The most common question asked of residents of this part of the country is: Does the State of Jefferson REALLY exist?
The answer is a resounding, "Yes, the State of Jefferson exists, and it exists as more than a fantasy." According to many who reside here, the real State of Jefferson, however, is characterized by a state of mind, not a state with borders. Thus, today's Jefferson-staters can be found in counties along the California coast or down in the Sacramento Valley, near the Nevada state line, or across southern Oregon, which means there are potentially more areas that claim the designation than those included in this guidebook. We have selected, therefore, those counties that have been consistently identified with the geographical boundaries of the one-time "49th" state and today's "proposed 51st" state.
Like the rugged mountains that dominate the region, Jefferson's struggle for statehood has been defined by its history. Beginning in 1852, a bill to divide the territory into a new state was introduced into the California State Legislature at Vallejo. Though the bill failed, the concept did not.
In 1859, gold miners from the borderline counties tried again to maneuver state lines, this time to avoid paying taxes. Petitions were circulated, calling for the establishment of a county with names such as Klamath, Shasta, or Jackson.
In 1860, Oregon tried to realign its state line to include more of California. This led to the establishment of California's northern boundary at 42 degrees north.
Others continued to speak up for separation even as the decades marched on. C. K. Klum wrote in a March 31, 1910 letter to the editor that any new state be named Jefferson: "We have had men who exhibited a wisdom and prescience for our welfare that places us under a debt of gratitude, and their names should be given to our new states. Jefferson, in accepting Bonaparte's offer for the sale of the Louisiana Purchase without any constitutional authority, as he admits, for doing it, placed us under such obligation. Acting without loss of time, he at once organized and sent off the Lewis and Clark exploring expedition to cinch and bind the bargain."
Mayor Gilbert E. Gable and others took up the call when they entered the Curry County courthouse, demanding that Curry County be transferred from Oregon to California, again in protest against its state politicians' disregard for the region. Curry County is now considered the birthplace of today's State of Jefferson "history." Gable sent a letter to California Governor Culbert L. Olson who responded with modest enthusiasm. Oregon's attorney general also responded, suggesting that Curry County "could annex itself to a dry lake" if it so desired. Nonetheless, Gable appointed himself interim governor and announced his platform: the new state would not impose sales taxes, income taxes, or liquor taxes, but would rely on its resources as well as a healthy red-light district to bring in revenue. Judge John Childs of Crescent City, California, joined the effort.
Yreka, California, became the designated state capital. The Yreka 20-30 Club (a social group of local notables) drafted a Proclamation of Independence and staged a protest along Highway 99. They declared that the State of Jefferson was the 49th State of the Union, and that "patriotic Jeffersonians intend to secede each Thursday until further notice."
The name Jefferson was selected after Yreka's local paper, The Siskiyou Daily News, ran a contest. J. E. Mundell of Eureka, California, submitted the winning name. A seal was created: a gold mining pan etched with two Xs to signify the double-cross by Salem and Sacramento politicians. Today the seal is still used on flags, banners, and Jefferson memorabilia.
One young reporter, Stanton Delaplane, of the San Francisco Chronicle, traveled north to cover the story. Criss-crossing the region, he was impressed by the rugged environment and the determined residents living within its confines; at the same time he compiled a stirring series of articles, which won him the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism. Others followed him north to document the historic struggle.
December 4, l941 was declared election day for the State of Jefferson's governor's race. John Childs won by a landslide and a parade and speeches were made from the county courthouse steps. But three days later, Pearl Harbor was bombed and the nation went to war. Jefferson put aside its "revolt" and joined the war effort.
It seemed the dream had died. However, the concept of a State of Jefferson has never been forgotten. Why? Why do so many people still cling to the hope of a separate identity?
Sheltered by mountains and forests, fed by cold streams and long winters, the people are inextricably linked to the rugged environment that nurtures them, and they have retained an identity that separates them from their urban and suburban neighbors. As if to maintain that identity, there are Jefferson State reminders everywhere, including the area's National Public Radio Station, JPR, and countless businesses identified as Jefferson entities.
So, come and visit some of the Historic Inns and Eateries that represent one aspect of the colorful history of this unique and beautiful area. Though we have not included all of the potentially delightful sites in this volume, we have scoured the region for those we found intriguing.
We have introduced each location by providing a brief history of how that community or area was settled, followed by the history of the inn or restaurant listed, including recent and/or historical photographs. Finally, we have included a chapter of recipes collected from a number of the places we visited. We hope you find them as elightful as we did.