The Story Is As Weird As It Is True

The 19th century was a rowdy time for many Northern California towns, and no community better showcases that fact than the aptly named town of Rough and Ready. Today, Rough and Ready is a census-designated place located just west of Grass Valley. It boasts a quaint population of just 963 people, and remnants from the town’s early days can still be witnessed when you walk down its historic streets. Visiting the quiet community today, you’d never guess that it was the first U.S. town to successfully secede from the Union. Secession may not have lasted long, but it sure does make for a heck of a story by today’s standards!

Visiting the semi-ghost town today, you’d never guess that the community of Rough and Ready was home to around 3,000 residents during its heyday. It may be pretty quiet nowadays, but this town has always had a fiery and independent spirit.

In fact, Rough and Ready was the very first settlement to successfully secede from the Union in 1850. Declaring itself “The Great Republic of Rough and Ready,” they decided to separate from the Union mainly to avoid mining taxes.

In addition to the government’s mining taxes, citizens of Rough and Ready weren’t too happy about the recent prohibition laws that were being enacted in the county. Those laws, combined with the government’s refusal to hang a notable con man who stole from several residents, were the final straw for the people of Rough and Ready.

The town officially seceded on April 2, 1850. However, secession didn’t last very long. As neighboring towns began to make 4th of July plans, the citizens of Rough and Ready realized they would not be able to participate in the celebrations. After all, the 4th of July was about America’s independence…and Rough and Ready was no longer part of America.

Longing to hold their own 4th of July celebration, the people of Rough and Ready decided to dissolve their own republic during an emergency meeting. They immediately set to work planning the biggest 4th of July bash that the settlement had ever experienced and copious amounts of merriment was had.

Unfortunately, Rough and Ready’s vibrant atmosphere would soon diminish. The population began to decrease after a fire inflicted severe damage across the town, and today there is little left of the original settlement. However, you can still view the original blacksmith shop, Odd Fellows Hall, and the Old Toll House.

The Great Republic of Rough and Ready may be long gone, but its remaining residents are dedicated to keeping its memory alive. They still hold an annual Secession Day celebration every June to honor their short-lived independence.

Rough and Ready


Rough and Ready is a census-designated place in Nevada County, California, United States. It is located west of Grass Valley, California, approximately 62 miles from Sacramento. The population was 963 at the 2010 census. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names. Wikipedia

ZIP codes95975

Population963 (2010)

Area codeArea code 530


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1 Comment

  1. Key West declared themselves Independent of the United States and attempted to secede from it.

    They wrote a nice long letter explaining how they were not really apart of the US and that they would like to be considered an independent nation, the so called Conch Republic.

    The short official answer was, NO!

    Oh well, the dream at least survives. Every year on April 23rd Conch Independence Day is still celebrated in Key West, which is in no way just another excuse for drunken debauchery.

    No, they are serious, and in fact if you happen to be boating in the area on Conch Independence Day and you are not flying an official Conch Republic ensign, you can still, and deservedly so, be key-lime-pied by any nearby native vessel! So mind yourself when there are “revolutionaries” afoot!

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