The Great Republic of Rough And Ready

There are folks who claim that we Texans are prone to bragging a bit. That, my friends, is an understatement. Any Texan worth her salt can expound until the cow’s come home about the virtues of The Lone Star State. You ain’t even gonna believe this, but I, myself, am quite capable of this. I am not above “embroidering” the facts just a bit if the situation calls for it. I will also tell you the plain truth when necessary.

Now, I’m a little leery about telling you this, because it could be considered a “traitorous” act. It could get me tarred and feathered and run out of town. I’m going to tell you a little secret, but don’t you tell anyone I told you. One of the main conceits of any Native Born Texan is that our state was once a Nation Unto It’s Own: The Republic of Texas. That is quite true. However, that distinction pales in comparison to a tiny town that was a nation. Texas has no bragging rights here, for that town was in California.

In 1849, a mining company from Wisconsin came to an area in California north of San Francisco to establish a gold mine. The company was named after General Zachary Taylor, the 12th President of the United States. Taylor was nicknamed “Old Rough and Ready.” The Rough and Ready Mining Company gave their name to the settlement that sprang up around their mine.
Now the gold mining town of Rough and Ready was aptly named. By 1850, the town’s size swelled to 3,000 citizens who were diamonds in the rough, so to speak. Well, alright, there probably wasn’t a gem among them. In truth, they were a scabrous bunch of rowdy miners, feisty “painted ladies” and deadly gunslingers crowded into that tiny town. You can imagine that this was a volatile mix.

There was a general air of lawlessness, with wild parties and fracases in the street each night. Those independent minded folks began to feel a growing resentment toward the United States government. This came to a head when those idiotic lawmakers back in Washington, D.C. (3,000 miles away) had the gall to go and impose a Mining Tax on all mining claims. A tax?

Well now that didn’t set well at all in Rough and Ready. So, the citizenry called a town meeting on April 7th 1850 and seceded from the Union, proclaiming themselves “The Great Republic of Rough and Ready.”

Now, that sounds grand and noble. But there are rumors about why they really might have wanted to secede. Some say that a dirty rotten scoundrel had defrauded one of the townsfolk, so people wanted to be able to create their own laws and hang the son of a gun.

Be that as it may, The Great Republic of Rough and Ready only existed until the folks started preparing for their favorite annual shindig. It was the biggest, grandest, most humongous celebration of the year: the 4th of July Celebration. Independence Day for the U.S. of A.

Uh, oh. Being as how they were no longer a part of the United States, the good folks realized there was no reason to celebrate! No problem. They just called a meeting and rejoined the Union. The Republic of Rough and Ready fizzled out without lasting three months—but, their fireworks that year were astounding.

These days, Rough and Ready is a sleepy little town without much to recommend it, from what I can gather over the internet. The population has dwindled to only about 1500 people, and only 500 or so live within the city limits. Its name is pretty much lost to history. But, every year, they celebrate their heritage with a Secession Days Celebration, complete with a reenactment, fireworks, and music by a local band called The Fruit Jar Pickers. Doesn’t that make you want to book your trip?

Well, you may be wondering why a Native Daughter of Texas would go and spill the beans about something like this. It’s all about guilt, people. Texans don’t have to go bragging about our status as a former Republic (which lasted longer than three piddly months, and don’t you forget it). Our state has tons of other things to brag about. After all, we gave y’all Fritos, Dr. Pepper, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.