History of the State of Jefferson
and the State of Jefferson Mathematics Congress

 

The State of Jefferson is a place, yet it has no legally defined boundaries. The State of Jefferson is a movement, yet its elusive goals are no nearer to accomplishment now than four decades ago. To some the State of Jefferson is a means, a vehicle by which to reach a goal. To some the State of Jefferson is an end, a goal to be reached by many vehicles. To many, the State of Jefferson is all of these, and more. It is a state of mind.

Yet, if this thing we call Jefferson is in fact a place, a movement, a means, and an end, it must have had a beginning and a subsequent evolution. The recorded history of the State of Jefferson began in October, 1941; although its pre-history predates that by more than a century. It may be said that the whole thing began in ancient history, when the U. S. Secretary of State (John Q. Adams) and the Spanish minister to this country (Luis de Onís) agreed in 1819 to draw an arbitrary line through a country that neither had visited, nor knew anything about. This became the boundary between the States of California and Oregon -- the forty-second parallel.

In the 1850s there were several attempts to readjust this arbitrary line. Several proposals were initiated on the Oregon side of the boundary to establish the Territory of Jackson. At the same time an equal number of plans were proposed from the southern portion -- California -- to create the State of Klamath. In 1909 there was a movement on both sides of the common boundary to form the State of Siskiyou. None of these proposals amounted to anything. Outside of the small circle of initiators, enthusiasm was absent. They had an idea, but no plan. They had reasons, but no cause. And, they had proponents, but no leader. In 1941 a leader stepped forward. He had a cause and he had a plan, which he helped expand far beyond its original scope.

The event constituting the real beginning of the State of Jefferson occurred on October 2, 1941. Gilbert Gable, the mayor of Port Orford, Oregon, appeared before the County Court of Curry County, with a delegation of citizens from that city. Claiming that "apathetic state leadership" had failed to develop the mineral resources of that county, Gable proposed that Curry County secede from Oregon and join California, where they could expect more equitable treatment. The county court, after listening to the mayor's argument, appointed a special three-man commission to study the proposal, to make plans for accomplishing it, to contact officials of the State of California, and to report back to the court at its earliest convenience.

The time was late 1941. Both the citizens and the government of the United States were becoming alarmed over the rapidly deteriorating situation in the western Pacific. Many people felt that we would be involved in a Pacific war within two years. The government was slowly building up its arms production, not only in expectation for a coming war, but also to supply the non-Axis belligerents in Europe. There was a need to step up production of strategic minerals such as chromite, cinnabar, and magnesite, which the Curry County delegation felt were in abundance in that county.

The response to Mayor Gable's stepped-up publicity campaign was not too favorable at first. The director of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries became extremely defensive about all the good things his department was doing in southwestern Oregon. Even the Siskiyou Daily News of Yreka, California, doubted the wisdom of the proposal. The editor of that journal claimed that Northern California was treated unfairly by the rest of the state. In fact, he claimed that the treatment received by his county from California was much the same as that of Curry County from Oregon.

But as time moved on, the response became more favorable. Gable was receiving letters and telegrams of support from all over the country. And, of course, he maintained a steady flow of press releases.

At the end of the month Cable and his delegation met with California's Governor Culbert Olson. They outlined their complaints against the state of Oregon: lack of harbor development, lack of roads into the interior, no state institutions in the county, no citizens of the county appointed to state positions, and lack of support for the development of the lumber and mineral industries. Governor Olson appeared to be sympathetic, but said he was unable to give them any official assistance. He suggested that the delegation meet with Oregon's Governor Charles Sprague and then, with the support of two governors, they could present stronger arguments to the Federal government. He admitted that many of the same problems faced by Curry County existed in California's Del Norte County, and suggested that representatives of the two counties get together and plan a united front.

While Mayor Gable's campaign was building momentum, a similar sort of restiveness was beginning to appear south of the forty-second parallel. Citizens of Siskiyou had been expressing their anger of the short shrift given them by California for years. But other counties were beginning to express their feelings as well. The Alturas Plaindealer carried an article expressing the complaint of a Modoc County delegation that California was uncooperative in the construction of needed highways. The Del Norte Triplicate carried a series of editorials claiming much the same maltreatment from California that Curry was receiving from Oregon.

Gable took note of the opportunity presented by the discontent and appeared at the November 10 meeting of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors. Addressing the group, Gable urged that Curry and Del Norte counties work in concert to promote the resources development of that section of the Pacific Coast. The response was as he had expected. The Board of Supervisors created a special commission for Collaboration with Curry County in the Development of Strategic Defense Minerals. After receiving a grant from the Board to defray expenses, the commission proclaimed the formation of a six-county alliance to promote regional development. And it announced a meeting to take place the next week in Yreka with prominent citizens of Siskiyou County.

The Yreka meeting produced results. A special meeting of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors was called, whereat Siskiyou County's participation was approved. Yet, to this point, only Curry County had gone so far as to propose secession. The same morning as the Siskiyou County Board meeting, the Yreka Chamber of Commerce met and adopted a resolution calling for a study by the counties of southern Oregon and northern California on the possibility of severing their present ties to form the Union's 49th state. Two days later a member of the Modoc County Board of Supervisors expressed his support of the movement.

The momentum was building. It had become an accepted fact that the leaders of four counties -- Curry, Del Norte, Siskiyou, and Modoc -- were proposing the establishment of a new state: the nation's 49th. (This, of course, was before the admission of Alaska and Hawaii. Yet, their new state had no name. Several suggestions were made for such a designation, but none was universally accepted. To ensure wider participation in the new state movement, the Siskiyou Daily News ran a contest inviting the public to pick a name. That name, the newspaper suggested, "should convey the idea of a land of plenty, vast mineral resources, or something else connected directly with the region involved."

On November 24, the Daily News announced the winning name: The State of Jefferson. The winner, a man from Eureka, California, had suggested that the new state be named for the nations third president, the author of the Declaration of Independence. That document, he claimed, "states that the people have a right to govern themselves." He also wrote that Thomas Jefferson was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase and through his foresight the Lewis and Clark expedition was sent to explore the new territory which saved the Pacific Northwest for the United States.

Officials of Lassen County and Susanville indicated an interest in joining the movement. They claimed to have the support of a substantial number of the county's citizens and would bring to the new state the only active volcano in the United States: Mount Lassen, a symbol of smoldering discontent. What they neglected to mention is that Mt. Lassen is not in Lassen County.

On December 1 the movement both gained and lost a county. The Board of Supervisors of Modoc County adopted a resolution unequivocally stating that Modoc wanted no part of the secession attempt. Balancing that setback was the announcement from Weaverville that the Trinity County Board of Supervisors had unanimously voted to support the secession drive. In addition to Trinity County, the movement had picked up another supporter who proved to be extremely valuable: a cub reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle.

This young man -- Stanton Delaplane -- had heard about the secession attempt and thought there might be a story in it. He convinced his editor to send him, in spite of the fact that he was only a beginner. Upon arriving in Yreka he did not find much happening that was newsworthy; so he joined in the planning to provide the kind of stories his readers might find interesting.

One of his proposals was to blockade the highway every Thursday, distributing window stickers and proclamations to passing motorists. And they requested the people to withhold their penny sales tax as a protest against the lack of support for the development of copper mining. The movement was rolling.

After consultations with some of the other leaders of the movement, Gable had called a meeting of the "Provisional Territorial Assembly" to be held in Yreka on December 4, to be followed by a torchlight parade and a rally. But before that meeting could be convened, he died of a heart attack. The new "state" had lost its imaginative, hard-driving organizer; yet the convocation he had planned went on without his guiding hand.

On the day of the rally everything went smoothly. Delegates were present from all of the seceding counties, and even some from Josephine County. The weather was clear and more than a thousand people watched the parade. Many of the marchers carried signs, one of which read: "Our roads are not passable, they are hardly jackassable!"

Although Gilbert Gable had never been officially designated as such, he had frequently been referred to as "governor." It was assumed that since he started the movement he was the logical choice for governor. At the mass meeting in Yreka that day, Judge John L. Childs of Crescent City had been chosen to fill that position. The offices of Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Congressman, and Senators had been filled as well.

For five days prior to the rally, representatives from the national news media -- including Time and Life and five newsreel companies -- had been arriving. They prepared background stories, took action shorts, and filed voluminous reports accompanied with tens of thousands of feet of film.

The state's new leaders then waited. The newsreels and magazine stories were scheduled for release early the following week. But it never happened. On Monday, December 8, 1941, their little rebellion was crowded out by the news from the island of Oahu. That day the Jefferson Territorial Committee issued a news release saying that in view of the present national emergency, the State of Jefferson would cease all activity.

Yet, the State of Jefferson did not die. It merely went dormant. The state has periodically crept into the news. In 1942, Stanton Delaplane of the San Francisco Chronicle was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Reporting. His series of five articles were described as the only bright spot in a winter of disaster: naval and military defeats, national emergency, and rationing.

In 1961, Hal T. Ward of Cave Junction, Oregon, began publication of the Jeffersonian Journal. The goal of this magazine, as stated in its first issue, was to "make each person in the mythical state aware of its sister communities, the potential that the State possesses and the future development of areas within the State." It did not last beyond the charter issue.

In 1965, the Josephine County Historical Society published a book: "The Mythical State of Jefferson; a Pictorial History of Early Northern California and Southern Oregon." The author, Jack Sutton, was billed as the unofficial historian of the State. Only two pages of this volume carried the story of the 1941 secession attempt.

In the late 1960s, the California-Oregon power Company of Medford issued a pamphlet entitled "The State of Jefferson; A History, in which is set down a brief account of its colorful past, its appealing present and its promising future." This one-page document contained a map of the mythical state -- from Garberville to Coos Bay -- and general tourist information about the area.

The State was reincarnated in 1971 at a meeting of the county commissioners of several southern Oregon counties. The plan, initiated by the commissioners from Josephine County, was to include Jackson, Klamath, Coos, Curry, Douglas, and Josephine counties in Oregon, and Del Norte and Siskiyou counties in California. They managed to have the State of Jefferson placed on the agenda of the Association of Oregon Counties meeting where they arrived under the new flag of the state.

Their goal, as in 1941, was to publicize the region and to underscore the second-class status of the rural areas dominated by Los Angeles and Portland. Nothing came of the movement beyond a few dozen column-inches in the newspapers.

In spite of the failure of these several attempts to establish a separate state for this remote section the North American continent, the State lives. There is a certain esprit among the people. They feel the unity of the downtrodden. They know that the metropolitan areas of the two states look to this area as an imperial power regards its colonies -- to take what is needed for the benefit of the mother country and retain the rest as a playground for its urban masses. Yet, they also know that their region is the closest thing to heaven that any terrestrial place can be.

by Stan Mottaz
prepared for the ninth annual
State of Jefferson
Mathematics Congress, 1980


There is also the State of Jefferson Mathematics Congress. Organized jointly by the Mathematics Departments of Humboldt State University and Southern Oregon State University to help overcome the geographical isolation of these institutions from other centers of mathematical activity, the Congress encourages mathematics in the State of Jefferson by bringing people together to share and discuss current ideas on mathematics, applications, and curricular directions.

The inaugural session of the Congress, then known as the Weaverville Mathematics Congress, was held near Weaverville, California, during May 1972; each succeeding May (thru 1997) or October (since 1997) the Congress has reconvened for two days. The most recent sessions, held on the shores of Whiskeytown Lake, have included camping mathematicians and their families from Humboldt State and Southern Oregon, as well as Chico State, Sonoma State, San Francisco State, and the University of Nevada at Reno.

Held in a (somewhat primitive) National Park Service group-campground, the Congress has a formal program consisting of two one-hour talks and an occasional shorter talk. Topics have included research mathematics recalled or in progress, applications of mathematics to areas such as biology and computers, and mathematical history and lore. In addition, the annual Round-Table-Under-the-Oaks Meeting identifies and discusses common concerns of our common mathematical programs. The Congress formally adjourns with the annual "business" meeting, held around an evening campfire.

excerpted from
Richard G. Montgomery
Roy Ryden
MAINTAINING MATHEMATICAL MOMENTUM
IN THE STATE OF JEFFERSON
American Mathematical Monthly
Volume 83, Issue 3 (Mar 1979), p. 216.