• 22 Apr 2022 11:59 AM | Anonymous

    by Evelyn Luettich Horne, Koreshan Unity Member, 1922 - 2007

    Koreshan Unity members at the 1941 Solar Festival at Bamboo Landing

    Early rising (at) 6:00 a.m. to get ready for the day.  (30 members) No running water, you had to carry water to your bedroom, for bath, shaving, shampoo and drinking, from the Unity flowing artesian well. 150 ft. deep. Let the water stand overnight to lose the sulfur smell and taste.

    Breakfast bell rings at 7:00 a.m. You can see people coming, hurrying from each and all paths and roads. The dining room was the family meeting place. Breakfast took about 1 hr.

    The heads of staff greeted the members with a Monday morning prayer. There was a prayer for 3 times a day for 7 days a week, written by Dr Cyrus R Teed, the (Unity) founder.

    The secretary, Etta Silverfriend, read any mail from friends up north, or any business mail concerning the members.

    The breakfast menu consisted of:

    Fruits in season from the gardens; citrus in winter season, in summer melons and mangoes from the summer garden. Koreshan breads from their oven bakery. Honey from the Apiary. Jams and jellies from the tropical fruits found on the grounds. Hot cereals: oatmeal and Cream of Wheat. Milk and butter from their own cows. Eggs and omelettes from their own chickens. Tea & coffee.

    The Koreshans always had a hearty breakfast to start their day of work -

    Off to work: Whatever may be your job: Print shop for a long day of running the presses. Ladies doing proof reading, cutting paper, book binding, mailing (Koreshan publications) The American Eagle and The Flaming Sword. Job printing, between Fort Myers and Miami, Fort Myers north to Tampa.

    The Guiding Star print shop was their biggest industry.

    The truck farming. The bee industry. The  boat building. The shoe repair. The machine shop. The Riverview Inn. Post office, the filling station: Standard Oil,  the laundry, the dining room & kitchen.

    Car & truck drivers to Ft. Myers daily for business, banks, P.O.'s, doctors, dentist, optometrist, building supplies, repairs.

    Electric power plant. Florida Power & Light came to Estero May 1946.

    After a morning of hard work, the dinner bell rings at 11:30 a.m. A good hot lunch would be: Fresh vegetables from the garden, green beans, new red potatoes, beet greens and red beets. Meat loaf or beef stew. Koreshan baked brown bread; Fruit pies: maybe mulberry or green apple, mango, surinam cherry. Hot coffee or Tea.

    Back to work for a long afternoon.

    Supper bell rings at 5 p.m. Koreshans always had a light supper. Bowl of hot soup, cup of fresh fruit, slice of pound cake, tea or coffee.

    After supper: Chores at home. Chickens and cows to tend. Music practice in the Art Hall. Fruit from the gardens to pick. A quiet time at home. Maybe letter writing to family & friends up north.  Sewing - maybe only a button or designing a new summer dress. Reading - Dr Teed's religious works, Bible or even a good novel. Listening to your own radio. Lectures in the Art Hall Sundays and Wednesdays.

    Sunday afternoons: homemade ice cream parties at the Dining Hall, served with Ida Fisher's coconut cake. Visiting in the neighborhood to Koreshans. The Boomer Estate. The Campbell & Trebell groves or to Anna Lewis' house for bridge parties.

    Click here for some pictures of the Koreshan Unity in the 1940s and 50s .

    To learn more about Koreshanity and the life and times of Cyrus Teed and his followers, click here to register for a guided tour of the Historic Settlement in Koreshan State Park.

  • 23 Feb 2022 10:49 AM | Anonymous

    by Elizabeth V. Brown, MTh
    Former Docent and Tour Guide, Koreshan State Park


    As a religion, Koreshanity was as undefinable as its peripatetic founder, Cyrus R. Teed. Both defied categorization which permitted infinite adaptability. Teed was born in Trout Creek, New York in 1839, the second son of eight children born to a farm family in the closing days of the Second Great Awakening. His mother was the daughter of a Baptist minister and the family hoped he would follow in those occupational footsteps. Teed was uninterested in that career path and knew that his father, Jesse, also a second son, had been forced to vacate the family farm and strike out on his own. The economic reality was that like his father before him, Teed would not inherit the land, leaving him most likely hard-wired to know he would need to chart his own course.

    Therefore, it was not all that surprising that he left home at the age of eleven to work on the Erie Canal. The work taught him indelible lessons about capitalist exploitation and led to a hatred of market economics which would later materialize in his religious views. In addition, while working on the Canal he would come in contact with trance mediums, abolitionists, labor reformers, itinerant preachers, and feminists, all of whom would later add seasonings to his savory religious stew.

    Beyond the economic model that drove him to that work, Teed had a deep-seated thirst to distinguish himself. Later stories of his personal style offer evidence that he most likely did not suffer from false humility about anything, including the uniqueness of his patchwork of religious views. From this realization, there are three distinct influences that form the tripod that shaped Teed’s religious teachings and help to distinguish Koreshanity:

    • Teed held a unique perspective on the intersection of science and religion.

    • Teed constructed a scriptural mandate, defining biblical roots for himself as the new messiah.

    • Teed preached an economic model, based on early Christianity, that eschewed evils of capitalism and the virtues of communalism.

    Intersection of Science and Religion

    For centuries, theologians and scientists had debated the intersection of religion and science. Teed was no different but his understanding of science was distinctive. He dabbled in the occult and in alchemy after completing his studies in 1869 at the Eclectic Medical College in New York City where he specialized in electrotherapy.

    He had become interested in magnetic healing. He began using occult practices to heal his patients. He believed that he would unlock mysteries that no one else could. Alchemy and electromagnetism were his lab experiments. He was obsessed with discovering something unknown as he experimented with microscopes, electromagnetic motors, and various metals including mercury, gold, and silver. He went so far as to turn a part of his medical office into an electro-chemical laboratory in which to blaze a path and discover a new relationship between matter and energy.

    Teed’s experiments focused on the modern technology of the day which was electricity and he continued to search for ways to distinguish himself while using it. He applied electricity to the occult theories, to his treatment of patients, and his own religious interpretations of the Bible. His eventual teaching was that spiritual transformation as he preached it would bring about the salvation of the next golden age of human civilization (Morris 140).

    Simultaneous with his experimentation, the mid-nineteenth century witnessed the rise of new scientific fields of geology, genetics, evolution, and anthropology. We don’t know how these impacted Teed but they may well have been unsettling. He seemed to be bent on restoring a sense of order to the universe, placing it in a womblike environment he called the cosmic egg which he alone could explain. This was his version of the extant Hollow Earth theory which had been most recently addressed by Jules Verne in his science fiction title Journey to the Center of the Earth, first published in 1864. This cosmic egg provided a sense of security for his followers, knowing all had been provided for them by God and under Teed’s religious teachings, this truth was revealed to them alone. It defied the new scientific findings of geology and he continued to walk his own path.

    His electro-chemical laboratory led to his most famous scientific experiment, his illumination, in 1869, which is discussed below. Interestingly, he did not write about the 1869 experiment for 30 years. This fits with his overall pattern of keeping lots of space between his teachings and the written word, a fact that permitted him endless flexibility and ultimate deniability in his doctrinal pronouncements later in his career.

    The Scriptural Precedents

    Teed used both Old and New Testament scripture to authenticate his religious credentials. Teed’s encounter with the spirit of the woman who came to him in 1869 in his laboratory raises theological points that are important to decoding his religious teachings and the specific way he writes himself into the narrative of the scriptural prophecies.

    The events of the 1869 illumination are centered on the image of the divine woman from Revelation 12, the last book of the New Testament which itself borrows extensively from the Old Testament. The apocalyptic language of the Book of Revelation uses allegorical language to urge the early Christians to stand firm and resist the evils of paganism and await the fulfillment of God’s promise. When it was written, the apocalyptic form was the language of the oppressed (CSB 570). Therefore, the Book of Revelation was often used by apocalyptic leaders over the millennia as the stage for announcing a new vision for the religion they would preach (Millner 7). Revelation prophetically announced that God’s justice will prevail and that Christ was coming in glory, so hold on, the apocalyptic leaders like Teed were saying.

    Teed related his experience of Revelation 12 to give scriptural authority to his role as the next prophet. The woman Teed described was “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of 12 stars” like the passages in Revelation 12:1. Most significantly, in Revelation the woman is with child and she gives birth to the Messiah who then becomes the leader of the new Israel (Rev. 12:5). Teed would later claim this mantle of messianic leader for his own with the pronouncement from the woman in his illumination who told him, “Thou art chosen to redeem the race. Luxuriate thee! for soon I shall withdraw and thou shalt go...” (Millner 20). Teed had been selected as a prophet to reveal the True Path.

    Teed further embellishes his own role in the fulfillment of scripture. He connects to Isaiah 11:10, noting that he was sprung from the root of Jesse (his father’s name) and he (Teed) will stand as a banner for the people and rest in glory recovering the remnant of the beleaguered people. Cyrus the Great, in Isaiah 44:28, was called the shepherd who would rebuild Jerusalem and lay the foundation for the temple. Teed proclaimed he was part of that lineage through the name Koresh, a transliteration of the name Cyrus. Teed took on the name Koresh in 1891 and he believed it tied him to Cyrus the Great. Importantly, Cyrus the Great, most likely a Zoroastrian Persian king ruling in 559 BC, was the first king who is not a Jew to be referred to as “anointed” in the Old Testament. In Hebrew, the word “anointed” related to the root word for “messiah” which was applied to both leaders and kings who were guided by God to save the chosen people. The Greek translation of “messiah” was Christos from which comes the title “Christ” so when Teed links himself to Cyrus the Great, the entire chain of messianic reference, including ties to Christos, comes along.

    If God’s first divinely created human was Adam, the second Adam was Jesus, and now, Teed explained he was the next in the line, receiving what God gave the prophets so they could provide it to their people (Millner 2). Teed taught that the coming of the messiah was inevitable. “The Divine Seed was sown 1900 years ago and the Messiah (Teed himself) was now in the world” declaring the new gospel (Pennington 9).

    In addition, Teed claimed messianic authority from Jeremiah 31:22, the acknowledgement of the feminine spiritual counterpart which Teed combined with occult theories of regeneration (Morris 140). Teed was saying that since scripture had noted that Spirit could now move into different bodies from Enoch to Elijah to Jesus, Teed claimed it could also move to himself. Alchemical transmutation offered a scientific explanation of reincarnation which formed the central thesis to Teed’s messianic message.

    Economic Model that is Anti-Capitalistic

    In his book, American Messiahs, Adam Morris makes some important observations which connect Teed to some general patterns which influenced other religious leaders. “Messiahs tend to arise from progressive movements and identify with capitalism as an evil because it contradicts the primitive Christian church of the apostles” (9). The early church of the apostles was founded on ideals of charity, mutual aid, joint possessions, and equality of everyone, including the poor and weak. The progressive movements shifted mid-century when Teed arrived on the scene. Following the end of the Second Great Awakening, the new churches turned to temperance, abolition, and women’s rights, ideas which were popular with the progressive evangelicals like Teed (Ibid 135).

    Teed would lead his followers to believe that the regeneration of human kind would mean turning away from what he perceived of as the evils of capitalism and industrialization. In 1877, Teed established a communal society removing its residents from exploitative capitalism and his first commune in New York tracked closely with the early Christian communities in spirit of Matthew 22:37-39 (Ibid 146). By 1887, his publishing house, Guiding Star Publishing, was a sounding board for Teed’s ideas. It had issued persistent and aggressive warfare against all modern shams, hypocrisies, evils, and fallacies. It was the fearless champion of the rights of the oppressed woman in her bondage and of the working man under the weight of oppressive capitalism. For Teed, the evils of capitalism became biblical in proportion and he again reverted to scriptural imagery from the Ezekiel and the battles between Gog and Magog as the “threshold over which humanity must tap to arrive at...peace (Ibid 168). His apocalyptic pitch proclaimed the benefits of communalism.

    The communal religious society that Teed formed lasted into the middle of the twentieth century and it had accomplished, however tentatively, an alternative to what Morris calls the “alienation of secularized industrial urbanism and a progressive alternative to the mainline Protestantism that has served as a handmaiden to business” (Ibid 192). It was Teed’s evangelization and his charisma that led to recruiting followers into his constantly moving messianic communalism at a time of social and economic anxiety. His was a messianic voice of the time and this second son of a second son had indeed found a way to distinguish himself, however briefly, in the constellation of messianic leaders.

    February 21, 2021

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Work Cited

    Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality. University Press of Florida. 2015.

    Morris, Adam. American Messiahs: False Prophets of a Damned Nation. Liverlight Publishing. 2019.

    Pennington, Bruce. King Koresh: The Man from Inside the Earth.

    Senior, Donald, John J. Collins, Mary Ann Getty, editors. The Catholic Study Bible. New American Bible. Oxford University Press. 2016.

    To learn more about Koreshanity and the life and times of Cyrus Teed and his followers, click here to register for a guided tour of the Historic Settlement in Koreshan State Park.

  • 21 Dec 2021 10:33 AM | Anonymous

    By Tour Guide and Docent, Roger Parlin


    Aerial of the Koreshan Unity and Route 41/Tamiami Trail c. 1958. Photo from Koreshan State Historic Site Photograph Collection.

    The name Estero is Spanish for estuary – where the river meets the sea – and until the 1970s much of the settlement and development in Estero was near the Estero River, then called Mosquito Creek.

    In the early days, Estero was a major citrus producing area. The first homesteader is reported to be Gustave Damkohler who in 1882 farmed citrus along the Estero River and then used the river to ship his harvests north via the Gulf of Mexico.

    Estero’s most noted pioneer was Dr. Cyrus Teed, leader of the Koreshan Unity (now Koreshan State Park), who believed the universe existed within a giant hollow sphere.  He and some of his followers began settling along the Estero River in 1894.  Gustave Damkohler joined the group after selling his 320 acres of land to the Unity for $200.

    The Koreshans were able to incorporate 110 square miles into the Town of Estero in 1904.  The municipality stretched from a mile north of today’s Gladiolus Drive in South Fort Myers to a mile north of Bonita Beach Road in Bonita Springs and included all of today’s Lovers Key State Park and the Town of Fort Myers Beach.

    Not all the homesteaders of that time were happy with the Koreshans. In 1901 Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Hendry deeded land for the Estero Creek School with the restriction of prohibiting all things Koreshan.  This school operated until 1903; there is no record of why it closed. The Town of Estero was later abolished in 1907.

    During this time, the Koreshans opened a post office, store, blacksmith and saw mill; established schools for all those who wanted to attend; built an Art Hall for their symphony orchestra and theater group, and gathered exotic vegetation from throughout the world which they planted on their grounds. The eleven remaining historic structures are now maintained by the state at Koreshan State Park. Gustave Damkohler’s cottage is among those, and is the oldest structure in Lee County, built in 1882.

    Step back in time and witness pivotal moments in the lives of these hardy Florida pioneers and visionaries in Ghost Walk 2022, January 28, 29 and February 4, 5. Tickets are $25 and available online only. To learn more and purchase tickets, click here.

    Damkohler’s cottage c. 1890. Photo from Koreshan State Historic Site Photograph Collection.

  • 28 Oct 2021 9:27 AM | Anonymous


    The Koreshan Unity Bakery, c. 1900

    By Roger Parlin, Docent, Tour Guide

    Life was not easy for the Koreshans, certainly by modern-day standards. They worked hard to build the Unity and a home out of the Florida swamps.

    But there were a few “perks”:

    EQUAL PAY FOR EVERYONE AND EVERY JOB
    All were paid equally in Koreshan Unity credits they could use to pay for goods and even to build their own homes.

    Koreshan Unity Sewing  Class and Seamstresses, c.1900

    NO HOUSEWORK

    Unless the member’s job was housework, no one had to do housework because the Unity had a cleaning service comprised of Unity members.

    NO CHILDCARE 

    No need to care for their own children because the Unity had a dorm and a school also comprised of Unity members. Although parents could interact with their children, Dr. Teed felt that all Unity members should love all children equally and discouraged members from showing favoritism to their own offspring, even at Christmas.


    The Koreshan Unity Dining Hall and Children's Dormitory, c. 1900

    NO COOKING OR DISHWASHING 

    Meals were prepared and served in the Koreshan dining hall by Unity members whose job was cooking and cleaning up afterwards. Evenings, members could return to their living quarters and relax, read, study the arts, music or pursue any endeavor they chose.

    Dining Hall Interior, c. 1900

    EDUCATION

    Anyone of any age could enroll in the Koreshan Pioneer University and learn useful skills. For women, Native Americans and other minorities, all frequent targets of discrimination, this was a great opportunity.

    In addition, other than college and university for a select few (mostly white men), adult education was unheard of back then. The opportunity for adults to continue their education was a revolutionary concept, right up there with women's rights.

    Koreshan Unity School , c. 1900

    Want to learn more about this unique community and its members? Take a guided tour of their settlement or purchase a copy of Lyn Millner’s definitive book on the Koreshans, The Allure of Immortality.    

  • 17 Aug 2021 6:30 PM | Anonymous

    Dr. Cyrus Teed’s cult-like religion attracted death threats and broke up marriages in late 19th century Chicago.
    by Jeff Nichols July 23, 2021; Reprinted from chicagoreader.com

    Image from Koreshan Unity Papers, State Archives of Florida, Tallahassee.

    On May 18, 1892, a lawyer addressed a packed Englewood auditorium. The issue was whether to form a mob to remove their new neighbor, Dr. Cyrus R. Teed, or to let the law take its course. “Let us say that there is one spot in the State of Illinois where such a devil cannot exist,” E.S. Metcalf told the crowd. “Don’t talk about tar and feathers tonight; they will come later.” Speakers told stories of how wives had abandoned their families and turned over all their assets to Teed. Admitting his past desire to shoot Teed, another ex-husband told the approving crowd that “No jury would have held me accountable for his death.”

    Teed had taken an unusual path in his journey of becoming one of the most gleefully reviled Chicagoans of the late 19th century. Perhaps if he had lived today, the Internet would have provided a more comfortable outlet for his unusual scientific and religious beliefs. Born in 1839 in Teedville, New York, a village founded by a well-off ancestor, Cyrus left school at eleven to work on the Erie Canal. After serving in the Union Army, he studied to become a doctor of eclectic medicine, a new medical field which emphasized botanical and other noninvasive remedies.

    Teed, like many eclectic doctors, also believed in alchemy. He later claimed he discovered his life’s mission while tinkering in his laboratory in Utica. Discovering the secret of transforming base metals into gold, he fell into a rapturous trance. Teed was visited by “the Divine Mother.” “I have nurtured thee through countless embodiments,” the spirit explained. “Offspring of Osiris and Iris, behold the [revealing] of thy Mother.”

    Preaching across New York, Teed made a futile attempt to build a religious movement based on his revelations and idiosyncratic medical theories. In 1886, one of his few admirers offered to pay his way to a convocation of “mental healers” in Chicago. Held in a deconsecrated church that also housed a candy factory, the convention of the Mental Science National Association was so enamored of the rumpled but supremely confident doctor that it elected Teed its new president. Abandoning his invalid wife back in New York, Teed founded his own school, the World’s College of Life, and his own religion.

    Calling himself by the name of Koresh, Teed taught that the body could heal itself through a “scientific” reading of a hodgepodge of ancient texts. In February 1888, Teed’s reputation as a kooky doctor took a dark turn with the death of Fletcher Benedict, the husband of a devoted follower. Benedict, who had believed Teed’s ideas were “humbug,” didn’t respond to Teed’s treatment for pneumonia, which consisted solely of prayers. “What if he does die?” Teed told Benedict’s distraught landlord. “I have been dead a dozen times.” At the coroner’s inquest, Teed claimed “Koreshan science” could cure “cancer, consumption—anything.”

    Teed’s prosecution for practicing medicine without an Illinois license didn’t deter his core disciples, most of whom were women. The former child laborer spoke out against capitalist exploitation and materialism. His message of communal life offered a radical break from the confines of traditional households. Teed consistently preached a message of gender equality. “Woman, the world over, is born disfranchised,” commented Teed’s paper, The Flaming Sword. Man “makes all her laws and she has no rights that he does not provide and control.”

    Teed rejected not only patriarchy, but all forms of sexual desire. The Koreshans would achieve immortality through a prophesized “conflagration of males and females,” emerging as neuter superbeings. Teed hated established Christian churches because they sanctified heterosexual marriages, which only perpetuated the cycle of reproduction and death. Churches also had refused to accept Teed’s reading of the Bible and other sacred texts, which showed that a man exactly like Teed would become God’s final prophet.

    Shortly before Teed’s sect moved to a mansion in Washington Heights and into a block of flats in Englewood, Teed predicted that he would be killed by the angry husbands of his female followers, but would become, in his words, “theocrasized,” which would allow him to lead his flock in astral form. A boy found a bomb near Teed’s mansion. While his new neighbors feared how the Koreshans would bring down property values, they ultimately chose not to risk jail time to remove Teed.

    By 1893, there were about 160 believers in Koreshanity in Illinois. Teed crisscrossed the country, attempting to win new converts to bring back to Chicago, where they would be treated like deranged cult members. Despite an avalanche of negative national press, Teed remained candid in his ambition to build a worldwide theocracy. Koresh created a new calendar, the first year being his birth year. “The Universology of KORESH is the genuine science of all truth, the solution of all problems, the explanation of all phenomena,” the Flaming Sword exclaimed.

    If Teed’s odd theology wasn’t enough, a key element of Teed’s evangelism was the goal to prove that humanity lived inside the Earth. According to Teed, the Earth was hollow, with the sun, powered by precious metals of the earth’s crust, sitting at its center. Nighttime could be explained by the fact that the rotating sun was black on one side. The moon was an “x-ray picture” of the earth’s surface projected on the atmosphere, while the stars were “focal points of light.” The appearance of ships disappearing on the horizon was only an optical illusion, gravity explained by the existence of “gravic rays.” The Koreshans dutifully ran their own experiments, including one involving telescopes mounted on rowboats floating in the Old Illinois Drainage Canal.

    After 17 years of surviving Chicago, Teed was unsuccessful in convincing his adopted hometown to abandon a Copernican worldview, give up sex, and accept Koresh as their personal savior. The Koreshans left wicked Chicago for undeveloped Estero, Florida, where Teed envisioned building a holy city with a population of 10 million. When Teed died in 1908, his followers propped him up in a bathtub. Days into waiting for Koresh’s resurrection, the county health officer insisted the great prophet be interred. Even after a storm blew away Teed’s crypt in 1921, his church soldiered on. The last Koreshan passed away 11 years after men landed on the Moon, an event that some today believe is but a sinister hoax.

    To learn more about Cyrus Teed, his New Jerusalem and the Koreshan Unity, take a guided tour of the Historic Settlement in Koreshan State Park or purchase a copy of The Allure of Immortality from our online store or at the ranger station.

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