Skip to main content

Here Are Some of the Weirdest State Secession Attempts

A ballot proposal calls for California to be split into three separate states. But secession movements have a rocky history.
A map of the Absaroka proposal.

A map of the Absaroka proposal.

A proposal set to appear on California ballots in November would carve the Golden State into three separate states. Venture capitalist Tim Draper led the effort, claiming that California's vast size has made it ungovernable. Draper has argued for slicing up California for years; an earlier initiative of his proposed dividing it into six states.

The push for three states is, of course, unlikely to succeed. Even if voters go for it, it will only be the beginning of an arduous process: The state legislature would have to approve the plan—and so would Congress. While no state has managed to split apart since the creation of West Virginia in 1863, it wasn't for lack of trying.

The State of New York... City

In 1969, novelist and essayist Norman Mailer ran for mayor of New York City, and journalist Jimmy Breslin ran for city council. As part of their platform, they called for New York City to become the country's 51st state. Their reasoning: "The business of running this city is done by lobster peddlers from Montauk and old Republicans from Niagara Falls," Breslin wrote in New York magazine. Neither candidate won.

McDonald Territory

No, this was not a land dedicated to Big Macs. This short-lived extralegal territory, created in 1961, was McDonald County in Missouri's way of thumbing its nose at the state for omitting local resort towns and "other significant historical and scenic points of interest" in the county from its annual Family Vacationland map. Citizens from the town of Noel, which relied heavily on tourism, led the secession effort. The movement quickly lost steam, but the flurry of news coverage it generated—along with a mock battle staged in Noel—gave local tourism the boost it needed.


In 1939, a movement based in Sheridan, Wyoming, proposed a new state that would include parts of Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota. The proposed state's name, Absaroka, was borrowed from the Crow Nation's name for itself, Absaroke, which means "children of the large-beaked bird." A former baseball player and street commissioner declared himself governor of the state-to-be, and he presided over a one-time-only Miss Absaroka beauty contest. Historians still debate whether Absaroka was an earnest secessionist movement or not.


At the beginning of the 20th century, roads in rural areas couldn't keep up with the new popularity of automobiles. So a collection of counties in northern Texas and western Oklahoma proposed the creation of Texlahoma, a new state where better roads would be a priority. But like other proposals to split Texas, the Texlahoma movement died, in part because proud Texans didn't want to stop being proud Texans.

Rhode Island's Moped Battle

In 1984, a town on Block Island threatened to secede over, well, mopeds. The state refused to give the town of New Shoreham the ability to ban mopeds from the island. Massachusetts and Connecticut reportedly were both interested in taking Block Island in. "I'm not pushing dope or shucking jive," Wills N. Brown Jr., a moped dealer, told the New York Times. "I'm just practicing the American free enterprise system, trying to earn money to put my kids through college." Rhode Island soon relented and granted Block Island the ability to control moped use on the island, effectively putting the secession threat to bed.