Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Yreka, Capital City ~ State of Jefferson

In December of 1941 Yreka was named the new Capital of the State of Jefferson. It was an exciting and fast moving time when counties from southern Oregon and Northern California first said the word “succession” from their respective states and wanted to form a new 49th state!

This particular movement started with the “Curry County Incident” where a group of folks decided that Southern Oregon and Northern California were being ignored. Roads were bad, bridges were old, and our area was rich with timber and mineral resources that could easily be used for the war effort in Europe against Hitler. On November 17, 1941 a group from Curry County Oregon met with the Yreka Chamber of Commerce to discuss how they could develop our timber and resources for the war effort and our economic prosperity. Much discussion, planning, and late night activities prevailed by the movers and shakers of the time. Yreka’s 20-30 Club, comprised of young businessmen, were instrumental in keeping their plight in the news by feeding information via the state of the art teletypes and telegraphs in the area to major papers in San Francisco and beyond. Parades were held in various towns throughout the area and a favorite protest sign about the conditions of our roads was: “Our roads are not passable, they are hardly jackassable!”

Ten days after that meeting, on November 27, the Yreka 20-30 Club presented their Proclamation of Independence for the hopeful new state. Road blocks were set up along Highway 99 (the main artery of the time heading north and south) at intermittent times. Folks stopped cars and passed out the Proclamation of Independence and then let them on their way. One day a week it was suggested that merchants keep buckets by their cash registers and keep the sales tax from California sales to go to the State of Jefferson.

December 2, 1941 the news media descended upon Yreka and began to report the news of the budding new state and creating news reels to be shown in the theaters of the day. (Newsreels were the CNN and Fox News of 1941; no television, just radio, newspapers and the newsreels one would see at the movies.) The San Francisco Examiner even sent their star reporter, Stanton Delaplane to cover the events. As an interesting side note ~ later Mr. Delaplane received the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage on Yreka and The State of Jefferson in 1942.

On December 4, 1941 a large parade was held in Yreka. Folks from all the counties involved came and marched, there were bands from various areas, folks carrying signs and torches, cars and trucks full of enthusiasts and the streets were packed with observers. On the Siskiyou County Courthouse Square the inauguration of the new Governor of the State of Jefferson, Judge John Childs, from Del Norte County was sworn in and gave a stirring speech to the overflowing crowds. It was the culmination of a swift and productive movement. Folks were told the newsreels would be shown on December 8, 1941 and the new state citizens were eagerly awaiting the reaction of the rest of the United States!

The newsreels, however, were never shown; on December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese and the United States suddenly was at war. On December 8, 1941 a statement was issued to the press by the State of Jefferson Territorial Committee that the current national emergency was of highest importance and all activity of the State of Jefferson would cease.

The State of Jefferson although not an actual separate state, has existed as a state of mind for many citizens within northern California and Southern Oregon for over 155 years. The first recorded news account of this area seeking independence (by this author) was in The New York Daily Times, January 1855.

Copyright, Claudia East