Rough and Ready's 55th Succession Days Celebration

(Sunday June 26, 2011)


This year we decided to attend Rough and Ready's celebration of the town's three month secession from the United States. In April 1850 the local miners were fed up with the lack of law and order and the imposition of a new mining they voted to secede from the U.S. and form the Great Republic of Rough and Ready. As you approach the town from Grass Valley,  look to the left and you'll see a clever little rustic depiction of the towns mining history.

We arrive fairly early so we can enjoy the pancake, ham and egg breakfast prepared by the Rough and Ready Volunteer Fire Department, maybe listen to some Fruit Jar Picker's music, and eventually watch the Saga of Rough and Ready melodrama. Sound like fun? Well come on let's go!

Naturally we're bound to run into somebody we know. Grass Valley classmate Laurine  and her friend shared a table along with old friends Rosemary and Charles. Rough and Ready is Rosemary's historic (Fippin) family  stomping grounds. She's played her violin with the local Fruit Jar Pickers over the years, and Charles was Rough and Ready's Chamber of Commerce president for many years.

Cheryl, Margie and Tim joined us for breakfast after which we all meandered over to watch the Rough and Ready Rascals perform their musical melodrama, "The Saga of Rough and Ready."

Lots of vendors. Cheryl found a couple of coffee mugs she liked.

The Saga's about to begin. Meanwhile, here's a little background on Rough and Ready. It was one of the first settlements in Nevada County established in the fall of 1849. It soon became a thriving town of 3,000, and made history when it seceded from the Union. The town was founded by a group of miners led by Captain A. A. Townsend, who served under "Old Rough and Ready" Zachary Taylor, commander of American forces during the Mexican War. He admired Taylor, and named his company Rough and Ready, a name the town adopted.

Early mining success was dampened when the government imposed a Mining Tax on all claims. The miners were furious. On April 7, 1850, a meeting was held and the decision was made to secede from the Union. An independent state was organized, a president elected and constitution signed. The new republic lasted until it was time to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Sheridan Loungway plays Col. E. F. Brundage who  narrates the interesting, funny and dramatic Rough and Ready Saga whose characters we get to boo, or cheer. 

The Secession of Rough and Ready
"The event that precipitated that climatic Mass Meeting called by Colonel E. F. Brundage in April of 1850 was said to have been the episode of miner Joe Swiegart and the Boston Ravine Slicker. Joe was popular with the other miners. He had a claim that the whole camp knew was a good one. One day the Slicker came into the Saloon where Joe and the others were relaxing. He offered to buy Joe's claim at an exorbitant price. First he would need to check to see that it was as good as Joe said. He bet Joe that you couldn't take out $200 worth of gold in a day. Joe knew his claim was good and accepted the challenge. Papers were drawn and judges appointed.
These miners were simple honest law-abiding men and had never even heard of the gentle art of malingering. The Slicker went to work. As he drew near the $200 mark he slowed more and more. Just before he reached it he quit entirely. The papers had not specified how long he was to work. It was legal but wrong. Since he technically hadn't committed a crime, the courts were unable to prosecute him. Justice was simple in those days but the closest justice was in Marysville, the Territorial headquarters. So Rough and Ready seceded and established it's own law and order. The next morning it rescued what was left of Joe's money and took the Slicker to the edge of town with instructions never to return." For more of the history visit the R&R Chamber of Commerce site.

These three provided background music throughout the performance.

The lofty Lady who likes to throw big parties everyone loves to attend.

The (ahem) preacher and his watchful wife.

What'd you say? I've forgotten.

Some miners, including Joe Swiegart in the red shirt?

Lola Montez?

Did he say she's-a-Single?

The sly Slicker everybody wanted to hang. His evil laugh was convincing.

And the music plays on....

A Scottish miner with his sluicebox in the Sluicebox Saloon?

The lady of the Saloon sings us a song.

A shot rings out, and a miner falls to the floor. The patrons begin betting how long it will take for him to kick the bucket. The betting gets wild and then impatient. "When's he goin' to kick the bucket?" Then we hear him kick the bucket and everyone's happy. I forget who bet "five minutes."

The Bunch sharing some smiles.

...And there were a couple of weddings.

The flag flown over the Great Republic on Secession Days is said to be the Gernerals Flag with Company modifications. It was presented to Rough and Ready on November 1, 1965 by Joe Santley, Producer for TV Channel 13. He produced the Rough and Ready episode for their Death Valley Days series. The flag was originally raised in 1850 on April 7 when the miners, under the leadership of Col. E. F. Brundage declared themselves independent, elected Officers and drafted a Constitution remarkably similar to that of the United States. This was Rough and Ready's most rebellious moment. However, the Secession lasted only about three months. The miners found the trials of government not to their liking. Here comes the funny part of the Saga...When  Indpendence Day rolled around the neighboring camps were planning their Fourth of July celebrations. The Rough and Ready bar tender wanted to buy some booze in Boston Ravine, but they wouldn't let him have it because of the they decided to scuttle the Republic and join in the celebration too. They didn't advise the Territorial Government of their intentions and so the Secession unknowingly remained in effect until 1948 when the Post Office was to be re-established in the town. (The Territory had been busy with its own problems in 1850 when California became the 31st State of the United States in September).

After rejoining the U. S. the rascals sing "America the Beautiful."

Here are the fabulous stars of the hilarious, interesting melodrama "Saga of Rough and Ready."

The Rough and Ready Fruit Jar Picker's take over from here with their great music.

There's Rosemary with her magic violin!

The famous Fippin Blacksmith shop where blacksmith David is making a liberty bell  for the raffle.

This old logging wagon caught my eye. It was donated by the West family.

...And the Butts Only can also got my attention before the ride home.

The hay ride to and from parking sites.

One more peek at the mining museum town and we're headed home. It's been wonderful reliving more of our local heritage. Now I realize why people kept getting Rough and Ready's Republic mixed up with Mom and Val's Republic of North California...and they'd disagree, "No we didn't secede...We're re-establishing our Constitutional American Republic as it was intended by the Founders."



Dick Read writes "You are a gold mine of memories, my friend. I do indeed have something to add. I have a past, a present, and a future in this little town. My niece was married in the little one room church (is it still there?). The hanging tree was still alive when I first saw it in 1939 ( I was seven years old). The blacksmith shop was still in use at that time. I have three sisters, one niece, and one nephew buried in the small cemetery overlooking Rough and Ready. That is also where I have instructed my heirs to bury me when I cork off. So I have a certain fondness for the little town - and for a rather large area around it. I have heard the story about the attempted secession, but did not know, or do not remember, that it was a thirst for booze that decided it's fate. Makes sense though, since it was booze that determined the fate of so many miners."