Rough and Ready

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This guest post comes from Victoria Beninga, Public Service Director, On the Road Reporter, and Ski Reporter on AM 950 KAHI Radio, the Voice of the Foothills,  She is also a reporter for The Gold Country Times.

There’s a town in California’s Nevada County that once seceded from the Union. The town is Rough and Ready. It’s located about 5 miles west of Grass Valley.

At one time, Rough and Ready had a population of 3,000. It was founded in 1849 by some miners led by Captain A.A. Townsend. Townsend served under “Old Rough and Ready” Zachary Taylor. Townsend admired the newly-elected president so much that he named his company Rough and Ready, and that became the name of the town.

Miners and other residents became angry at the lawlessness in the town, and the fact that the government had imposed a Mining Tax on all claims. On April 7, 1850, they made the decision to secede from the Union. They formed an independent state, wrote and signed their own constitution, elected a president, and named their country The Great Republic of Rough and Ready. Their country only lasted a few months. On the 4th of July, they voted to re-join the union.

Today you can find several buildings from the 1850s still standing. The Fippin Blacksmith Shop displays artifacts from the 1850s such as tools, hardware, wagon parts, and the original antique bellows. The Grange Hall survived a fire in 1859 that consumed almost all of Rough and Ready. The Grange hall is now the Town Hall for events.

Rough and Ready used to have two historic trees. One was a Cork Elm. In its shade sat 2 huge timbers, known as “the Liar’s Bench,” where residents exchanged tall tales. After the tree died, the stump became a chain saw carving of a prospector called “Ol’ Bill.” The other tree was a cottonwood that was started in 1851 by a slave girl, Caroline Allen, when she stuck her cottonwood switch into the ground. The tree eventually grew to 75 feet, and it was called “The Slave Girl Tree.”

Nowadays, there are some fun things to do in Rough and Ready. Every Sunday from 10 to noon, the Fruit Jar Pickers perform downtown at the Opry Palace. The band performs sing-along parodies of old standards, country, bluegrass and gospel songs. Performances are free. Just bring a chair and your sense of humor. Anyone is welcome to play along too.

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Every year on the last Sunday in June, Secession Day is celebrated. The day-long event includes food, music by the Fruit Jar Pickers, an antique car parade, a petting zoo, a blacksmith fire, demonstration of the original antique bellows, and a musical melodrama called “The Ongoing Saga of Rough and Ready.”