The last states to join the United States were Alaska and Hawaii, back in 1959, making a total of 50 states in the union. Yet, what is not mentioned in the history books are those areas, regions and sections of the present United States that were for a short time a separate state or even one location that declared itself a separate and independent kingdom.
The following represents just a small sampling of a few of those locations and their stories.
State of Franklin
It is near the end of the American Revolutionary War with the 13 British colonies breaking with the motherland to become their own independent nation. At that time, there were also a group of independent-minded people in what would later become northeastern Tennessee who did not want to be part of the new state of Virginia or North Carolina, but rather their own state – the 14th one to the new United States.
Partially from those lands ceded by North Carolina to the new national Congress of the Confederation to pay off war debts, and because the people of the region wanting to secede from North Carolina, it appeared a done deal.
So on Aug. 23, 1784 those settlers followed the procedure to be recognized as an independent state, with its own state constitution, governor, court system and legislature. A special convention of delegates met in Jonesborough and later in November 1785 in Greenville drafting their new state, but with a similar structure as the North Carolina state constitution.
This new state petitioned for statehood and was called the State of Franklin (also the name State of Frankland was submitted to the Continental Congress), in honor of Benjamin Franklin. The newly elected governor was that of John Sevier with the state capital in Greenville. The convention of delegates even set up the court system, designed counties and their boundaries, made treaties with the local Indians and set the taxation standards.
Over the next few years the State of Franklin existed, but was never formally admitted to the United States, never getting enough votes by the other states’ delegates to be admitted. They came as close as two votes shy of being admitted.
With no national army or state militia, problems began with the local native Indians and the frontier settlers. By early 1788, there developed two oppositional groups with different opinions in the State of Franklin. One group led by Col. John Tipton who wanted to work with the government of North Carolina to see if this region could rejoin with that state vs. John Sevier, the governor, who wanted to keep the new separated state. Besides dealing with Tipton, Gov. Sevier and his frontiersmen followers had been increasing their violation of lands and the unlawful killings of the native Indians. These actions eventually put a warrant on Sevier’s head by North Carolina, who wanted the region back and Sevier was eventually captured by Col. Tipton in October 1788 and sent to Morganton, N.C.
Sevier escaped with assistance from his supporters, but he was recaptured in February 1789. In spite of what happened over the last few years, all Sevier and his followers had to do was swear an oath of allegiance to North Carolina and a pardon was later issued.
Within a few years, that same former Franklin State was again given to the national government as the Southwest Territory from which the State of Tennessee was created. Two of the major players in the establishment of Tennessee were John Sevier and John Tipton. Tennessee did become a state in 1796, a land area much larger than the original State of Franklin. Its first governor was John Sevier.
The Proposed State of Westsylvania
Westsylvania was a proposed state that also would have been liked to become the 14th state. This region was made up of western Pennsylvania, parts of what would later be West Virginia and portions of eastern Kentucky.
Back in the early 1770s there had been a dispute over lands between Pennsylvania and Virginia. Those settlers on the lands felt the governmental heads of Pennsylvania and Virginia were too far east and did not care in assisting the western regions.
By 1776, the settlers of these lands west of the Allegheny Mountains were protesting and sending petitions to the Continental Congress to be recognized as a separate province or state to be known as Westsylvania. The Second Continental Congress ignored the petition for the new creation. The settlers continued to protest with no results.
By the end of the American Revolutionary War in the early 1780s, there were increasing native Indian attacks on the settlers, with little or no aid coming from Virginia, Pennsylvania or the new national government. New petitions in 1783 were sent to the Congress with some 1,750 names.
Negotiators went sent to help calm the situation. Congress was not interested in this becoming a new state. With the border disputes settled between Virginia and North Carolina all was needed were some reasonable conversations. The Rev. James Finley goes to the region and was very effective in ending the proposed Westsylvania suggested state.
State of Jefferson
There was a section back in 1852 in northern California, along with the southern portion of Oregon that had tried to combine. Over the decades the creation of such a blend never occurred.
By 1941 things began to change. The people of that region felt ignored by both the California and Oregon state legislatures. A large group of citizens from that area created the “State of Jefferson Citizen’s Committee” to investigate the possibilities of secession from those two states. Whole outlines of grievances against the two states were written up and pamphlets written for the general public to let people know what was being suggested.
Not just talk, discussion or pamphlets were done, but even the development of a new state flag for the state of Jefferson. The symbols on the flag demonstrated the double-cross reaction those citizens felt toward California and Oregon. The flag had a gold miner’s pan with two black ‘x’s’ inside. The name ‘Jefferson’ was actually selected based on a contest from the citizens to submit a name and Jefferson was selected for the fine attitudes that President Thomas Jefferson had always demonstrated for rights of the people.
Judge John Childs from Crescent City became the new elected governor for the State of Jefferson and so was named on Dec. 4, 1941. The state capital was placed in Yreka, California. The area and towns in this new state included the southwest coastal region of Oregon and the county of Curry. In the northern California side Yreka, Crescent City, Susanville, Alturas, Sawyers Bar and Dunsmuir.
The state of Jefferson had made a Proclamation of Independence and wished to become the 49th state. The main source of governmental finances would be come the royalties on mining and timber developments.
All types of publicity were made ready about the secession and a new state to be formally announced to the world when Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was bombed by the nation of Japan on Dec. 7, 1941.
With such national and world events and American’s entrance into World War II, the citizens of the proposed State of Jefferson dropped their idea of secession.
The State of Rough and Ready
There was a mining town founded in 1849 in north-central California, very near Sacramento by the Rough and Ready Company of Wisconsin. As with any 19th century mining frontier town, the people flocked to the town, most coming from Wisconsin and the population very quickly reached 3,000. With such rapid growth and money comes increased crime to the area.
The citizens of the town of Rough and Ready were not happy with a new state mining tax on all claims. There were con men cheating many of the miners out of their money with no punishment. A post office was added, but one where the post office wanted the town’s name either ‘Rough’ or ‘Ready’, but not both. The people were now really upset. The citizens had enough and decided by a vote to secede from the United States in April 1850.
During the following months after declaring themselves the Great Republic of Rough and Ready they thought everything was going well. With plans for the big 4th of July celebrations taking shape several citizens went to the larger nearby town of Nevada City to stock up on liquor. No merchant there would sell any alcohol to what they considered foreign citizens.
Suddenly the Rough and Ready town’s folks realized they were not part of the United States and looked at as a foreigner. They would have nothing to do with that concept and immediately voted the town back into the Union. The State of Rough and Ready no longer existed, but the town did keep its full name.
State of Superior
In 1858, the citizens of the upper peninsula of Michigan first considered the concept of secession and being the State of Superior or State of Ontonagon. Again in 1897, the idea of creating the State of Superior developed. Back then the people in the Upper Peninsula felt their interests were never addressed by the state government of Michigan. However, nothing was really done to try and make the secession happen.
Sixty years later when the Mackinac Bridge was constructed connecting the Upper Peninsula area to lower Michigan and strong sense of animosity developed by the people of the upper peninsula by this new influx of people coming to their region. The native citizens of the Upper Peninsula were known as ‘Yoopers’ and those from Lower Michigan as ‘Trolls’. The Yoopers had enough by the 1970s through the 1980s and collected some 20,000 signatures to start the petition for secession from Michigan and create the State of Superior, making it the 51st state.
The number of signatures officially needed was 36,000, which those Yoopers supporting this new state were never able to achieve fully. The petition died, but perhaps not the concept.
State of Absaroka
In the 1930s in Wyoming the state politically was divided. The Republican Party was very strong in the northern regions of Wyoming and the Democrats in the southern section. Those in the conservation Republican section felt they were not getting their due assistance and support from the Democratic half.
It was in 1939 that those Republican launched the concept of creating a new state, the State of Absaroka. The name comes from the mountain range nearby. It was not just portions of Wyoming involved, but also the southeastern section of Montana and the western area of South Dakota that would be part of this new state.
Other regions across the country at other times had attempted through legal proper channels to break from Wyoming and apply for statehood. Not so for the State of Absaroka. Instead there was Mr. A. R. Swickard from Sheridan, Wyoming who just appointed himself governor of this new state. He established the town of Sheridan as the capital. The supporters also had special Absaroka license plates made up to place on their vehicles. Their own beauty queen was crowned “Miss Absaroka.” A proposed state flag was designed with the number 49 on it, making it the 49th state.
With 1940 and the thought of war on the horizon the people turned their attention to other activities and the State of Absaroka became a memory.
Kingdom of Beaver Island
Besides new states being proposed there were also a kingdom created which lasted nearly 6 years. Just off the coast of Lake Michigan some 32 miles is a small island known as Beaver Island. Back in 1848, James J. Strang, a Mormon religious leader and his followers established a church on the island, a place of about 56 square miles. Strang and his fellow Mormons built roads, farms and a town, naming it St. James.
By 1850, James Strang had such a following he made himself king of the church on the island believing he was the sole successor to the Morman leader Joseph Smith. He even had his own crown, a wooden scepter and 5 wives. The Kingdom of Beaver Island was now created and declared a separate nation.
His kingdom grew and dominated every aspect of life on the island, even for the population who were not followers of the Morman religion and Strang. Because of many of the strict rules set by Strang, even his followers were starting to turn against him.
In June 16, 1856, the USS Michigan, a U. S. Naval gunboat, pulled into the Beaver Island harbor and invited James Strang aboard. Approaching the ship, suddenly two of his unhappy followers ran up behind Strang and shot him three times in the back. The killers managed to run up gangplank afterwards, with no one stopping them. The USS Michigan immediately left the harbor with the two killers. They were later assisted in getting to Mackinac Island and never charged with Strang’s death. James Strang died of his wounds on July 9, 1856.
Those 2,600 loyal remaining supporters of Strang were eventually forced off Beaver Island by others, including people from other neighboring islands. The Kingdom of Beaver Island never formed again.
Lost State of Franklin
State of Jefferson