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12 Proposed U.S. States That Didn't Make the Cut

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The road to 50 states was littered with wannabes who couldn't wait to declare themselves—but never quite got to full statehood. Here are 12 states that could have been.

1. Franklin

After the Revolutionary War, it became common for states to gift their westernmost lands to the newly-founded (but broke) American government to repackage and sell to westbound pioneers. A conspiracy in North Carolina led to its western lands being sold to high-ranking members of the state government instead, then ceded to the U.S. Government under an agreement that ensured that those officials got a portion of the profits.

After the plan was discovered, a new government was elected and the deal was nullified, but the damage was already done. As a result of the shady land deals, counties in what's now eastern Tennessee proposed the State of Franklin, distancing themselves from North Carolina. Unfortunately, Franklin was a mere two votes shy of the 2/3 majority vote needed to become the 14th state. Franklin’s government collapsed shortly after and returned to North Carolina’s ownership.

2. Jefferson

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Four regions have been proposed as the State of Jefferson. The first was west of Kansas Territory in 1859. Mining communities in the Rocky Mountains came together and requested the formation of their own potential state, called Jefferson. The Kansas government agreed, setting its proposed borders east of Jefferson’s. Citizens of Jefferson could not agree on a constitution, however, so it became Jefferson Territory (later Colorado Territory) instead.

The second and third were both located in Texas. As part of its admittance into the United States, Texas could agree to split itself into as many as four states. In 1870, southeastern Texas, from the San Antonio River onward, was proposed as Jefferson, with other region-states to follow. The idea was never taken very seriously. Later, in 1915, Jefferson plans re-emerged, but in western Texas instead. Only six state senators approved of the idea, and it, too, failed.

The fourth, a mix of counties from northern California and southern Oregon, was proposed in 1941. Supporters in the area marched with guns, passing out flyers proclaiming secession. Their movement was overshadowed by the attacks on Pearl Harbor and mostly faded away. Some, however, still propose an expanded Jefferson even today.

3. Superior

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As one of the only non-island U.S. states with two distinct landmasses, it makes sense that citizens of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (frequently referred to as “yoopers”) would consider splitting off from the "glove" "mitten" part of the state.

It has been proposed on a number of occasions, usually with the proposed state being called “Superior” (for Lake Superior), though other names such as Sylvania (preferred by Thomas Jefferson) and Ontonagon have also been mentioned.

In fact, the idea has been brought forth in recent years, when murmurs of upper peninsula secession bubbled up once again after debates over Michigan tax laws.

4. Delmarva

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Similar to the Michigan Upper Peninsula statehood efforts, Delmarva’s attempts at self-government are persistent. Delmarva is the small peninsula off the east coast of Maryland that is split between three states: Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Hence, Delmarva.

The entirety of Delaware is located on the peninsula, but only portions belong to Maryland and Virginia. Most proposals call for Maryland and Virginia to cede their lands, Delaware to absorb them, and for the new state to be dubbed Delmarva (though some alternate plans call for the name to remain Delaware).

Some others want Delaware to remain an independent state and cede only a few counties to Delmarva, and others still insist that Maryland’s eastern shore also be included. No formal attempts have ever been made, but considering the odd borders currently present on the peninsula, a single government does sort of make sense.

5. Absaroka

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In 1939, portions of Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota attempted to secede and form their own state called Absaroka, named after the Absaroka Range of the Rocky Mountains. While they never actually came to Congress to propose statehood, they did make Absaroka license plates and even held a 1939 Miss Absaroka beauty pageant.

Sheridan, Wyoming street commissioner A. R. Swickard was the leading force behind the movement. He declared himself governor of Absaroka and began hearing grievances from the local populace. With the start of World War II, however, the populace lost interest in the idea and it eventually disappeared altogether.

6. Scott

You may be surprised to discover that there was a lost state as recently as 1986. In fact, it existed for 125 years, but you wouldn’t have found it on any U.S. maps.

The Free and Independent State of Scott was founded during the Civil War when Scott County, Tennessee opted to secede from its parent state after Tennessee joined the Confederate States of America. Citizens of Scott, who weren’t plantation holders or slave owners, had no interest in joining the CSA and so remained a Union state.

Tennessee ignored the proclamation and did nothing to stop them, so the tiny State of Scott was mostly forgotten about until its 125th anniversary, when it finally formally requested re-admittance to Tennessee. The state even held a celebration welcoming Scott back, although it had never officially recognized it in the first place.

7. Transylvania

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Everyone knows about the 13 colonies, but few know that there was an unofficial 14th. Dubbed Transylvania (over 100 years before Bram Stoker made that name scary), the land was made up of modern-day western and southeastern Kentucky and northern Tennessee.

Purchased from Cherokee Indians by the Transylvania Company, the hope was that the British would recognize the land and allow the Transylvania Company’s owner, Richard Henderson, to rule it as an autonomous territory, like William Penn and Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately for them, the plan unraveled when it was discovered that the purchase was illegal under British law and that the lands had already been claimed by Virginia and North Carolina. For less than a year, the land existed as an extralegal colony. Shortly before the formation of the U.S., Virginia declared the Transylvania Purchase void and officially re-claimed the lands.

8. Deseret

Named after a Book of Mormon word meaning “honeybee,” Deseret was a region in the southwestern United States claimed by Mormons who sought to govern themselves. Their proposed state took all of modern day Utah and parts of several other states.

Their statehood request was denied by Congress in 1849 and they were given the much smaller Utah Territory instead. The laws and regulations drafted by Deseret were quickly re-enacted under Utah Territory’s government.

However, a shadow government of Mormon elders were hopeful to one day resurrect the Deseret idea. They secretly met after each legislative session for the next twenty years and rewrote the day’s new laws under the “State of Deseret” name.

9. Westsylvania

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Franklin wasn’t the only region with a bid to become the 14th state. In 1776, the failed colony of Vandalia (modern day West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, and eastern Kentucky) tried to reform itself the State of Westsylvania.

Unlike Franklin, however, Westsylvania’s bid never even went up for a vote. Congress ignored the petition and when the lands were taken up by the surrounding states, former Westsylvanians bristled and threatened to secede anyway.

Shortly afterward, Pennsylvania (which then owned most of the former Westsylvania lands) passed a law declaring talk of secession and the Westsylvania movement to be treasonous and punishable by execution. As a result, the dream of Westsylvania quickly died.

10. Nickajack

Much like the Free and Independent State of Scott, many in the South during the Civil War, namely those who weren’t rich enough to own large tracts of land or slaves, were unhappy with the idea of seceding. One such region where this sentiment was widely held was the mountainous lands found in eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama, which attempted to merge together and form the state of Nickajack.

Instead of simply declaring themselves a new state like Scott, however, non-secessionist politicians attempted to break apart legally. While Tennessee struggled with its decision on joining the Confederacy, northern Alabama lawmakers were left attempting to block secession in their state, if not actively seceding themselves.

Unfortunately, the rules of the secession convention stated that delegates and their votes were determined by total population of their jurisdiction. Since slaves counted toward the total population, the southern and central regional delegates far outnumbered those of the north. Therefore, the slave owners were allowed to vote on behalf of their own slaves and the secession passed. A short time later, Tennesseans voted in favor of the Confederacy as well. Leaving the CSA was considered too dangerous for Nickajack, and the idea was dropped.

11. Sequoyah

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Not unlike the Mormon Church’s idea for its own state, Native Americans also sought to create a part of the U.S. that had their interests in mind. So it was that in 1905, the State of Sequoyah (named after the same Sequoyah who invented the Cherokee written language) was conceptualized.

Based out of Indian Territory (present day eastern Oklahoma), a tract of land where Native Americans had been relocated by the U.S. Government, the state design would have counties for all of the major tribes and allow their system of tribal government to continue unabated.

When presented with their constitution and plans for statehood, Congress was hesitant due to a desire to keep the number of states between the eastern and western U.S. balanced. In the end, President Teddy Roosevelt decided that Sequoyah should be merged with the existing Oklahoma statehood proposal, creating the state as we know it today.

12. Lincoln

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There have been multiple attempts to create a State of Lincoln. The first has an origin similar to one of the many Jeffersons. As mentioned before, a clause in Texas’s admission to the U.S. allowed it to be split into multiple entities. One of these proposed spinoffs, the State of Lincoln, would have taken up anything south and west of the Colorado River. Just like the state of Jefferson that would have been found in East Texas, the idea never came to fruition.

The second Lincoln would have been found far from Texas. After the crafting of the Washington, Idaho, and Montana Territories in 1864, it was briefly unclear if what is now known as the Idaho Panhandle would become a part of Idaho or Montana. In the meantime, the Panhandle led a petition to become a state called Lincoln. When this failed, the idea was re-proposed in the early 1900s and included Eastern Washington, thus splitting the existing state in two. Again, the idea failed, but it has perpetually recurred since that time. The most recent proposition for the idea was made in 2005.

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6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.

STOP 1: BANNERMAN CASTLE // BEACON, NEW YORK

59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.

STOP 2. GILLETTE CASTLE STATE PARK // EAST HADDAM, CONNECTICUT

116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.

STOP 3. BELCOURT CASTLE // NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.

STOP 4. HAMMOND CASTLE MUSEUM // GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.

STOP 5. BOLDT CASTLE // ALEXANDRIA BAY, THOUSAND ISLANDS, NEW YORK

430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.

STOP 6. FONTHILL CASTLE // DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.

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7 Famous People Researchers Want to Exhume
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This week, the surrealist painter Salvador Dali is being exhumed from his grave in Figueres, northeastern Spain, where he has lain beneath the stage of a museum since his death in 1989. Researchers hope to collect DNA from his skeleton in order to settle a paternity suit brought by a tarot card reader named Pilar Abel, who claims that her mother had an affair with the artist while working as a maid in the seaside town where the Dalis vacationed. If the claim is substantiated, Abel may inherit a portion of the $325 million estate that Dali, who was thought to be childless, bequeathed to the Spanish state upon his death.

The grave opening may seem like a fittingly surreal turn of events, but advances in DNA research and other scientific techniques have recently led to a rise in exhumations. In the past few years (not to mention months), serial killer H. H. Holmes, poet Pablo Neruda, astronomer Tycho Brahe, and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, among many others, have all been dug up either to prove that the right man went to his grave—or to verify how he got there. Still, there are a number of other bodies that scientists, historians, and other types of researchers want to exhume to answer questions about their lives and deaths. Read on for a sampling of such cases.

1. LEONARDO DA VINCI

An international team of art historians and scientists is interested in exhuming Leonardo da Vinci's body to perform a facial reconstruction on his skull, learn about his diet, and search for clues to his cause of death, which has never been conclusively established. They face several obstacles, however—not the least of which is that da Vinci's grave in France's Loire Valley is only his presumed resting place. The real deal was destroyed during the French Revolution, although a team of 19th century amateur archaeologists claimed to have recovered the famed polymath's remains and reinterred them in a nearby chapel. For now, experts at the J. Craig Venter Institute in California are working on a technique to extract DNA from some of da Vinci's paintings (he was known to smear pigment with his fingers as well as brushes), which they hope to compare with living relatives and the remains in the supposed grave.

2. MERIWETHER LEWIS

A portrait of Meriwether Lewis
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As one half of Lewis and Clark, Meriwether Lewis is one of America's most famous explorers, but his death belongs to a darker category—famous historical mysteries. Researchers aren't sure exactly what happened on the night of October 10, 1809, when Lewis stopped at a log cabin in Tennessee on his way to Washington, D.C. to settle some financial issues. By the next morning, Lewis was dead, a victim either of suicide (he was known to be suffering from depression, alcoholism, and possibly syphilis) or murder (the cabin was in an area rife with bandits; a corrupt army general may have been after his life). Beginning in the 1990s, descendants and scholars applied to the Department of the Interior for permission to exhume Lewis—his grave is located on National Park Service Land—but were eventually denied. Whatever secrets Lewis kept, he took them to his grave.

3. SHAKESPEARE

A black and white portrait of Shakespeare
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Shakespeare made his thoughts on exhumation very clear—he placed a curse on his tombstone that reads: "Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare/ To digg the dust encloased heare/ Bleste be the man that spares thes stones/ And curst be he that moves my bones." Of course, that hasn't stopped researchers wanting to try. After Richard III's exhumation, one South African academic called for a similar analysis on the Bard's bones, with hopes of finding new information on his diet, lifestyle, and alleged predilection for pot. And there may be another reason to open the grave: A 2016 study using ground-penetrating radar found that the skeleton inside appeared to be missing a skull.

4. JOHN WILKES BOOTH

A black and white photograph of John Wilkes Booth
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The events surrounding Abraham Lincoln's death in 1865 are some of the best-known in U.S. history, but the circumstances of his assassin's death are a little more murky. Though most historical accounts say that John Wilkes Booth was cornered and shot in a burning Virginia barn 12 days after Lincoln's murder, several researchers and some members of his family believe Booth lived out the rest of his life under an assumed name before dying in Oklahoma in 1903. (The corpse of the man who died in 1903—thought by most people to be a generally unremarkable drifter named David E. George—was then embalmed and displayed at fairgrounds.) Booth's corpse has already been exhumed from its grave at Baltimore's Greenmount Cemetery and verified twice, but some would like another try. In 1994, two researchers and 22 members of Booth's family filed a petition to exhume the body once again, but a judge denied the request, finding little compelling evidence for the David E. George theory. Another plan, to compare DNA from Edwin Booth to samples of John Wilkes Booth's vertebrae held at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, has also come to naught.

5. NAPOLEON

A portrait of Napoleon
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Napoleon has already been exhumed once: in 1840, when his body was moved from his burial-in-exile on St. Helena to his resting place in Paris's Les Invalides. But some researchers allege that that tomb in Paris is a sham—it's not home to the former emperor, but to his butler. The thinking goes that the British hid the real Napoleon's body in Westminster Abbey to cover up neglect or poisoning, offering a servant's corpse for internment at Les Invalides. France's Ministry of Defense was not amused by the theory, however, and rejected a 2002 application to exhume the body for testing.

6. HENRY VIII

A portrait of Henry VIII
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In his younger years, the Tudor monarch Henry VIII was known to be an attractive, accomplished king, but around age 40 he began to spiral into a midlife decline. Research by an American bioarchaeologist and anthropologist pair in 2010 suggested that the king's difficulties—including his wives' many miscarriages—may have been caused by an antigen in his blood as well as a related genetic disorder called McLeod syndrome, which is known to rear its head around age 40. Reports in the British press claimed the researchers wanted to exhume the king's remains for testing, although his burial at George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle means they will need to get the Queen’s permission for any excavation. For now, it's just a theory.

7. GALILEO

A portrait of Galileo
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The famed astronomer has had an uneasy afterlife. Although supporters hoped to give him an elaborate burial at the Basilica of Santa Croce, he spent about 100 years in a closet-sized room there beneath the bell tower. (He was moved to a more elaborate tomb in the basilica once the memory of his heresy conviction had faded.) More recently, British and Italian scientists have said they want to exhume his body for DNA tests that could contribute to an understanding of the problems he suffered with his eyesight—problems that may have led him to make some famous errors, like saying Saturn wasn't round. The Vatican will have to sign off on any exhumation, however, so it may be a while.

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