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Pearl Harbor Bombing Put Crackpot Idea to Split California on Hold

Pearl Harbor Bombing Put Crackpot Idea to Split California on Hold

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It may come as a surprise that the idea to truncate California into multiples states has been around for over 160 years. What may be more surprising is that the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which Sunday marked its 73rd anniversary, has a role in why the far-fetched idea has never come to fruition.

According to archaeologist James T. Rock, plans to create a state out of the northern part of California and the southernmost part of Oregon dates back to 1852. Some of the names that were considered were “Klamath,” “Jackson,” “Shasta” and “Jefferson.” Residents living in these areas found splitting the state attractive because they believed that politicians were preoccupied with more populous regions to the south and ignored their rural concerns such as developing better roads and dissatisfaction with water rights laws.

The Times Standard News in an article by Clay McGlaughlin noted that the Siskiyou Daily News in 1941 held a contest to name the proposed state. “State of Jefferson” won the contest. A yellow circle with a “double cross” design became the state seal and flag as a reminder that the area had been double crossed by California and Oregon Capitols Sacramento and Salem.

Though Port Orford, Oregon, Mayor Gilbert Gable heralded the new state movement as a way to bring attention to the rural communities grievances, journalism professor at the University of Oregon Peter Laufer wrote a book charging that the entire proposal was a “charade.” He wrote that, “local yokels manipulated big city slickers into believing they were seceding … and managed to get publicity coast-to-coast for their faux state in an attempt gain support for fixing their bad roads and to draw tourist dollars to their cash registers.”

The movement went as far as anointing Judge John L. Childs of Crescent City as governor of Jefferson on Dec. 4, 1941 and established a Capitol in Yreka.

Nevertheless, despite support from a number of newspapers, politicians, and residents in the area, the movement came to a screeching halt. On December 7 1941, a day which Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “would live in infamy” the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii shifting the media’s attention to America’s participation in World War II.

According to a StateofJefferson.com article by Rock, “Governor” Childs issued a statement:

“In view of the national emergency, the acting officers of the Provisional Territory of Jefferson here and now discontinue any and all activities. The State of Jefferson was originated for the sole purpose of calling the attention of the proper authorities … to the fact we have immense deposits of strategic and necessary defense minerals and that we need roads to develop those. We have accomplished that purpose and henceforth all of our efforts will be directed toward assisting our states and federal government in the defense of our country.”


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