Jefferson StateIn October of 1941, the mayor of Port Orford, Oregon, Gilbert Gable, announced that the Oregon counties of Curry, Josephine, Jackson, and Klamath should join with the California counties of Del Norte, Siskiyou and Modoc to form a new state, which was later named Jefferson.
Gable, who had come to Port Orford after a career in public relations in Philadelphia, proposed creating this new state to draw attention to the condition of the state roads along the Oregon-California border, which at the time were oiled dirt roads that became impassible in rain or snow, and handicapped economic development. As local historian Jim Rock explains, "It was more publicity stunt than serious seccesion movement at that point. After all, under the U.S. Constitution, they had to get the approval of Congress as well as the legislatures of both states."
Gable's act found sympathy throughout the region, who perceived their state legislatures as indifferent to their needs. Sisikiyou county especially embraced the cause: the county seat Yreka became the provisional capital, where in November, 1941 county representatives met and selected the name Jefferson for their county, in commemoration of Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president.
While inhabitants in Lassen and Shasta counties in northern California flirted with joining the succession movement, only the counties of Curry, Sisikiyou, Trinity, and Del Norte actually endorsed the idea.
On November 27, 1941, a group of young men gained national media attention when, brandishing hunting rifles for dramatic effect, they stopped traffic on highway US 99 south of Yreka, and handed out copies of a Proclamation of Independence, stating that the state of Jefferson was in "patriotic rebellion against the States of California and Oregon" and would continue to "secede every Thursday until further notice."
The succession movement came to an aburpt end. The first blow was the death of mayor Gable on December 2. Judge John Childs of Sisikiyou county was elected to replace Gable as provisional governor in time for the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7. Both national media and local inhabitants agreed that World War II was far more important than their succession movement, and turned their attention away from the state of Jefferson.
Jefferson is commemorated by the State of Jefferson National Forest Scenic Byway between Yreka and O'Brien, Oregon, which runs 108 miles along California Highway 96 and US Forest Service Primary Route 48.