The Scott Valley stretches green and languorous in the shadow of the pristine Marble Mountains. Punky Hayden, 72, was born here the year the movement first sparked, and his father, a county supervisor, spoke of it often.
"We're governed by Los Angeles and San Francisco," the former logger said. "We live by their rules, and we don't like living by their rules."
Still, Hayden believes the State of Jefferson will remain a state of mind. "I'm an optimist," he said, "but I'm not that much of an optimist."
Baird and others doing the legwork have no time for such defeatist talk. Between now and mid-February, town hall meetings are scheduled in Butte, Glenn, Sutter and Del Norte counties.
Del Norte organizer Aaron Funk is stepping down from nearly half a dozen local boards to focus full time on the withdrawal movement.
The vote at one recent meeting of core volunteers: to study up on precedent and begin plotting logistics.
"If we can't convince our own board of supervisors, we'll never be able to convince the state Senate and Assembly," said Funk, 72.
Baird prefers "separation" to "secession," noting that the U.S. Constitution spells out the process.
A Los Angeles assemblyman in 1859 pushed for a split at the Tehachapi Mountains. California's Senate and Assembly voted approval and a federal bill was in the works when the Civil War intervened.
In his recent book "The Elusive State of Jefferson," Oregon journalist Peter Laufer recounts the 1941 effort that gave the current movement its name and logo. A citizens committee regularly stopped traffic near the Oregon border to distribute political circulars, and the would-be first governor was waiting in the wings.
But the bombing of Pearl Harbor turned attention elsewhere. And in the decades that followed, grabbing Sacramento's attention became more difficult still.
As in many states, California's upper legislative house had offered geographic representation. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1964 put a stop to that. Reynolds vs. Sims involved Alabama's system, which had led to disenfranchisement of minority urban voters.
"Legislators represent people, not trees or acres," wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren, relying on the principle of one person, one vote.
For better or worse, the ruling set the stage for dwindling rural representation.
"If our state assemblyman and senator both went to Hawaii for a year," Funk said, "it wouldn't make a difference."
In 1993, north state Assemblyman Stan Statham, a Republican, made another push for a divided California. But despite ballot approval in 27 counties and help from then-speaker Willie Brown, who quipped that he'd rather have his enemies split among two states, the campaign went nowhere.
Statham, still pushing for division, spoke to the packed Yreka church hall that August evening. His upcoming book, titled "Restore California," includes a preface from Brown.
Late this month another voice joined the mix: Citing the State of Jefferson movement as inspiration, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper launched a state ballot initiative to carve up California — into six states.
Political analysts say congressional Democrats would never go for it. But an elated Baird is working to arrange a meeting with Draper.