The Koreshan Laundry House was built in 1903 in the Industrial Area of the park, where the entire settlement’s laundry could be washed and dried in only one day (11 hours).
All of the Unity laundry was done at the laundry house. There were between five and seven staff members. The laundry building contained three machines. One was a (VERY) large capacity washer, and the two other machines were called an extractor and a tumbler.
After the clothing and bedding were washed in the washer, The extractor, which operated like a modern spin dryer, reportedly spun at 3,000 RPM. It extracted all the water out of the newly washed items, leaving them virtually dry but tightly pressed together. The compressed items were then placed in the tumbler. The tumbler would rotate and loosen the items so they could be hung up to dry. In the Florida sun and heat, most of the wrinkles fell out, so little ironing was needed.
The laundry house was torn down in the mid 1950s, when it was no longer needed.
Why Dr. Teed believed the Earth was hollow and we live inside it.
THE KORESHAN WORLD Beliefs, about the nature of God and the nature of the Universe, were very important to the Koreshans in later years. Their vision of the world is a set of religious/pseudo-scientific beliefs put forth by Dr. Cyrus Teed, founder of Koreshanity.
Much of what Teed believed was given to him in a vision he called his DivineIllumination in 1869. According to Dr. Teed, God revealed to him the meaning of the universe and Teed’s purpose and place in it. Teed said God instructed him to interpret the Bible to the masses, and revealed several “truths” he wanted Teed to share with the world.
Among these truths was that God was both male and female, and thus women were to be treated the same as men, and everyone of all races were to be treated equally. Then, according to Dr. Teed, in this same vision, God revealed to him that we live on the inside of the Earth.
After he awoke from this vision, Teed vowed to apply his scientific knowledge to “redeem humanity.” He then denounced the idea that the Earth revolved around the sun and instead pioneered his own theory of the universe he called the Cellular Cosmogony.
CELLULAR COSMOGONY; TEED’S THEORY OF THE HOLLOW EARTH The sun is an invisible electromagnetic battery revolving in the universe’s center on a 24-year cycle. Our visible sun is only a reflection, as is the moon, with the stars reflecting off seven mercurial discs that float in the sphere’s center. In the Earth, there are three separate atmospheres: the first composed of oxygen and nitrogen and closest to the Earth; the second, a hydrogen atmosphere above it; the third, an aboron atmosphere at the center. The Earth’s shell is one hundred miles thick and has seventeen layers. The outer seven are metallic with a gold rind on the outermost layer; the middle five are mineral and the five inward are geologic strata. Inside the shell, there is life, outside a void.
TEED “PROVES” HIS HOLLOW EARTH THEORY
A team of Koreshans led by Ulysses Grant Morrow conducted a survey on Naples beach using a land surveying device called a geodeticrectilineator, part of which is on display in the Art Hall in the Historic Unity Settlement in Koreshan State Park. According to Teed, the survey indicated that the horizon did not go down, but actually went up about eight inches per mile or around thirty-six inches in the land surveyed.
Conclusion, if the horizon goes up, we must live in a concave world, or on the inside. Therefore…
We Live Inside!
To learn more about Dr. Teed and other Florida pioneers, take one of Koreshan State Park’s Historic Guided Tours, and pick up a copy of “The Allure of Immortality” by Lyn Millner or Teed’s “Cellular Cosmogony” in the Ranger Station.
Cyrus Teed, who would later become the founder of the Koreshan Unity, was eleven and had only completed eighth grade when he dropped out of school to work as an Erie Canal hoggee (mule wrangler/driver) to help support his family.
Since Teed’s parents were Baptist and he was a natural orator, when he was older his friends urged him to study for the ministry. However, Cyrus decided to become a physician. In 1859 he began the study of medicine in Utica, NY with his uncle, Dr. Samuel F. Teed, an allopathic physician. It was not unusual at that time for many doctors to learn their trade by apprenticing with a physician.
By 1860, Teed was married and had a young son, Douglas. In 1862, Teed enrolled in the Eclectic Medical College of the City of New York. There, he studied until August 9, 1862 when he enlisted in the Infantry of the 127th New York Volunteers. The following year, by then a Corporal, He may have worked as an assistant physician and surgeon while in the Army, but he could have added this about himself later to make his service (and him) appear more important.
On August 1, 1863, while on the march near Warrenton Junction, Virginia, Corporal Teed suffered severe sunstroke which led to paralysis of his left arm and leg. Army records indicate he was a patient in a hospital in Alexandria, Virginia by August 8, 1863, where he spent fifty days.
As a patient, Corporal Teed noticed that wounded soldiers who had a positive outlook on life or strong faith recovered faster. After the war, he received an Honorable (Medical) Discharge from the Army, October 16, 1863. After his discharge, he returned to New York City to complete his medical studies in Eclectic Medicine and graduated in February 1868 at the age of twenty-nine.
In 1869, Teed experienced what he called his “Divine Illumination,” and left his son, Douglas, and wife, Fidelia to develop a religious sect he called Koreshanity. He would eventually select Estero, Florida as the epicenter of his “New Jerusalem.” He would go on to attract many followers to his new religion. What remains of his “New Jerusalem” is now the 200-acre Koreshan State Park.
Gustave Damkohler, born 1825 in Blankenburg, Germany, was the first homesteader in Estero in 1882. He farmed along the Estero River, then known as “Mosquito Creek,” and used the river to ship his harvests and goods north through the Gulf of Mexico. Damkohler was a remarkable man. He invented a fireless cooker (heat stove), gathered many orphans, who he educated and took care of, was a landscape gardener and a medical doctor, though there is no record he ever practiced medicine.
Upon learning the U.S. government was giving away 160 acres of land to those willing to homestead, he claimed land in what is now Koreshan State Park. However, the land was hard to clear for Damkohler, who by then was in his 60s. The amount of citrus, pineapple, and a few other crops Damkohler could produce was limited to just a fraction of the land he was able to clear, and cattlemen were constantly burning what he planted to make grazing for their cattle.
To make matters worse, Damkohler’s family became ill with some unknown malady that killed his two daughters and wife, Alma, two weeks after the birth of their second son. He buried the four of them near his cottage and marked their graves with three large stones. Elwin Damkohler, the eldest son of Gustav and Alma, recalled these events in his book, Estero 1892 -Memories of the First Settlers, in which he alleges his family was poisoned by someone who wanted their land.
Now around 69, Damkohler came across some Koreshan pamphlets left by Dr. Cyrus Teed, founder of the Koreshan Unity, when he visited Pine Island to search for property for his Unity.
Damkohler liked what the pamphlets said and thought it to be a good idea to sell or even give his property to Cyrus Teed and join the Koreshan Unity commune, so he and his son would be taken care of for the rest of their lives. After Damkohler wrote to Dr. Teed, Teed and an entourage of his closest followers came to Estero to look at the property. Damkohler and Teed came to an agreement where Teed would purchase 300 acres from Damkohler for $200.
Damkohler’s son, Elwin, did not trust the Koreshans or Teed, and refused to join the Unity with his father. Elwin believed Teed tricked his father into disinheriting him and was angry with him for selling the family property to Teed.
After Damkohler grew disenchanted with the deal, Elwin convinced him to sue the Koreshans to get their property back and eventually settled with Teed out of court the return of 160 acres. The big winner, however, was Louis A. Hendry, Gustave’s lawyer, who kept 80 acres as his fee. Damkohler sold his 80 acres for $1,000 and moved to Alaska with his son to mine for gold. Damkohler died in Alaska at age 90, and Elwin returned to Florida and became a charter fishing boat captain.
The Koreshans believed celibacy was the “scientific” way to attain eternal life, but the practice was not mandatory. Members could also leave the Unity if they changed their minds about marriage and family. For example, Empress Victoria Gratia, Dr. Cyrus Teed’s female counterpart, left the Unity and attempted to form her own commune. Two years later, Continue reading “Celibacy and the Koreshans”
You can book your place on the next guided tour when you pay park admission at the entrance ranger station. Tours begin in the beautiful Art Hall still used for public concerts as it was in the days of the Koreshan Unity Settlement. The hall is filled with artwork created by former Koreshan members and Dr. Teed’s son, Douglas Arthur Teed, who became a well-known landscape and portrait artist in New York. The most remarkable exhibit is the globe which shows the world as we know it, but instead on the inner shell of the Earth’s outer atmosphere, as Dr. Teed believed it was.
The tour continues along crushed shell paths to the mango orchard outside the New Store building where you will learn about Dr.Teed’s life, his 1869 “illumination” which led to the founding of his Koreshan Unity, and the origin of the word, Koreshan. His followers were hard-working people and their community was self-sufficient, even providing services to the wider local community. They valued education and the arts and had their own drama group and 13-piece orchestra.
The three-story “Planetary Court,” built in 1904, is a fine example of Georgian Foursquare architecture. This clapboard house with its shady front porch was home to “The Seven Sisters,” who provided much of the original financing Teed required to establish his community and saw to the day-to-day business affairs of the settlement. The house features a craftsman-built staircase carved from beautiful Dade Heartwood Pine.
All eleven of the surviving Koreshan buildings in the historic settlement are on the National Register of Historic Places. You can look inside the bakery, which could make up to 600 loaves of bread a day. Their yeast bread was in great demand locally as it was much tastier than the local skillet bread.
Other buildings include the two-room cottage where Vesta Newcombe resided. Vesta, who came to the community as a child, lived there until her death in her 90s, and witnessed Neal Armstrong walk on the moon in 1969 on a small TV still in her cottage.
The Koreshan Unity was totally dependent upon Dr. Teed and after his death in 1908, many followers became disillusioned when his teachings about his resurrection were not fulfilled. Eventually the Koreshan community, its archives and substantial acreage were donated to the state of Florida, in 1961.
The final part of the guided tour explores the gardens and its many specimen trees Dr. Teed acquired in his travels from all over the world. Look for the exotic flowers on the Bombax (red silk, cotton tree), the Ear Tree and the African Sausage Tree. Fruit trees, pecans, magnolias and red pineapples with their exotic pink fruits thrive amid azaleas and palms.
Landscaped mounds make a popular place for the burrowing Gopher Tortoises, and two decorative bridges provide an interesting focal point popular with photographers. Massive Washingtonian Palms planted in 1896 line the Grande Promenade visible from the Bamboo Landing. It’s a good place watch canoes, kayaks and paddleboards ply the shallow waters of the Estero River, once the main access to the settlement before US-41 was paved.
The tour ends at the “Founders House,” built for Cyrus Teed in 1896 with much of the original furnishings still on display. There you will also find old photographs of the Koreshan community in its heyday, and an informative PBS film, which gives more background detail to this unique religious sect.
Dr. Cyrus Teed, AKA “Master Koresh,” founder of the Koreshan Unity, told his followers that he would resurrect in three days, much in the same manner as Jesus Christ. He died December 22nd, three days before Christmas. His followers felt this was a good omen and that their Christmas present would be the return of their Master and he would take them up to heaven with him as he had assured them he would. Continue reading “The Man in the Zinc Bathtub”
My name is Shawn Woodsmith. I am the coordinator for the Koreshan Ghost Walk.
It is that time of year again where I need to start working on Ghost Walk. Ghost Walk is the play we put on at Koreshan State Park, the last weekend in January and first weekend in February. It is a great fundraiser for the park! The best part is all the funds raised stay here in our park.Continue reading “Ghost Walk Volunteers Needed!”
The Koreshan Unity began in the 1870s in New York, where, after God came to him in the form of a beautiful woman, Dr. Cyrus Teed began preaching equality and that “We Live Inside” a hollow Earth. He formed groups of followers in New York City and Moravia and later moved to Chicago Illinois. There, Teed and his followers established their first commune in 1888. Members also created communities in Continue reading “A Brief History of The Koreshans and Koreshan State Park”