Ivan Hyde and his wife Gini have lived in Happy Camp for 45 and 60 years respectively, during which time they have collected memorbilia about the State of Jefferson which they house in a makeshift museum in the back of their Siskiyou House antiques shop and visitor’s center on the main street running through the remote town of Happy Camp.
Retirning and shy, Hyde nevertheless betrays a glint in his eye when talking about the mythical ‘state that never was’ which many of us continue to be enamoured of, and which few outside of our region have ever heard metioned.
Not only does Hyde have copies of the official State of Jefferson “Proclamation Of Independence,” but numerous photos of the roadblocks citizens of Jefferson set up during their secession. He also has the first letter ever sent to an address in the State of Jefferson, successfully delivered to the Post Office in Happy Camp in 1941.
A quick glance through Hyde’s documents reveals that the State of Jefferson movement began because of infrastructure neglect in the Siskiyous by both California and Oregon. Though the Gray Eagle Mine outside Happy Camp, the largest copper mine in California, was greatly contributing to two states’ wealth and advancement, neither Salem nor Sacramento were investing in roads or services for the miners and their families. Electricity did not reach the Happy Camp area until 1939, for example, and the axle-bending roads were treacherous,  muddy, and too often impassable
Seiad’s Bill Maginnis has previously written, “Up until December 7, 1941-WWII, both Sacramento and Salem ignored the conditions of roads in Northern California and Southern Oregon but took the minerals, trees, and revenues for use elsewhere. The mountain communities were being ‘double-crossed XX’.”
With their voices not being heard in the states’ capitals, on November 27, 1941, the people of the neglected region raised the XX flag and ‘seceeded’ from Oregon and California to become the 49th state. In their “Proclamation of Independence” issued from their ‘Temporary State Capital, Yreka’, the State of Jefferson Citizens Committee wrote, “Jefferson is now in patriotic rebellion aganst the States of California and Oregon. Patriotic Jeffersonians intend to secede each Thursday until further notice... For the next hundred miles as you drive along Highway 99, you are traveling parallel to the greatest copper belt in the Far West... TheUnited States government needs this vital mineral. But gross neglect by California and Oregon deprives us of necesarry roads to bring out the copper ore... If you don’t believe this, drive down the Klamath River highway and see for yourself. Take your chains, shovel and dynamite.”
Pictures in the museum show Jeffersionians setting up roadblocks and holding up signs that read, ‘Victory Minerals for Defense,’ ‘Money for Roads,’ ‘The USA needs Jefferson,’and ‘Pack Mules Pay No Gas Tax.’
The active secessionist movement ran for two weeks, fizzling out immediatly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. With the US entrance into the Pacific Theater, by 1942 the Department of Transportation was ordered to improve Highway 96 to access the chromite and copper, according to Maginnis.
Though those Jeffersonians did not manage to get their state established, in some ways they did. A cultural unity between the resource rich, mountain folk of far northern California and southern Oregon continues to inform an understanding of a real differnce bewteen our region and ‘down the hill’. As to whether we’re still being ‘double-crossed’, .....