Sunday, August 9, 2020


It doesn't take an in depth knowledge of American history to know that after the Revolutionary War, the colonies became the original 13 states. Then over time, more and more territories become states with 1912 giving us New Mexico and Arizona to make the 48 states. It stayed that way until 1959 when Alaska and Hawaii were added to make today's total of 50 states.

But, along the way, there were 5 more areas proposed as states to be added to the union that lost out. Here, in chronological order, are 5 contenders that did not make the final approval.

1. Franklin

The State of Franklin was created shortly after the Revolutionary War in what is now eastern Tennessee. At the time, the wild and mountainous region was part of western North Carolina and home to over 5,000 settlers. Tensions began in 1784 when the North Carolina state legislature withdrew state militias from the area and attempted to give the land to the federal government. Under constant threat of Native American attacks and feeling abandoned by their government, the frustrated settlers of the area declared their counties to be a new American state. They appointed the audacious John Sevier, a politician and soldier who had gained fame fighting the Cherokee, as their governor. In an attempt to gain Benjamin Franklin’s support for the cause, they claimed to name their state after him. Franklin responded with a polite letter but offered no public support.

After petitioning Congress for admission to the newly formed United States, Franklin fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed for statehood. Even though it failed to gain admission to the United States, the rogue territory continued to exist as an independent republic with its own courts, legislature, taxes and constitution. In 1788, Sevier made a risky bid for aid from the Spanish and was quickly arrested on charges of treason. The proposed state of Franklin soon collapsed and was reclaimed by North Carolina. Its lands formed the Southwest Territory, which became the state of Tennessee. Sevier escaped serious punishment for his actions and, thanks in part to his legendary reputation as the leader of Franklin, went on to become Tennessee’s first governor.

2. Deseret

Probably the best known of the proposed to be a state but never made it category is Deseret. This was a western state proposed by Mormon settlers in 1849. The land area included what is parts of modern-day California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Idaho. As proposed, it would become the largest state in the Union. In addition to the problem of its enormous size being reason to derail its path to statehood, the controversial Mormon practice of polygamy figured strongly in the decision. Opposition was strong, and anti-polygamy activists portrayed Deseret as a move to create a Mormon theocracy within the United States. President Zachary Taylor attempted to combine Deseret and the newly formed state of California, but the plan collapsed when Deseret’s delegate failed to arrive at the state constitutional congress on time due to a misunderstanding. The final blow to Deseret’s statehood chances came in 1850 when a compromise led to the creation of the Utah Territory, with Mormon leader Brigham Young as its first governor.

 Although the attempt to establish a super-state fell by the wayside, for years a group of Mormon elders secretly met after each Utah Territory General Assembly and ratified new laws under the name “Deseret.” It was only with the arrival of the railroad—and with it many non-Mormon settlers—that the dream of the sprawling state was officially abandoned.

 3. Sequoyah

The plan to form the state of Sequoyah began in the early 1900s during a meeting of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole Native American nations. At the time, the eastern part of what would later become Oklahoma encompassed the Indian Territory, a region populated by some 60,000 indigenous people. In 1905, the nations held a convention in Muskogee, where they drafted a proposal to turn the Oklahoma and Indian Territories into two individual states. Their new state, dubbed Sequoyah after the creator of the Cherokee writing system, had a proposed 48 counties and represented an attempt to maintain some degree of Native American self-governance over the Indian Territory.

The proposed constitution was expansive and included many progressive ideas, including anti-trust laws and restrictions on child labor. Still, it ultimately failed in the U.S. Congress, which balked at adding two new western states. Instead, the Indian Territory was incorporated into the new state of Oklahoma in 1907. Nevertheless, many of Sequoyah’s principles lived on. Several states directly copied its constitution’s novel ethics laws, and the Cherokee Nation continues to call its yearly conference on Native American issues the State of Sequoyah.

UPDATE:  In July, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation and that state authorities do not have the authority to prosecute criminal cases involving Native Americans. The 5-to-4 decision, potentially one of the most consequential legal victories for Native Americans in decades, could have far-reaching implications for the people who live in the court affirmed Indian Country. The lands include much of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-biggest city.

4. Absaroka

Often called the state that never was, Absaroka arose from the political discontent of the Great Depression and in particular Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. The movement for statehood began in 1939 in Sheridan, Wyoming. Frustrated with the U.S. government, a group of politicians and businessmen led by A.R. Swickard, a former baseball player, hatched a plan to create a new state they called Absaroka. The would-be state included large areas of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, and encompassed famous landmarks such as the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. Swickard appointed himself governor and began hearing grievances from the “citizens” of his state. To gather support, he distributed Absaroka license plates and photos of the first (and subsequently last) Miss Absaroka.

Despite its initial popularity, the statehood movement’s novelty quickly wore off, and an official proposal for secession was never drafted. The story survives today largely thanks to the Federal Writers’ Project—ironically, one of FDR’s New Deal programs—which chronicled the Absaroka phenomenon while compiling travel guides to the American West.

5. Jefferson

The bold scheme to form the state of Jefferson began in 1941 when a group of copper mining counties in northern California and southern Oregon became fed up with insufficient government funding for their highways. In a slightly tongue-in-cheek gesture, the residents of the area decided to form a new state. A newspaper contest provided the name of Jefferson, and the group went so far as to elect a judge named John Childs as its first governor. They even adopted a state flag emblazoned with a large “XX”—a reference to the double-crossing politics that had led to their secession. In a show of Jefferson pride, a group of men armed with hunting rifles blockaded the highway between Oregon and California and gave bewildered motorists a flyer that read: “You are now entering Jefferson.”

Unfortunately for the aspiring Jeffersonians, other events ultimately overshadowed their act of secession. Just three days after Judge Childs’ inauguration on December 4, 1941—which was accompanied by a parade and widespread media coverage—the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In the ensuing buildup to World War II, plans for the new state of Jefferson fell by the wayside.

And there you have it…5 states that almost existed.


Savanna Kougar said...

Currently, the 51st state called New California is being created for real. The wholestate of California WITHOUT the west coastal cities.

Samantha Gentry said...

There have been rumors of breaking California up into 2 states, 5 states, and various other numbers for decades. Will be interesting to see if it ever actually happens.

Thanks for your comment.