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California could've been three states

History never repeats itself, but it rhymes.

— Attributed to Mark Twain

Mark Twain may or may not have said it, but he does get the credit and, whether history repeating or rhyming is a good or a bad thing — well, that’s for you to decide.

I’m guessing you may have heard about the California man who recently said he wants to divide California into three states. You may also have heard about the latest attempt to merge part of Northern California with Southern Oregon and make a brand new state — the State of Jefferson.

Would you believe there’s nothing new under our sun?

Take California. Months before its admission as a state in September 1850, there were demands it be divided into north and south. Proponents said it was an issue of economics and better political representation, while the opposition believed it was an attempt to bring slavery to the West Coast.

There were calls for constitutional conventions to address the issue, and in 1852 a San Francisco representative actually suggested dividing the state into thirds.

Well, now the ball was really rolling. In quick succession came announcements that from a large portion of Northern California, a State of Klamath, and then a State of Shasta, would be formed. That’s when Oregon joined in.

Still a territory in search of statehood in 1853, Oregon had just seen its northern portion taken away with the formation of Washington Territory. By the end of the year, future Oregon senator General Joseph Lane was in the nation’s capital asking that Oregon be divided north and south, along a line just south of today’s city of Eugene.

Immediately, State of Klamath advocates in Northern California joined with enthusiastic Southern Oregonians under a battle cry of, “Let us have a New Territory!” On Jan. 25, 1854, the two groups formally met in Jacksonville.

Held in Dr. Jesse Robinson’s hotel, 21 delegates, representing both states, resolved to make every effort to prevent formation of an Oregon State Government based on current territorial boundaries.

Capt. Robert Emmet Miller argued that a new territory and eventual state finally would get congressional attention to the needs he felt were being ignored. “We have a good and generous government that would scorn to neglect any of her citizens like Southern Oregon and Northern California have been neglected.”

Joseph Lane and the majority of Northern Oregon legislators disagreed.

There were more meetings over the next few months, but nothing changed. Over the next century and a half, California would see over 200 more attempts to divide the state and Oregon would see at least a few dozen more.

So, maybe history rhymes and maybe it doesn’t. And maybe Mark Twain said it and maybe he didn’t.

“It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself — for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.”

Yeah — that one Mark said, for sure.

You see, Twain always had that “optimistic” take on humanity.

Writer Bill Miller is the author of “History Snoopin’," a collection of his previous history columns and stories. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com or at WilliamMMiller.com.

Bill Miller