“State of Jefferson” Wants to Secede

Once again, the “State of Jefferson” wants to secede from California and Oregon. But the name Jefferson doesn’t necessarily refer to our third president. Many residents believe it refers to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Jefferson doesn’t refer to our third president, but to Jefferson Davis.

Once again, the “State of Jefferson” wants to secede from California and Oregon. In the early 1940s residents rallied around the idea of becoming the 49th state. Now, some are rallying around the idea of becoming the 51st.

Lake County and Lassen County will submit the question of secession to voters in 2016. The Jefferson Declaration Committee is reportedly aiming to get at least 12 counties to vote in support of secession.

For many residents, the name Jefferson doesn’t necessarily refer to our third president. It refers to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Obviously this lends an entirely different (and much creepier) meaning to the term Jeffersonian.

What is that about?

European immigrants to the Left Coast came primarily through Appalachia and Yankeedom, and our culture is a hybrid of Yankee (with its quest for establishing utopia on Earth) and Appalachian (with its yearning for independence, self-expression, and artisanal stuff like whiskey).

The Yankee influence is felt most strongly in our urban centers, while the Appalachian influence is strongest in our rural areas. It doesn’t get much more rural than the area that lies about 250 miles away from both San Francisco and Portland.

Best part of the Jefferson Davis page on Wikipedia:

Preceded by: Position established
Succeeded by: Position abolished

While it would be painting with too broad a brush to say the entire movement for the State of Jefferson is something ginned up by descendants of the Confederacy who populated the area, there’s no denying the region’s history of Appalachian-style clannishness, racism, and disdain for the government and public lands upon which its existence depends.

But win or lose, you have to respect the underlying yearning for independence and self-definition—the same goals that propelled the creation of the United States.

In the early 1800s, Thomas Jefferson envisioned the entire West Coast as a new independent nation, separate from the United States, but allied with it, called the Republic of the Pacific.

“A great, free, and independent empire on that side of our continent, populated by American settlers, but separated from the United States.”

—Thomas Jefferson

Perhaps when Jefferson thought more about this future Republic of the Pacific, he realized that making the Louisiana Purchase—linking the two coastal republics as one contiguous whole—might be a good idea.


↑ Not the State of Jefferson the “State of Jefferson” has in mind.

For Jefferson to become a new state would require the approval of California, Oregon, and the US Congress. The odds of that happening are quite small. Whether Jefferson becomes the 51st state, or remains the “Mystical State of Jefferson,” it will nevertheless endure as a regional identity and “state of mind.” And in that regard, it won’t be unlike the Left Coast, the region (and erstwhile empire) in which the State of Jefferson nests.


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


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

By The Editors

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