These 8 States Lost in History Didn't Win a Star on Old Glory
These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory

These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory

Larry Holzwarth - November 30, 2017

From the beginning of the American Republic, expansion has been part of its existence. While America was still fighting its Revolution, the area of New England now known as Vermont was a disputed territory. Between American and British troops, the dispute was amid New Hampshire and New York territories, both colonies whose royal governors had substantial land grants within the Green Mountain Region. Both countries were determined to absorb these into their own domain. The area known as the Hampshire Grants was also claimed by Massachusetts. This cut and thrust politicking among the colonies led Vermonters to become a self-governing entity before finally entering the Union as the fourteenth state – the first since ratification of the Constitution – in 1791.

The Constitution specifies the requirements for statehood, and as the nation grew to the west, it provided the guidelines by which admission was controlled – essentially compliance with the bylaws and approval by a two-thirds majority of the existing club. Granting statehood quickly became a pawn in the game of maintaining a balance between slaveholding states and those states wishing to abolish what became known as the “peculiar institution.” The old eastern colonies of New York, Virginia, and Connecticut were forced to cede huge land claims to the west. The Constitution, through its inherent flexibility, helped the nation to acquire new territory and voting citizens. But not all hopeful states won admission. Local politics or the need to maintain parity in Congress saw to that.

These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory
Adding a new star and stripes for each new state quickly became unwieldy, as this 18 star flag demonstrates. Wikimedia

Here are eight regions that had hoped to become States of the Union, only to become asterisks to history.

These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory
A leader of the State of Franklin, John Sevier became the first governor of the State of Tennessee. Tennessee Portrait Project

Franklin

The fourteenth state of the Union was almost formed from a region called at the time, Frankland. It comprised several counties of what is now Tennessee along its eastern border with North Carolina. Settled by pioneers, hunters, and explorers who were known as Overmountain Men, mostly led by John Sevier, it proposed to sever the region from North Carolina after the state ceded it to the Congress, in part as payment to the federal government for debts from the Revolution.

When Sevier sought and attained the support of Benjamin Franklin for the proposal he renamed the region Franklin. Sevier hoped to receive support from several counties to the north of the proposed Franklin – which were then part of Virginia. Those counties spurned his approaches, preferring to form another state of their own, today’s Kentucky. North Carolina at first agreed to and then rescinded support for the proposal, desirous of the potential income from land taxes as more settlers entered the region.

The Overmountain families opted for secession from North Carolina, elected delegates to write a state constitution, and named John Sevier governor. The proposed constitution was presented to the voters and rejected, and for a time, the region remained under the laws and authority of North Carolina. The regional leadership then applied for statehood. At the time, the federal government was operating under the Articles of Confederation – an unsteady basis for federal government – and only seven states voted to accept Franklin’s petition.

The residents of Franklin, geographically distant from North Carolina’s legislature, essentially operated as an independent republic. They entered into treaties with the Native American tribes of the region and established its own system of taxation. The North Carolina legislature then sought to re-establish its authority in the region, sending state troops as the stick while offering tax incentives to residents as a carrot. Eventually this led to an armed skirmish between supporters of an independent state and those of remaining in North Carolina in 1788.

By 1789, large parts of Franklin had realigned with North Carolina and, what remained, was known as Lesser Franklin. Soon, this region had also been reduced to subjugation under the government of North Carolina. What had been Franklin, along with contiguous lands, became part of the Southwest Territory ceded to the Federal government (now operating under the Constitution), soon to become the State of Tennessee, the sixteenth state, which entered the Union in 1796.

These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory
The Mackinaw Bridge connects Lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula across the Straits of Mackinaw. Wikipedia

Superior

Visitors to the State of Michigan are soon made aware that the area north of the Straits of Mackinac, officially called the Upper Peninsula, is in reality an altogether different world from that to its south. The residents of the area proudly call themselves “Yoopers”, look with disdain at those who visit them only during the warmer months of the year (including those from lower Michigan), and remain independent in thought and attitude.

At one time, the Upper Peninsula was considered as a state separate from Michigan known as Superior. This proposal has never completely died out and, from time to time, gains popularity as a response to the vagaries of the national political climate.

Originally settled by French fur trappers, the Upper Peninsula (UP) was awarded to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, but the British retained their fur posts there and the young United States could do little about it for many years. The Michigan Territory was established by the US Government in 1805 and did not include the UP other than parts of its most eastern region.

In 1819, as it became more and more apparent that the region contained huge reserves of copper and iron, Michigan’s borders were expanded to include the entire UP. Meanwhile, lower Michigan – attempting to achieve statehood – was engaged in an ongoing dispute with Ohio over the lands near present day Toledo. The compromise which resolved the dispute included giving Michigan the entire UP in return for Ohio receiving the so-called Toledo strip. The Michigan Territory also included what is now Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota.

Beginning in 1858, local leaders have several times attempted to secede from Lower Michigan and establish the UP as the State of Superior. Other names have been proposed in conjunction with other attempts, including Octonagon and North Michigan. In 1962 an effort to secede came within 36,000 votes of success. Most of the attempts to secede – some of which have included several counties in bordering Wisconsin – have been based on resistance to taxes deemed to be proportionally unfair to the independent minded Yoopers.

These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory
The proposed Mormon State of Deseret superimposed over the Utah Territory. Deseret would have included most of Southern California, including Los Angeles. Wikimedia

Deseret

The State of Deseret was established, provisionally, by leaders of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Deseret came from lands which included parts of what became California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, and Wyoming, all of which had been recently seized from Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe, which ended the Mexican War.

In 1849 ,LDS elders, led by Brigham Young, copied large parts of the state constitution of Iowa (where they had resided for a time during their trek westward) and dispatched it to the Congress in the hope of acquiring statehood (and lands) before California and New Mexico achieved statehood. Under the LDS proposal Los Angeles and San Diego, then barely villages, would have become part of the State of Deseret.

Statehood in the antebellum days required more than just the demands presented in the Constitution. Congress was acutely aware of the need to maintain the status quo regarding the balance between pro-slavery and anti-slavery votes in Washington. This alone gave pause to those considering Young’s proposal, the Mormon position on polygamy was also difficult for many eastern lawmakers to consider.

President Zachary Taylor – a southerner from Louisiana – proposed combining California and Deseret into a single state, an act which would help to retain the balance of pro and anti-slavery votes. California leaders rejected this proposal out of hand. In 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850, Congress created the Utah Territory out of some of the land included in the provisional State of Deseret. Mormon leaders accepted the reduced territory but continued to propose statehood using the basic constitution written for Deseret.

Once the transcontinental railroad traversed Utah territory the drive for a separate state based on LDS morality and law lost traction. The provisional government of Deseret remained the governing authority of the Utah Territory until 1872 despite several attempts to write a new constitution which would lead to Utah statehood. Utah finally became a state – the 45th – in 1896, after their 1890 Manifesto which banned polygamy.

These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory
Two competitors for the title of Miss Absaroka hold examples of the state’s new license plates. South Dakota Magazine

Absaroka

Absaroka was proposed as a new state in 1939, to be created from portions of the existing states of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The impetus behind its proposed creation came from the actions taken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt known as the New Deal. Opponents of certain aspects of the New Deal were so vehement in their denial of its constitutionality that they decided to revisit issues which most of the nation had thought to be settled by the Civil War. Among these were that no state had the right to secede and thus dissolve its relationship with the Union once granted, and that state laws must be in compliance with federal laws.

Supporters of Absaroka were mostly Republicans, and they supported a self-appointed former street commissioner from Sheridan, Wyoming – A.R. Swickard – who declared himself governor. Governor Swickard was well known to the region as a baseball player of consummate skill and renown.

The governor quickly established a facility to produce license plates for the new state. He also drew an official map of the new state outlining its boundaries; included within it was the new monument which had been under construction for some time named Mount Rushmore. Recognizing its income potential as a source of tourists dollars, Swickard had a young woman declared Miss Absaroka, and photos taken of her wearing a sash so proclaiming.

In 1939 the King of Norway toured the American West, and Swickard welcomed His Majesty as a guest of the state in Sheridan, where meetings of the Absaroka legislature were held in the Rotary Club’s basement. The machinations of the Absaroka government drew the somewhat embarrassed attention of the state legislatures of Montana and South Dakota, who began to more closely address the concerns and grievances of the citizens of their newly created rival state.

In the fall of 1939 war broke out in Europe and other concerns besides the New Deal began to occupy the public attention. By early 1940 evidence of the State of Absaroka was all but gone, and Mount Rushmore remained within the State of South Dakota.

These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory
Future President Andrew Johnson was a leading founder of the Independent State of Scott. Library of Congress

Scott

Following the secession of several Deep South states in 1861, the Commonwealth of Virginia debated for weeks whether to follow suit. Some of the problems which prevented Virginia from immediately leaving the Union were reflected in the attitudes of its western counties, from the Potomac and Big Sandy Rivers to the Ohio. The people of this area were mostly not slaveholders and for the most part loyal to the United States. In 1863, the people of the western counties, after months of debate and preparation which included secession from Virginia, entered the United States as West Virginia. A separate state which remained so following the end of the Civil War and ever since.

A similar, though much lesser known event, occurred in Tennessee. When Tennessee voted to secede from the Union in 1861 – the last state to leave the United States – Scott County, in the central portion of the state along the border with Kentucky, voted to remain. One of their most prominent political leaders was a United States Senator – and slaveowner – named Andrew Johnson.

The county soon approved a resolution withdrawing from the state of Tennessee and establishing itself as the Independent State of Scott. Despite defiance of the state, Tennessee and the Confederate States of America governments ignored the act, as did the Congress of the United States. Scott became an enclave government, largely due to the former county having little military or strategic value to either side in the conflict.

Scott officially remained an enclave independent state throughout the Civil War, Reconstruction which followed, and well into the years ensuing, until it became apparent to local leaders that the 125th anniversary of its creation was approaching in 1986. The State of Scott formally petitioned Tennessee to rejoin the formerly wayward state and Tennessee agreed, welcoming Scott’s return with formal ceremonies and celebrations that year.

The Independent State of Scott never petitioned the United States for statehood, if they had it is entirely possible that Rhode Island would have lost its distinction as the smallest of the United States.

These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory
Daniel Boone leads settlers through the Wilderness Gap in this print. Boone was hired by speculator Richard Henderson to help establish the State of Transylvania. Wikipedia

Transylvania

The name Transylvania conjures the images of Bulgarian accents, gloomy mansions and castles containing vampires, werewolves, and mad scientists. Except that is, in the region of the United States known as the Bluegrass, where it refers to what was once considered to be a sub-colony of the colony of Virginia, before its parent separated itself from Great Britain. Kentucky was the anglicized version of one of the Indian names for its territory, but as settlement in the area grew and stabilized it became known for a time under the name Transylvania.

Richard Henderson was one of the early speculators in land in the areas beyond Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road. In fact, after purchasing a tract of land comprising about half of today’s Kentucky (and a little of Tennessee) Henderson hired Boone to lead people into the region to settle there. Henderson’s company was called the Transylvania Company, and he named the purchased region Transylvania.

Legal problems arose when it was discovered that prior claims to the land from both Virginia and North Carolina had made its sale to Henderson illegal. Henderson attempted to have the Continental Congress declare Transylvania a separate colony in 1775 – making 14 in all – but the influence of Virginia and North Carolina made such an action nearly impossible.

After the revolution ended, settlers continued to pour into Kentucky across Boone’s road and down the Ohio River. Henderson eventually settled Henderson County, Kentucky and before too many years went by Boone left the region for Missouri.

Transylvania became wholly absorbed into the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which became the fifteenth state to enter the Union. The name Transylvania lives on as that of Transylvania University, founded as a seminary in Lexington in 1780, the oldest college in the United States west of the Allegheny Mountains.

These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory
Sequoyah would have been a state with a Constitution written by and for Native Americans. Congress failed to approve its application for statehood. Wikimedia

Sequoyah

The United States Government’s and people’s relations with the continent’s indigenous people have been a long and complicated part of America’s history. The occupation of lands which were formerly those used by numerous tribes is but one part, the relocation and/or assimilation of those occupants has been another. One approach was the creation of so-called reservations where the Native Americans would retain sovereignty and some of their customs and traditions.

The State of Sequoyah was a similar idea, albeit it one proposed by Native Americans themselves, in which they would create a state which would be conceived and governed with the needs and desires of the tribes occupying it in mind. In 1898 the federal Curtis Act was passed which mandated the end of tribal governments and communal lands in the Eastern Oklahoma region known as the Indian Territory, to take effect in 1905.

In response, the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole) which occupied the Territory proposed the State of Sequoyah, to have a Native written constitution and Native government, with all of the rights and privileges of a state. The tribes met in Constitutional Convention in 1905 and created a government with individual counties for each member tribe. This proposal passed in referendum overwhelmingly and was sent to the Congress.

The heavily Republican Congress introduced the legislation which met heavy opposition as the political leanings of most of the tribes was Democratic. The legislation was defeated in Congress. The defeat led the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, to prepare and present a compromise in which the five Native counties and the Indian Territories as a whole would be incorporated with the rest of the Oklahoma Territory into a new state, to be known as Oklahoma. Congress passed the Oklahoma Enabling Act, which led to Oklahoma becoming the 46th State of the Union.

The Sequoyah Constitutional Convention was used as the basis for the state constitution for Oklahoma, which need to be completed quickly and passed by the people of the territory quickly to comply with the proposal put forth by Roosevelt. Both the Sequoyah convention and the Oklahoma Constitution contain numerous safeguards for the rights of the people against the infringement of elected government which exceed those of many preceding states.

These 8 States Lost in History Didn’t Win a Star on Old Glory
Despite its dimunitive size the Delmarva Peninsula is divided up by three states; Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Wikimedia

Delmarva

The Delmarva Peninsula juts down the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay on the peninsula’s western side, with the Atlantic Ocean on its eastern. It is apportioned among three states. The Maryland section contains Salisbury and many poultry and produce packers. Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach is included in that tiny state’s portion of the peninsula and the Virginia section includes that state’s famed Eastern shore, including Chincoteague with its noted ponies and other attractions. Although the peninsula is relatively small it is featured in all three of the state’s tourist industries, which are considerable, and all three enjoy marketing the many beaches and recreational activities which are such a large part of the area.

Its size makes the residents, particularly along the areas where the states rub shoulders, so to speak, wonder why three different states control the area and whether or not a single new state, usually called Delmarva by its backers, would be a more sensible solution to the problem of regional governance.

Proposals to create a separate state from the region occurred in 1833, 1835, 1852, and in 1998. In the 1970s rallies and town hall meetings were called in the Maryland counties to generate support for the idea. Virginia’s portion of the Delmarva Peninsula is divided into two counties – Accomack and Northampton – and support for the idea has considerably less fervor behind it than that from their Maryland neighbors, one reason why the status quo has been retained.

Despite many longstanding attempts to create a single state government on the peninsula, which would be able to focus its attention on local issues without sacrificing time and dollars to issues in the mountainous western portion of Virginia or urbanized eastern Maryland, the likelihood of Delmarva shaking off the yoke of its three parent states seems remote.

There will more than likely be a 51st American state admitted to the Union at a future date, but the possibility of it appearing on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay is unlikely. Delmarva will remain as a name which appears throughout the region as the name of cleaners, restaurants, hotels, insurance agencies, weather reports, and others, rather than the name of the newest of the United States.

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