Rough and Ready – Rough and Ready, California - Atlas Obscura

Rough and Ready

Rough and Ready, California

The first U.S. town to secede from the Union, only to vote themselves right back in. 


The Great Republic of Rough and Ready wanted no part of taxation, prohibition, or the government’s lackadaisical approach to law enforcement. 

In April of 1850, the fine folks of the aptly-named mining town decided they would be answerable to no sovereignty but themselves. There were a few reasons that the boomtown made up mostly of Wisconsin miners decided to become their own nation, the indignity of the recent prohibition laws in the county along with the newly instituted taxation on mining claims being first and foremost. When “The Man” who was taxing their gold and stealing their booze refused to hang a con man that had hoodwinked several residents out of their claims, Rough and Ready had had enough—they were striking out on their own. 

After going through the necessary motions including electing a president, drafting a constitution, and forming a cabinet, the Great Republic of Rough and Ready officially seceded, no longer obligated to answer to anyone but their damn selves. Drinks were had, the con man was hanged, and the residents of the Great Republic reveled in their independence. 

…for about three months.

Soon, plans for Fourth of July revelry began buzzing in the neighboring settlements, and the denizens of the Great Republic realized that as former Americans, they were no longer invited to what was previously one of their favorite parties. Yearning wistfully for parades, speeches and other patriotic merriment, they held an emergency meeting, quickly dissolved the republic by popular vote and hastily began planning their Fourth of July bash, one of the rowdiest the town had ever known. 

Once a feisty, vibrant town, Rough and Ready suffered heavily from fire damage (no reported connection to Fourth of July shenanigans) and is now sparsely populated with roughly 100 residents, quite a drop from its heyday population of 3,000. Despite its semi-ghost town status, be sure the remaining residents are just as proud and fiery as ever, celebrating the history of their three months of freedom with a Rough and Ready’s Secession Day celebration every June, on the last Sunday of the month. 


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February 28, 2014

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