Little Town of Rough and Ready (No. 294 California Historical Landmark)
California Historical Landmarks Program
Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region
2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California
3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.
California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.
In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.
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The town of Rough and Ready was founded in 1849 by the Rough and Ready Mining Company of Wisconsin. The company leader had served under General Zachary Taylor in the Mexican war. The general had just been elected as the 12th president of the United States with a nickname of “Old Rough and Ready.” It is described as a hidden hamlet among green meadows with riches that could not be hidden from fortune seeking miners.
A year later, in April 1850, Rough and Ready became the only mining town to officially secede from the Union. The goal was to avoid both a tax on mines and prohibiting alcohol. The United States Post Office asked the town to change its name to either “Rough” or “Ready,” instead of using both names.
Aboutnevadacounty.com reports the scene.
“Tents were pitched on the flat and along the ravines everywhere. Government became needed t control the rapidly rising population. It was during the uncertainty of 1850 that Colonel E.F. Brundage came up with the concept of separate republic. He issued a high-sounding manifesto, and called a huge meeting to organize the State of Rough and Ready. About 100 men became very devoted to him and excitedly began working to build their new country.”
Colonel Brundage was elected president to lead the 3,000 people living in the Republic of Rough and Ready. Unfortunately, secession was hugely unsuccessful and short-lived. Three months later, while making preparations to celebrate the July 4th Independence Day of the United States, the miners realized they could not participate in the party because Rough and Ready was no longer officially a part of the U.S. Residents quickly voted to rejoin the Union and the party was on once again.
Today, the town is home to less than 1,000 residents, living in an area of about three square miles. The town continued to prosper into the 1900s. Unfortunately, many historic buildings were lost due to fires over the years. The Fippin Blacksmith Shop is one of few historic buildings that still stand and presents a display of period artifacts. This was the place where young Lotta Crabtree entertained the miners with her dancing, leading to her long and successful career.
Today residents and visitors gather each year on the last Sunday of June to celebrate secession day with a musical melodrama, “The Saga of Rough and Ready,” arts and crafts festival, blacksmith demonstrations, pancake breakfast and other food vendors.
The historical marker is located on State Highway 20 and Mountain Rose Road in Rough and Ready.
Nevada means “snow-covered” in Spanish. During winter months, Nevada County’s eastern border is wholly engulfed in the snows of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. In the 1840s and 1850s many emigrants arrived in California via the Overland Emigrant Trail which threaded through the infamous Donner Pass.
Time Period Represented