Wednesday, March 19, 2008

YREKA, Calif. (AP) In extreme Northern California, far from the bright lights of Hollywood and the foggy charms of San Francisco, is a place unknown to most people: a few counties that once sought to make themselves into a separate state called Jefferson.

The idea lasted only a few days in 1941 before it was quashed by the attack on Pearl Harbor. For a few who remember its history, the movement embodies the mind-set of this sparsely populated country that still longs for more autonomy.

“We’ve always fostered an independent streak up here,” said Pete LaFortune, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce in Yreka (pronounced why-REEK-ah), about 270 miles north of San Francisco.

More than six decades later, many residents of the mountainous region along the California-Oregon border continue to complain that their concerns are overlooked and undervalued by decision-makers in more populated areas.

The state of Jefferson began as part publicity stunt, part political gesture.

In the Palace Barber Shop on Yreka’s main drag hangs an animal skull decorated with the XX brand adopted by the Jeffersonians of 1941 to signify their disgust with being “double-crossed” by authorities.

“A lot of the laws and different things that affect us are voted on by people who’ve never been here and don’t know anything about us,” said John Lisle, a barber at the shop, which is said to have been around since Yreka was a Gold Rush town.

The 1941 secessionists were angry about the region’s poor roads, which became useless in winter.

These days it’s not hard to get to Yreka. Interstate 5, which runs the length of California, is a long, smooth route.

But plenty of resentment is simmering over long-standing government limits on logging and fishing and a proposal to rip out a series of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River to help struggling salmon runs.

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