Rough and Ready is an unincorporated town, located in Nevada County, California, United States. It is located west of Grass Valley, California, approximately 62 miles (100 km) from Sacramento. Local sources cite the population of Rough and Ready as 1,500, although as an unincorporated area there is no official population figure.
The first established settlement in Rough and Ready was made in the fall of 1849 by a mining company from Wisconsin known as the Rough and Ready Company. Their leader, Captain A. A. Townsend, named the company after General Zachary Taylor (nicknamed "Old Rough and Ready") who had recently been elected the 12th President of the United States. Captain Townsend had served under Taylor when he commanded the American Forces during the U.S.-Mexican War.
Rough and Ready is the only mining town to have "seceded" from the Union and then voted itself back in. Populated mostly by miners from the state of Wisconsin, the town hoped to rid itself of a recently-introduced tax on new mining claims and the prohibition of alcohol in Nevada County. It was decided in a town meeting in April 1850 to draw up articles of secession, forming the "Great Republic of Rough and Ready." Less than three months later, when preparing for an Independence Day celebration, community members realized that they were no longer entitled to celebrate US independence, and the secession was rescinded by popular vote.
The history of the "Republic" is performed annually as a play in Nevada County during "Secession Days" on the last Sunday of June.
What little is left of the town is located on State Route 20, west of the Grass Valley junction at State Route 49. Among the oldest buildings are the blacksmith shop (1850s), the Odd Fellows Hall (1854), and the Old Toll House.
The town of Rough and Ready is honored as a historic landmark (#294) by the state of California.
A melodrama comedy, "Gold Fever at the Rough and Ready", written by Neal LaVine, was performed at the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville in Oceano, CA in the summer of 2009. The play incorporated historical characters (Captain A. A. "Sheriff Bartly" Townsend, Col. E. F. Brundage, Marcus Nutting, and Alonzo Delano) with fictional melodrama characters (prospector Eustace "Scabby" Jones, villain Phileas Cramner) and closely follows the history of Rough and Ready, from the gold boom and formation of the town to secession from the Union, and the eventual dissolving of the Union due to planned 4th of July festivities. Certain fictional elements were added to serve comedic and theatrical purposes.