'Jefferson' To Become 51st State?

The push to form a 51st state between California and Oregon gained some steam this week as Modoc County, population 9,517, voted to formally explore the possibility of seceding from California. This makes it the second county in California to do so in recent weeks after Siskiyou County passed a similar resolution earlier this month.

“We’re not saying we’re seceding today, we’re saying let’s look into it,” said Geri Byrne, Chair of the Modoc County Board of Supervisors. “I put the measure on the agenda because I heard from a number of people in my district that wanted to do such.”

Proponents of secession feel snubbed by Sacramento, which they perceive as too urban-centric, and identify more strongly with the rural counties clustered at the top of the state. The ultimate plan is for a handful of counties on the border (as many as twelve) to secede and form a new state, Jefferson. This would require the approval of not only California but also the U.S. Congress, so to call it a long shot would be an understatement. However, the Jefferson secessionist movement actually goes back more than 70 years.

It began in 1941, when several California-Oregon border counties banded together to protest the lack of sufficient roads and bridges in the region. A collective demand for federal assistance quickly spiraled into a call for secession, and the proto-state formally proclaimed its independence that November. It drafted a constitution and even elected a governor, but then Pear Harbor happened. With Japan having formally declared war on the United States, any talk of secession, even within the union, was suddenly considered poor form, and the Jefferson movement quickly faded away.

But several counties in the northern tip of California still want to secede. Siskiyou County’s Board of Supervisors voted to do so on September 3rd of this year, and Butte County has scheduled a vote on the matter for October 22nd. The Vice Mayor of Redding County is a vocal proponent of secession, and Lassen County is considering scheduling a vote as well.

In the meantime, be sure to check out folksy, delightful web presence of Jefferson. There’s the online store, at which you can buy Jefferson hats and license plate frames;, which boasts to be the epicenter of the current day movement; and the Jefferson News Service, which inexplicably has a recipe for glazed ham on its homepage.

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