Valley is one of the principal reasons that the settlers were able to maintain a spirit of independence.[2] The separatist spirit of settlers in the adjoining areas of Honey Lake Valley, Carson Valley, Eagle Valley and several others led to a joint declaration of independence from Eastern Utah in July, 1859. Isaac Roop was chosen as governor of the "Provisional Territorial Government of Nevada Territory" in September and took the oath of office on December 13, 1859.[2]

In March 1861, Congress created the official Territory of Nevada, with the Honey Lake Valley and the area to its north included within its provisional bounds.[2] Later that year, Lake County was formed encompassing the area of the Nataqua Territory. It was renamed Roop County, Nevada in 1862. However, in 1863 a border survey found Susanville (which was named for Roop's daughter) and virtually all the population of Roop County was actually in California. The California portion of Roop County became part of the newly created Lassen County, California in 1864.


  1. ^ California v. Nevada, 44 U.S. 125 (Supreme Court of the United States 1980) ("The two straight-line segments that make up the boundary between California and Nevada were initially defined in California's Constitution of 1849. The first, the "north-south" segment, commences on the Oregon border at the intersection of the 42d parallel and the 120th meridian and runs south along that meridian to the 39th parallel. And the second, the "oblique" segment, begins at that parallel and runs in a southeasterly direction to the point where the Colorado River crosses the 35th parallel. Cal.Const., Art. XII (1849). In 1850, when California was admitted to the Union, Congress approved the 1849 Constitution, and with it California's eastern boundary. Act of Sept. 9, 1850, 9 Stat. 452. . . . Nevada's Constitution stated that its boundary would proceed "in a North Westerly direction along [the oblique section of the] Eastern boundary line of the State of California to the forty third degree of Longitude West from Washington [and then] North along said forty third degree of West Longitude, and said Eastern boundary line of the State of California to the forty second degree of North Latitude. . . ." Nev.Const., Art. XIV, § 1 (1864). Although it turns out that the 43d degree of longitude west from Washington does not exactly coincide with the 120th meridian west of Greenwich—which was the north-south reference in the California Constitution—the Special Master concluded that the Congress that approved Nevada's Constitution was of the view that the two lines were identical. Certainly the language of the Nevada Constitution supports this conclusion by seeming to equate the 43d degree of longitude west of Washington with the eastern boundary of California.").
  2. ^ a b c d e Davis, William Newell Jr. (September 1942). "The Territory of Nataqua: an Episode in Pioneer Government East of the Sierra". California Historical Society Quarterly. 1 (3): 225–28. JSTOR 25161008.
  3. ^ Davis, 226, noting Benjamin F. Shambaugh, "Frontier Land Clubs or Claim Associations", Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1900, I (1901). 69–84.
  4. ^ "US 395: Lassen County (Susanville to Modoc County Line)". Floodgap Roadgap. Retrieved 2006-04-01. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)