Deseret, Sequoyah, Absaroka, Jefferson and Franklin…
I thought that I knew quite a bit of our country’s history, until recently. I loved history when I was in grammar school and also high school. Since then, I have also tried to stay current and so I was surprised to learn that there as many as five would-be states that could have changed the trajectory of our great nation. Deseret, Sequoyah, Absaroka, Jefferson and Franklin were the five areas that almost became states.
Deseret was an area out west that comprised parts of modern-day California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Idaho – it would have become the largest state in the Union. But the widespread opposition to the practice of polygamy ended its chances. Also, it would have been the largest state, by far, and this was not seen as something would ever be accepted. When the Utah Territory was formed, and Brigham Young became the first Governor, the possibility of the State of Deseret officially died… in 1850…
Sequoyah, located in what is now eastern Oklahoma, was going to be a state occupied by Indian tribes and name Sequoyah was taken from the person who had created the Cherokee system of writing. Although there were more than 60,000 tribal members in the area, and there was a great desire to keep some semblance of self rule, Congress eventually killed the idea, in 1905, and the territory became part of Oklahoma.
Absaroka started out as an attempt to create a state near Sheridan, Wyoming after residents experienced discontent with the US government; and Franklin Roosevelt in particular. Parts of Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana would form the new state and it would also include Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks. Even though the effort never really got off the ground, they actually had their own license plates made and had a self appointed Governor in the area. The prospect of becoming a state died in about 1939.
Jefferson started out as the seed of an idea to combine parts of northern California and southern Oregon into an independent state. A newspaper contest resulted in the winning entry of “Jefferson” and the area had their own flyers printed up that were handed out to passing motorists that they were entering the state of Jefferson. Three days after their secession, the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred and Jefferson was quickly forgotten about.
Probably the most successful attempt was a state that was formed right after the Revolutionary War, in 1784, out of four North Carolina counties that decided to secede and form their own state – the state of Frankland, in what is now Tennessee. Trying to curry the favor of Benjamin Franklin, they decided to rename the area Franklin, and while Ben Franklin wrote a nice note acknowledging their effort, he never endorsed the project or got on the bandwagon.
The initial break with North Carolina happened because the people on the frontier felt that the state militia was not doing its job to protect those pioneers on the western edge of civilization. The residents of the Jefferson region thought that they would be better served to have their own security against the possibility of attack from Indians. When North Carolina removed their military protection, Jefferson moved to declare statehood. John Sevier, a well known frontiersman, became the first Governor and while the effort eventually failed in Congress, the land became part of what would become Tennessee. The town of Sevierville, TN bears his name to this day.
Franklin actually had its own courts, constitution, taxes and legislature but narrowly missed getting the two thirds majority necessary in Congress to successfully come a state. In 1788, Sevier petitioned the Spanish for aid and he was arrested for treason. He narrowly escaped serious trouble and eventually, as mentioned above, became the first Governor of Tennessee.
While all of these five efforts ultimately failed, as followers of Jesus, we have assurance that we will eventually reside in a place that will never fail. We won’t have to deal with the politics, infighting, poverty, security or any of the other things that earthly places have to consider. Our verse for tonight affirms that we will be with God eternally. Jesus tells us, in John 14:1-4, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
What great words of encouragement from Jesus! He lets us know that He will be with us and, in fact, is preparing the new place for us. My prayer is that we will all live in the assurance that we won’t have to hand out flyers, or worry about the militia, or make license plates, or petition our political leaders – ever… In fact, God will be our God and we will be His people. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…