Lost state of Jefferson ... still has its supporters

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YREKA, Calif. - 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 handful of 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. But for a few who remember its history, the movement embodies the mindset 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. Even today, the movement is made up of tourist-friendly whimsy intertwined with more serious themes of discontent.

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