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October 2014

Cyrus Teed died in 1908. He did not rise from the dead or transmute or anything else. However, the faith of those who followed him was, in many ways, phenomenal. They continued to hope for something that would show that what he had said about his return was true. In the meantime, his body was placed in the Koreshan built mausoleum on Estero Island, also known as Crescent Beach, now Fort Myers Beach. Next to it, they built a small cabin where a constant watch was kept. Almost 13 years after his death something did happen… the 1921 Hurricane.

Track of the 1921 hurricane. It made landfall at Tarpon Springs.

Track of the 1921 hurricane.

This unnamed storm made landfall at Tarpon Springs, near Tampa. However, it caused a great deal of damage, mostly flooding, in the Fort Myers area.

Here is a letter written by Evelyn Bubbett, one of the first followers of Dr. Teed. She was writing to her son, Laurie (Laurence), her daughter, Imogene and her husband, Claude Rahn (again, an early member of the Unity).

Estero, October 26, 1921

My dearest Ones – Gene, Claude & Laurie
Have just come from a consultation of the Board to determine the best policy to pursue in view of the conditions we find confronting us at this time. We have had another awful storm, perhaps not so bad as the one we had in 1910, so far as the damage here is concerned, but the awful force of the waves and wind burst the Tomb and demolished it.

Wm. McG saw it struck by an immense wave about 7am Tuesday October 25, as he stood in the door of the cottage, with the water rushing in, in volumes, and him trying to keep the door open so the water woud not strike the house broadside and carry it away. It would come in at the fron door, and go out the back door, till it rose to his armpits, and by that time he was almost exhausted and chilled to the bone. The water first cam in about 6:30am and he battled with it till nearly noon. By that time Carl came with a row boat–his story is too long to tell now. About 2 o’clock yesterday, Geo., Steve and Will Fisher went down in the “Star” because we knew from the direction of the wind what the water would do there at the island. They got there about 4pm, and found that a houseboat from Hickory Island had floated over and landed close to Carl’s woodshed and Carl and Wm. were in it. Wm. helped himself to some dry clothes and later the man (a fisherman) came over and offered to get them something to eat. By that time Geo. and Steve had examined the Tomb, found it empty, and no trace of the receptacle the Master was placed in. Carl had a hard time of it also. He packed his trunk and tried to get it back into the mangroves, but it got away from him, (he was in his row boat), and the current was carrying him out, so he paddled back through the brush to see if Wm. was alive. His power boat was anchored to a little dock around the point where Hirman Mays use to be and the strong wind too dock and boat away. If he had fastened it to a stout piling it would have been all right. Geo thinks they know where to look for it. So they may find it. After looking awhile for the receptacle the Master was in, they came home about 6:30. Had a rough time, as the waves dashed Carl’s row boat around a good deal — they had it in tow, with some things G had picked up, and Wm. had gathered from his place. Carl’s house has gone entirely; the other cottage is quite a wreck.

At our meeting it was decided that we hold ourselves, as the Board of Management, in an entirely passive attitude toward the Master’s positive and directing mind; believing he will manifest himself in his own good time and manner, and no amount of speculation will help matters. Some have already said “I told you so”. That proves nothing. His alchemical laboratory served its purpose till the appointed time. I have always strongly believed that when it was opened it would be done by nature in some tremendous upheaval, and it was. We don’t know what the rest of the Island is like, but suppose all the “Coney Island” businesses has gone overboard. DeLysle has collapsed financially, so it is stated.

The ruins of the tomb and the cabin in the distance.

The ruins of the tomb and the cabin in the distance.

Brother George, Steve and perhaps Carl have gone down again, this a.m. to look around the premises and see what them can get find. All the fish houses went off their foundations. The fishermen from Mound Key came up here the night before and said the Island was under water. Of course the high ground was all right, where Mrs. Johnson and Wm. Acuff are. Wm. came home before the Birthday.

Well, it is nearly dinner time and I will stop writing till I know whether there is to be any mail today or not. The bell has rung for dinner, so I’ll stop.

Thank heaven the wind has gone down and the storm is over, tho it is still cloudy. Carl has been drying the things he saved and getting his trip straightened out. Saved quite a few dishes and silver, so Emma says. He has used the room in the office that Laurie had, when he came up here. We are not certain what to do about his mail route. We have not had any mail in 2 days, and of course Carl did not dare go on his trip yesterday. We can’t get any news from Myers. The rivers are down; someone said a car came thru yesterday afternoon and the driver said the water was up over the city dock 18 inches. The tide here is the river was 2 feet higher than was ever known, but it went down rapidly as it came time for it to go out. The wind whipped our trees unmercifully but we are so glad no such damage was done as in 1910, that is, to our buildings.

The storm affected me very much; it had been cloudy and rainy for 2 or 3 days and the day before the hardest wind started, I knew it was hurricane weather that was coming. I was so nervous it was hard to keep at anything. James was quite affected also. I have not been able to write the personal letters I intended because I had to attend to getting off the cards and programs Sr. Vi(?) used to send out. David has been such good help; don’t know what I should do without him. Marie is doing all she can to get out the Sword copy in with her Eagle work. Helen left last Saturday. The last form of the CC is about read for the press…

The rest of the letter deals with people and events around the Unity. The letter shows, in my opinion the honest faith that Evelyn and the others continued to hold on to, despite the fact that it had been 13 years since Teed’s death and now this natural disaster which washed away the physical remains of Cyrust Teed.

In this day and age it is easy to look back on the time of the Koreshans and even scoff a little at their unusual beliefs. Some go so far as to call them whackos and nuts. Perhaps some of them were (Edgar Peissart comes to mind), but overall, they were a group of people who gave their lives, their money and their future over to a belief, a faith, which turned out to be bogus. Yet, their faith kept them going. Committing oneself to that is something that is foreign to most people in our consumer oriented society.

Categories: Monthly Feature.

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September 2014

[This is a re-posting from September 2013]

One of the purposes of this website is to look closer at the lives, beliefs and practices of the Koreshans. In the two decades that I have been here, I’ve found a lot of misconceptions and historical fallacies. One of the things I’ve found about the Koreshans is that they sometimes (and Cyrus Teed in particular) tended to embellish themselves and the Unity. Let me be clear in saying that I am not intending to be overly critical. The Koreshans did, in fact, bring a great deal of culture and learning to southwest Florida. Their beliefs were very well “worked out”. But in attempting to convince others of the truth of their beliefs and the strong character of their leader, they sometimes resorted to false claims and (in the case of Dr. Teed), in my opinion, even “made up” words. With all that in mind here is a piece from the “American Eagle”, written in 1973 by Hedwig Michel. She began a series called “The Koreshan Unity Settlement” which was intended to be a kind of history of the movement with most of it taken from original writings. Part One, which was published in the June 1973 edition of the “American Eagle” was a piece written by Laurence (Laurie) Bubbett. It began with an introduction written by Hedwig Michel.

Established in Chicago with groups who joined from New York State and California the Koreshan Unity moved to Florida in 1893-94. They established numerous stations on Florida’s Gulf Coast, stretching from James City west to the south of Naples, at Gordons Pass, with main headquarters at Estero Island and the mainland of Estero. Mound Key, Big and Little Hickory Island served as farming, fishing and hunting areas. Sawmills in Estero and on Estero Island activated their industrial boat and house building projects. The Guiding Star Publishing House remained, as in Chicago, the center of their communal work. Once. established more industries were added, the tropical nursery, a mechanical workshop, laundry, bakeshop, cannery, hat and dress making, sculpture, music and the arts were practiced. A general store and post office were of benefit to the community.

A New Jersey corporation with the certificate to do business in Florida the Koreshans were taxpayers for more than seventy years in Florida, never having received any financial support other than from their members and friends of their religious fraternal commonwealth. Their modest way of living was made possible through their devotion to the cause their leader, Dr. Cyrus Read Teed — KORESH — taught: “In The Name Of Humanity” they were building for future generations.

The following biographical sketch was written by one of the staunch believers in Koreshan Universology. Laurence Bubbett, raised and trained in the Estero Pioneer University, for many years editor of the religious weekly, The Flaming Sword, and leader in the movement, was the son of the incorporators James and Evelyn Bubbett. He knew Koresh from earliest childhood. He carried the Koreshan work through critical years into the recognition of the pioneers’ endurance.

KORESH and his followers built their own monument which now is named as The Koreshan Unity Settlement among the Significant Sites and Properties in the Florida Bicentennial Trail.

Like the Koreshans before her Hedwig seemed to be saying that Estero was the center of the earth, and of course for the Koreshans, it was. The so-called “Pioneer University” was simply the schooling that members received from other members of the Unity. This is not to say that these teachings were elementary. One look at the Koreshan Library of books shows that the Koresahns were very learned and I’m sure that the knowledge they taught was, in many cases, very academic.

Here is the article written by Laurie Bubbett

[Excerpt from The American Eagle - Vol.53 No.98 June 1973]

By Laurence W. Bubbett
President of the Koreshan Unity (1948-1960) and aide to the Koreshan Geodetic Staff that projected a mechanical straight line beside the water’s surface of the Gulf of Mexico at Naples, Fla., in 1897.

Cyrus Read Teed was born on October 18, 1839, near Trout Creek in a small settlement called Teedsville, in Tompkins township, Delaware County, N.Y. He was the second son of eight children of Jesse and Sarah Ann Tuttle Teed. His father, Jesse Teed, was a successful country doctor.((1))

Cyrus R. Teed was descended through his mother from a John Read, who came to America from England in 1630 and settled in Rehoboth, Mass. At the age of eleven Cyrus quit school to help provide for the fast growing family. His parents were of the Baptist faith, and as Cyrus grew older his friends urged him to study for the ministry because of his natural oratorical ability. But Cyrus decided to become a physician and in 1859 commenced the study of medicine with his uncle, Dr. Samuel F. Teed, in Utica, N.Y. In 1858 Cyrus Teed married Miss Fidelia Rowe of Meredith, N.Y., to which union one son was born, Douglas Arthur Teed, who later attained distinction as an artist and portrait painter, in 1862 Cyrus moved with his family to New York City to complete his medical education, but as the Civil War was raging at that, time Cyrus, instead of continuing his medical studies, joined the Union Army, volunteering as a private. Because of his medical knowledge he was assigned to field hospital service and later became attached to the staff of a Gen. Woodford as assistant physician and surgeon.((2)) At the close of the war,((3)) he resumed the study of medicine at New York Eclectic Medical College. He graduated in 1868 and commenced practice in Utica, N.Y.

Being of a deeply religious, philanthropic and investigative turn of mind Dr. Teed sought wider means of alleviating the ills of humanity than mere medical science could afford and so consecrated his life to that end. His intense research in the realm of metaphysics resulted in a spiritual awakening or divine “illumumination” as he termed it, in the autumn of 1869. This “illumination” was the revelation of the mysteries of life and death, of the form and character of the universe of the relation of man to God and man’s ultimate destiny in God. It was the revelation of universal knowledge. Like all prophets and seers, however, Dr. Teed found few who were immediately receptive to his strange and revolutionary teachings, although they were based on the Bible, which he declared was written in the language of symbolism, and he held Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and his standard. Therefore his zeal in putting forth his doctrine resulted in antagonism which was detrimental to his medical practice almost wherever he went.

In September 1886 Dr. Teed was invited to address a convention of the National Association of Mental Science in Chicago, Ill. At this convention he made such a deep impression by his eloquence and magnetic personality that he was subsequently elected to the presidency of the Association. This favorable reception in Chicago induced Dr. Teed to settle there, and in October 1886 he incorporated “The College of life” under the Laws of the State of Illinois.

In December 1886 Dr. Teed published the first issue of a monthly periodical called “The Guiding Star,” which was devoted to presenting his doctrine to the world — the attainment of immortality in the flesh. “The Guiding Star” was continued until May 1889. This was followed by another magazine entitled “The Flaming Sword,” the first issue of which appeared November 30, 1889. This latter publication was continued until fire destroyed the Community’s printing plant at Estero, Florida, in February 1949.

In September 1888 Dr. Teed founded in Chicago, at 2 and 4 College Place and Cottage Grove Avenue, the institution that became known as the Koreshan Unity, a home for followers who accepted his doctrine. Here was practiced a form of communal life based upon that of the early Christians. In 1894 a branch of the Community was established at Estero, Florida, to where the entire Chicago group was moved in 1903. [Credit is due C. J. Rahn, whose compilation of biographical data was drawn upon.]

  1. There is no evidence that Jesse Teed was ever a country doctor. It is possible he was some kind of country herbalist, healer, etc. much like his daughter, Emma Norton who was the ‘witch doctor’, so to speak, at Estero. At one time Jesse did run his own company, the “Teed Water Works” []
  2. Although Teed was attached to Brigade Headquarters, there is no record of him acting as a physician and/or surgeon, nor as an assistant. He remained an enlisted man – see Civil War Records []
  3. Teed was actually discharged on 16 October 1863. He served about 14 months. The war did no end until May 1865. []

Categories: Monthly Feature.

August 2014

From the Koreshan Archives  —  AUGUST

   This month we want to repeat the entry from this same month in 2009, which marks 2014 as the 105th anniversary of the marriage of Annie Glosson Ordway and Charles Graves. Since there is so little known about Annie Ordway’s background, we wanted to repeat the post.

On August 29, 1909, Annie, known to Koreshans as “Victoria Gratia” , married Dr. Graves, the Koreshan dentist after the two were, for all intents and purposes, drummed out of the Unity after the death of Dr. Teed in December of the previous year (1908). For all her prominence, Annie’s history is rather vague. Here is what we know about her.

·  She was born in Boston Massachusetts on April 10, 1844 to Henry and Ann Glosson.
·  Her first marriage was to David E. Ordway. Little or nothing is known of him.
·  By the time of the 1870 Census, she was living in Chicago.
·  In the 1880 Census, she is listed with her husband, David, who was listed as a baker, and two sons – Harry, age 14 and George, age 6.
·  In the 1900 Census she is now shown as a member of the Koreshan Unity, although the census says she is still married, but only shows her married for one year. This probably has something to do with the Unity since the census also shows Teed and all but one of the females as married for one year.

Exactly when Annie either left or divorced her husband is unknown, but it appears to have been due to the lure of Cyrus Teed and the Koreshan movement. It is also unclear as to when Teed elevated her to the rank of “Pre-Eminent”, that is to say, the female head of the Unity.

Although it is not documented, it is believed that the reason for Annie Ordway’s removal as the leader of the Koreshans was that she recommended Teed’s burial after her return to Estero, following his death. There is some evidence that she did not ask for this, but if true, this obviously did not sit well with those who believed that Teed would rise from the dead. Recent scholarship shows that this would not have been the ONLY reason for her removal, rather, her “attitude”, if that is the correct word, that once Teed was gone, she was somehow ‘destined’ to replace him. Look for more on this in a future post. One could also make the argument that despite Teed’s reference to her as the “Pre-Eminent” most of the Koreshans thought otherwise. She left the Unity and moved to Sanford, Florida and then St. Petersburg where she died in 1923. There were some attempts by some members of the Unity to bring her back to Estero, but those efforts failed. You can find some of those documents by searching this site.

The late Evelyn Horne wrote:

“The first celebration of the Lunar Festival was at Estero, in 1902, where Dr. Cyrus R. Teed and Victoria both attended. There were also celebrations at the Koreshan Home in Chicago. The Estero celebration was an all-day affair, starting at breakfast in the Dining Hall–a musical program at 10:30 a.m.–at 2 p.m. a boat trip on the steamer “Victoria”, down the Estero River, along with Dr. Teed and 32 members. The steamer was decorated with gala-day decorations with flags and streamers.

Here are images of the 1880 U.S. Census and the 1900 U.S. Census records. Just click on the image to open it up, then look for the Ordway family.

Categories: Monthly Feature.

July 2014

From the Koreshan Archives: — 

July brings us the birthdays of two people, one of whom never became a Koreshan, as far as we know, and the other, a Koreshan, but more importantly a pioneer.

First, one of the brothers of Cyrus Teed (Koresh), Charles Jackson Teed. Charles was the fourth child of Jess Teed and Sarah Ann Tuttle. He was born on July 3, 1843. He married Amelia McLaughlin on February 23, 1874. It is after that date that things get a bit murky. We know that Charles and Amelia had a daughter, Ella, who was born on May 6, 1875. We also know, (thanks to original archival papers), that he died somewhere around 1887. Charles was listed in the 1880 census along with Amelia and a daughter Sarah, age 3. No sign of the child, Ella. By the time of the 1900 census, we find an Amelia Teed in a State Hospital. Then by 1910, it shows her with another son, Marvin, born about 1886. Teeds were plentiful in New York, so there may some others whose names are similar. So we have a great deal of death and suffering in the family. The death of children and husbands may have taken its toll.

On a brighter note, July 3 is also the birthday of Frank S. Lewis, born in 1869 in Port Dickinson, New York. Frank was a telegrapher who worked for the Lehigh Valley

Frank Lewis

Railroad as well as for Western Union. Frank came to Florida in 1922 and in 1923 he was part of the “Trail Blazers”, the group who drove across the Everglades from Fort Myers to Miami, opening the way for the eventual building of the road, now known as the “Tamiami Trail”. It is unclear whether Frank was, himslef, a Koreshan. Certainly his wife, Anna Welton Lewis was. She was born near Moravia New York and she and her mother lived in the commune there. Frank and Anna moved to Estero in 1943, having lived in the Everglades since
Frank worked for the Barron Collier company as a telegrapher. In Estero, their small cottage became known later as the “Ann Lewis House” since she continued to live there after Frank’s death in 1945. That house is now on the State Historic Site’s property and is used as the administrative offices.

Frank was the only member of the Trail Blazers who kept a diary. The original is located int he Richter Library, University of Miami, in Coral Gables. You can view it here on our site by Clicking Here

This was written in the FLAMING SWORD, Community Current Events by Adah Price, January 1946:

“Brother Frank S. Lewis died at Lee Memorial Hospital, Ft. Myers, Friday, Dec. 7. The deceased was born in Port Dickinson, a suburb of Binghamton, N. Y., July 3, 1869. He became a telegrapher by profession, serving first with the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and several years later with the Western Union Telegraph Co. in New York City with whom he remained until coming to Florida in 1922. In 1923 he participated in the now historic Tamiami Trail Blazing trip with a
party of men who took the first cars across from Ft. Myers to Miami before the Trail was completed. Shortly thereafter he became associated with the Barron Collier organization at Everglades, serving as telegrapher and accountant in the general offices until he retired and moved to Estero in December 1943. He was also secretary of the Tamiami Trail Masonic Lodge in Everglades. For nearly two years past he had served as bookkeeper and treasurer of The Koreshan Unity at Estero. He left no immediate family, other than his widow, Mrs. Anna Lewis. Mr. Lewis was a man of genial and kindly disposition whom to know was but to admire, and leaves a host of friends to mourn his loss. Burial was in Estero.”

[This post originally appeared in July 2007]

Categories: Monthly Feature.

June 2014

 — June reminds us the the ‘season’ is definitely over. Hurricane season has officially begun and the hot days, and humid nights drag on for then next six months or so.

This month marks the birthday of Jesse Sears Teed, father of Cyrus, but instead of featuring those ‘known’ Koreshans, we thought we would, once again highlight some of the lesser know members of the Unity. We, once again, feature a somewhat obscure Koreshan who, although his time with the Unity was somewhat short, had a major impact, at least on the infrastructure of the Unity. His name was Richard Jentsch((1)) , born in Germany on the 8th of June, 1883. He came to Estero in 1906. It is unclear how long before that time he had been a member of the Unity.

He was a member of the Unity Orchestra, and this grainy photo is all that we have of him. His claim to fame came in 1906, shortly after his arrival when he took part in the “fight” in Fort Myers when Dr. Teed was struck by Sheriff Sanchez and arrested. Jentsch was a part of it. According to historian Elliot Mackle, writing in the “Florida Historical Quarterly”:

“A crowd quickly gathered around the four men. The train had by that time arrived, and the Baltimore party, escorted by the mayor of Estero and by a young Koreshan named Richard Jentsch, had begun walking toward a hotel in the center of town. Upon meeting the crowd they recognized Dr. Teed. Jentsch sprang forward to defend his messiah, and was followed almost immediately by the three Koreshan boys in his charge-Claude Rahn((2)), Roland Sander((3)), and George Danner.((4))

Jentsch struck Sellers and was then himself struck down by blows from the crowd. Claude Rahn, trying to separate Sellers and Dr. Teed, was hit in the mouth by a stranger. George Danner, seeing this, ran forward, kicked Rahn’s attacker, and then retreated. The man yelled, “Grab the kid.” Someone did, and Danner was knocked into the crowd.”

Jentsch is better known in the Historic Site as a member of the Koreshan Orchestra and an active member of the theatre troupe. He eventually left the Koreshan Unity and got married to a fellow Koreshan, Cecile Read Woodruff, who, according to the records we have, was almost forty years his senior. Jentsch died on April 14, 1915, just four months prior to his wife, who died in August of 1915.


Odds and Ends:
We are always on the lookout for items on the Internet related to the Koreshans. Of course, a search for Koresh always turns up the Waco incident and David Koresh. However, we recently ran across this:
The Koresh Dance Company which has nothing to do the Cyrus Teed, Communal Living or Religion. Turns out the dance comapny was formed by a gentleman name Roni Koresh an immigrant from Israel. The dance company is located in Philadelphia.

  1. Richard Jentsch geneaology []
  2. Claude Rahn geneaology []
  3. Roland Sander geneaology> []
  4. George Danner genealogy []

Categories: Monthly Feature.

May 2014

From the Koreshan Archives:
 —  This month we are looking at a member of one of the “Charter” families of the Koreshans, the Andrews family, and in particular, Annie Ray Andrews, the daughter of A.W.K. Andrews and Virginia Harmon Andrews. May 6 would mark Annie’s 135th birthday. She was born in Binghampton New York, the family home of the Andrews family. The book, “Folks we knew while in the K.U.”, written by Marie McCready says:

“Dr. Andrews, a physician and surgeon from New York state, and Virginia of southern birth, were among the first converts. Virginia, with her white hair and soft voice, was the typical “southern lady” type. …Annie Ray’s hair turned white while she was still young, which, with her black brows and lashes gave her a distinctive appearance.”

The photograph shows Annie on Memorial Day, 1909. One hundred five years ago this month. Annie is on the left, along with her sister Margaret. The caption says: “30 May 1909 – 1911 E. Preston Street, Balitmore. Mr and Mrs. Satterfield, Annie Ray, Margaret and the Cat” Although there is no documentation to verify, it appears that Annie dropped out of the Unity shortly after Dr. Teed’s death. Whether or not she was ever a “believer” could probably be debated. She was a member of that second generation of Koreshans which included the likes of Claude Rahn, Laurie Bubbett, Allen Andrews and others. Annie lived in several places, including New York City. She apparently stayed away from the Unity for some time as one of the articles in the “Community Current Events” mentioned her visit after a long time away.
As far as we know, Annie Ray never married. She died in 1928 at the age of 49 and is buried in the Northwood Cemetery in Philadelphia in the cemetery plot of her aunt, Susan Harmon Webb.

Categories: Uncategorized.

April 2014

From the Koreshan Archives:
 —  Last month we looked at some of the struggle, by some, to replace Dr. Teed by claiming the mantle of his leadership. This month, we look at some correspondence of Annie Ordway, also known as Victoria Gratia. Victoria (and many others, including Koresh), considered herself the rightful successor to Cyrus Teed (Koresh). Teed proclaimed her the “Pre-Eminent”. He gave her the name “Victoria Gratia Koresh”. When Teed died in 1908, Victoria was in Washington D.C. attending to Koreshan business. She immediately returned to Estero and arrived back on December 26th. The New York Times reported that she immediately ordered his body interred (NTY-December 27, 1908). This apparently caused an uproar among the faithful and within no time at all, Victoria was replaced by the Board of Directors. She relocated to Sanford Florida and on August 29, 1909 she married Addison Graves, the Koreshan dentist. He died on May 31, 1922 and on the anniversary of Teed’s birth in 1920, [see pencilled date on the image - 1919 appears to have been added even later] she wrote a proclamation offering to return to the colony at Estero. Page-1 of that document is presented below. Page-2 can be accessed via the link below the image. The document consists of eleven pages in total. It is made up mostly of references to Teed’s writing about the role of Victoria.

Victoria's Proclamation - Click for a larger image

Click here for Page-2 of this document

Of course, the majority did not accept this offer, or perhaps they never even considered it, and Victoria eventually moved to St. Petersburg Florida where she died on January 8, 1923.

Victoria, a.k.a. Annie Ordway was born Annie Grace Glossen in Boston, on April 10, 1844. She was married to David Ordway and at some point left her husband, presumably to join Dr. Teed’s movement.

Categories: Monthly Feature.

March 2014 – More from the Dark Side:

In the October 2012 Posting, we featured an article about what we termed, the “Dark Side”, that is, some of the sideshows that went on in or around the Koreshan Unity. We’ve also mentioned previously that there were any number of people, groups and beliefs that attempted to subvert, take over or change the Koreshan Unity, it’s leadership and beliefs. There was a core of Koreshan followers, mainly the Bubbetts, Rahns, Hunts, Andrews and others who hung on to most of the original beliefs making sure that these rivals would never get a foot hold.

That October 2012 article talked about one “Edgar Peissart”. More information about Edgar has come to light and we want to share that information along with information about other communal groups. I hope to show that although the Koreshans were one of the leading communal groups of the 19th and 20th century, there were many many others with beliefs similar to those of the Koreshans. One such group was the Panacea Society. They were similar to the Koreshans in that their leader claimed to be the Messiah. In this case, it was a woman, named Mabel Baltrop, also known as “Octavia”. They believed that she was the daughter of God, sent to build the New Jerusalem. In addition, they preached a celibacy. Sound familiar?

The point here is not to explore the Panaceans, or Octavia, but to discuss the escapades of Edgar Peissart, the one-time Koreshan and member of many other communal groups. In 2011, a book was published about Octavia, entitled Octavia, Daughter of God: The Story of a Female Messiah and Her Followers by Jane Shaw.

Here are some excerpts from the book with reagrd to Edgar Peissart.

… Edgar Peissart continued to write to several of the central women of the Society. In January 1921, he wrote to Ellen Oliver asking where his Royal Seal was and why he had had no reply from Octavia about his request to come and live in the community. repeating that he had indeed accepted her call. Never one to take a hint, or indeed accept a bald truth, he asked plaintively, ‘What is the matter?’ The answer, drafted by Octavia the following month (they did not rush to reply), stated, ‘the reason we have never sent you a seal is that it would be impossible to anyone who makes the claims that you make. He believed Octavia’s status as the daughter of God, but his own claim to be a messiah figure went alongside it. and the women could not accept this. They made it clear that they followed Jesus Christ, ‘the immortal man’ who ‘has a body’ that ‘can walk on water, pass through doors’ and is ‘Father, Husband, Brother, Friend’. They had no need of another divine man. ‘Therefore it would be no kindness to you to allow you to ally yourself with women who are pledged by an act of homage and a most solemn oath‘ to Jesus Christ. Edgar was told firmly to endeavor to overcome his deluded claims and ‘come face to face with yourself as a man’.‘ Edgar Peissart was a religious seeker, mixing ideas from many different belief systems. His life was a perpetual quest for the truth and thus a perpetual disappointment as his attempts to find it — or explain what he thought it was to others — were frustrated. His itinerant religiosity was remarkable. If any one person could find and attempt to join most of the marginalized Christian communities and heterodox religious groups of his time, then Edgar Peissart was that man. Over three decades, he lived all over America as he went about the religious quest that in 1922 brought him to the Panaceans in Bedford. External evidence of his movements shows him popping up in at least four different religious communities in the last decade of the nineteenth century and first decade of the twentieth, while notes that Octavia made indicate his membership of yet others. He was born in Pennsylvania. and his first recorded membership in a church is in that state in a Mennonite church in Milford Township, Lehigh County, in Pennsylvania, for a year: he joined in July 1893 and withdrew in 1894.’ Octavia’s notes suggest that he then became a Russellite — a follower of Charles Taze Russell, whose group was a precursor to the Jehovah’s Witnesses; in 1896, a member of the River Brethren in Pennsylvania, a Mennonite offshoot; and in 1898, one of ‘John Wroe’s people’, as Octavia put it: the Christian Israelites. He next appears in any external records as a part of the House of David, a Southcottian community in Benton Harbor. Michigan, that had developed out of the Christian Israelites in 1903-4, which also believed they had Shiloh incarnated in their leaders, Mary and Benjamin Purnell. He joined in March 1903, early in the community’s history, and stayed there for five years. While there, he was ‘man milliner’ to ‘hundreds of their females!!!!’ as he put it. The Benjamin and Mary community set up an extraordinary tourist resort in their grounds, to which thousands of visitors and holidaymakers thronged, arriving by boat across Lake Michigan or on the train from Chicago to the funfairs, cafés, concerts, baseball games (they had a famous team), jazz concerts and miniature railways. Early in the days of that resort’s development, Edgar worked as a cashier at the ice-cream parlors, restaurants and miniature railroads. and was head of their greenhouses where, he boasted. he grew thousands of different geraniums. He was one of the people sent to New York in 1905 to greet a group of Christian Israelites arriving from Australia, led by William Bulley, on behalf of the Benton Harbor House of David. In his typically self-aggrandizing style, Peissart claimed he was ‘the means used by Jesus. to cause William Bulley, an old man, and 83 souls, to leave Australia on a seven weeks sea voyage, via Palestine, for New York City, where Mr Peissart and the Manager of the Colony awaited them, with a special train, to go about three more days journey to Michigan.’ The Australians brought $100,000 with them, for the House of David, and Peissart implicitly claimed responsibility for that wind-fall, as well as attracting many others to the colony.’ His personal style was remarked on by others: Joseph Hannaford, an Englishman who went to be a member of the Benton Harbor House of David community in 1905, alluded to Edgar Peissart’s flamboyancy when he described someones dramatic gesture as ‘a la Peissart’. …Edgar’s next move was to the Koreshan Unity community on the banks of the River Estero near Fort Myers, Florida. When he arrived there he had the trademark long hair and beard of the Christian lsraelites, and was remembered by members of the Koreshan community as a bit of an ‘oddball’. This community had moved to Estero in Florida in the last decade of the nineteenth century, having formerly been in Chicago. lts leader, Dr Cyrus Teed. known as Koresh (the Hebrew title of the biblical King Cyrus), in a syncretistic style that was typical of the late nineteenth century, mixed Christian, quasi-Hindu and scientific beliefs, teaching that the world was hollow and the human race was living in it. At its height. between 1904 and 1908. the community had about 250 members. as well as homes for the members, a community dining hall. a sawmill, a printing house. concrete works, post office, general store and bakery. Edgar next appears attempting to join the Florida Shaker group, near Ashton in Osceola County. which had been established in the area in 1894. He declared that he was in sympathy with the Shakers, but they found him quite unsuitable. Shaker Ezra J. Stewart wrote in May I911, ‘As a result of an interview with the elders here . . . [it was thought best] that Edgar should depart [for Estero] next morning by train . . . as his views were found to be quite different from ours . . . He evidently hoped to set up a little kingdom here with himself as leader. [He] wears finger rings, and has much distaste for work, although fairly strong and in good health’.

… Cyrus Teed, the Koreshan leader. like the Shakers. taught the inner circle of followers that their celibacy would lead them to immortality and certainly claimed immortal life for himself, and Octavia likewise advocated singleness and celibacy as the best way forward on the road to immortality. All three groups taught that God was both male and female, and that both male and female elements of the divine needed to be manifested on earth. Teed differed from Ann Lee of the Shakers and Octavia in that he also taught regeneration (or reincarnation) and he believed that God had sent six messengers to earth (Adam, Enoch, Noah, Moses, Elijah and Jesus); he – Koresh — was the seventh. Cyrus Teed died on 22 December 1908. and was not raised on the third day (Christmas Day) as he had told his followers would happen. The community kept Cyrus propped up in a bathtub, with high hopes that he would be resurrected or regenerated. but finally on 27 December the county health officer ordered the body to be taken away and buried. Edgar, who had arrived at Estero just in time to know Teed for a month before he died, believed that Teed’s spirit had passed into him on Teed’s deathbed. He wrote that Teed ‘consciously passed over to me, all the Spirits of the new Jerusalem’ whom he had gathered into his bosom. Edgar believed that these spirits were now the inspiration of his teaching. ‘full of wisdom because they possessed the kingdom of God within’.“ He took to calling himself Cyrus or Koresh and had a flyer made up in which his own picture was superimposed on Cyrus Teed’s, as Teed’s receded into the background. He also made similar claims about the Shakers’ leader Ann Lee, suggesting that he was the true heir to her leadership, and made up posters to the effect, titled ‘Projection of the Mother Lord Ann Lee’. Mother Ann Lee had been long dead; the Shakers were having none of it; and they saw through him. But the period just after the charismatic leader of a group dies is a vulnerable one: it often fractures, with individuals claiming to take on the dead leader’s authority. This is exactly what happened with the Koreshans.“ Edgar Peissart was leader of one of the splinter groups. and spent his time corresponding with various members — he had long, annotated typed lists of people he thought sympathetic to his cause — who might support his claims to have inherited the spirit and leadership of Dr Teed. He wrote theological tracts in which he presented his claim to be the ‘Son of Man’ or the ‘second cherub’, and published a newsletter called the Messenger in which he detailed the treacherous antics of other Koreshans. It is no surprise that once he had established himself in the Panacea Society. he made a bid for power there too. A picture emerges of a man who went from community to community, seeking not only truth but also power, disgruntled and dissatisfied when people did not recognize him and his gifts, but not above returning to a community he had rejected if he saw a further opportunity to get into the leadership.((1))

It is no surprise that people like Edgar Peissart tried to claim Teed’s mantle, as many did, but it is a surprise to read of this kind of account of one of those claimants. Reading Koreshan literature after Teed’s death, one would have never known about these kind of people. The Harry Manleys, Edgar Peissarts, and others like them ended up making little impact upon the Unity, although they did draw away some of the wayward.

Edgar was eventually drummed out of the Panacea Society as well. His eventual fate is unknown.

  1. Excerpts from: Octavia, Daughter of God: The Story of a Female Messiah and Her Followers Yale University Press, 2011 []

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February 2014

[The archives database has been updated - As of January 30, 2014]

This month, I want to return to a closer look at some of the offshoots of the Koreshan movement after the death of Cyrus Teed. I have no doubt in the “faith” of many Koreshans and how, over time, that faith either faded with the acceptance of the fact that Cyrus Teed was NOT the New Messiah, or that faith was re-energized by a new belief that Teed’s legacy was to be carried on by others.

Based on the information that we have in the archives, there seemed to be a “core” group who either believed in Teed’s eventual return, or believed somehow that Teed’s plan would unfold in another way, but NOT through the appearance of other “pseudo-messiahs”. This group consisted of many of the original members — the Bubbett Family, the Silverfriends and the Boomers Also the Hunts, Andrews and the Rahns. These people are the ones who made up the Koreshan Unity through the years leading up to the demise, (for all intents and purposes) when the Unity donated their land holdings to the State of Florida.

There were, of course, others. The Thomas Gay and E. Benson Steele group who formed a community in Fort Myers called the Order of Theocracy, publishing the “Double Edge Sword” Another group clung to the belief that perhaps Victoria Gratia, A.K.A. Annie Ordway was perhaps the one who should come back to lead the believers. This seems to have been a rather small minority, especially in light of the fact that Victoria had been “banished”, although the circumstances under which she left have never been clear.

Then there were those on the fringes. The acquisition, a few years ago, of the Harry Manley Papers show us a side that I must say I do not totally understand. They seemed to go off in directions completely out of line with core Koreshan beliefs. This “group” of individuals were not a very large group, so their beliefs were not held by a large number of people. In fact, it may have only been Manley and a few others. The ideas of the German, Peter Bender come into play here. Bender, a believer in the “Hollow Earth” theories of Cyrus Teed, was not a believer in Teed’s religious beliefs. In fact, Bender appears to have held other ideas. He was a proponent of polygamy and other counter cultural ideas. In 1919 he rejected Christianity. In 1921 the Mayor of Worms, Germany, forbade him from speaking publicly as he was accused of obscene writings and blasphemy.

Harry Manley and Hedwig Michel

Harry Manley and Hedwig Michel

Harry Manley seems to have followed some of those ideas as well, bringing with him (at least in his own writings) notable names like Hedwig Michel and Bertie Boomer.

There is only an occasional mention of most of these groups in the Koreshan literature, post 1908. At the same time, some of the correspondence that we have, such as the letters from Eugene Webster to Bethaldine Boomer seem to indicate at least a cordial relationship with some of those who followed other paths, particularly those who sought to have Victoria re-instated.

Regarding Harry Manley, (which is where most of the material on these other groups came from). He was supposedly a member of the Unity, although as far was we know, he never lived inside the community. He lived, for awhile, in the caretaker’s home on the Boomer property. Eventually he lived on Katherine Street in Fort Myers. As I already stated, Manley had a number of ideas, all present in his transcribed letters to and from Peter Bender and others. These ideas were NOT Teed’s teachings. I have noted the lack of Harry Manley’s name in Claude Rahn’s membership lists. However, not being included in Claude Rahn’s list doesn’t mean that one in not a Koreshan. Manley certainly had contact with many of the “core” that I mentioned above. His correspondence with Peter Bender shows how Manley and others attempted to bring Bender out of Nazi Germany, but it obviously never happened.Bender Death Record Bender died in a Nazi concentration camp, on April 4, 1944. (Another source says April 2, 1944) The camp, Mauthausen-Gusen, was located in Austria and was generally used to incarcerate intellectuals. The reason for his incarceration was: “wife was a Jew” and “Party behavior”. Also see the Wikipedia entry which you can find here You will see, to the right, the entry from, taken from the Concentration Camp Death Record books. His wife, Charlotte, who was Jewish, was declared dead later. On June 30, 1951 the authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany declared her dead as of December 31, 1945.but there was never any record of her death.

Last month, we featured the first “Community Current Events” column from 1916. This month, we would like to include part of the second month, February 1916.

Current Events in Our Community Life
February 1916

On Sunday, Jan’y 16, a party from the Unity made a .trip to what is known as the Imperial River, a very beautiful stream that leads from the Gulf of Mexico into Bonita Springs, a little town eight miles south of Estero by land; but to reach it by water is over twenty miles. This river, from the mouth and up for about a mile, is known as the Auger Hole, so designated because of its many turns, with smaller, streams leading into it. The oddity of this stream at this point makes it very attractive though very confusing, and to traverse it the first time is a rare treat and a novel experience. The day was ideal, and everyone enjoyed the outing, arriving home in good time for the evening Service.

Our boat, “The Estero,” is kept very busy these days hauling fruit, and our brothers are having a strenuous time keeping up with the volume of business. We have two 24 h.p. engines in “The Estero,” but for some weeks one engine had to do all the work, as the crank shaft of the other engine was broken, which hindered the work very much. But this now is ancient history, since we have had a new shaft installed, and the engines are running all right. “The Estero’s” carrying capacity is fifteen tons; she is quite roomy, and we can stow away over five hundred boxes of fruit in her hold. When the traffic is very heavy, we have to take a trailer. In January we hauled 4,266 boxes of grapefruit, 596 boxes of oranges, and 753 boxess of tangerines to Fort Myers. Our nearest railroad point is Fort Myers, and thousands of boxes of fruit are shipped in there daily from all parts of Lee County, and during the busy season a trainload of fruit leaves Fort Myers every day for all points north. …The Estero grove contains 200 acres, and from forty to fifty thousand boxes of grapefruit are shipped from here each season. Two boats of their own, each carrying a carload, are kept busy several months in the year.

The Unity is building a new barn for Mr. L. S. Boomer, of New York City. Mr. Boomer bought what was formerly known as the Tarter Grove. A number of I our brother carpenters have been busily engaged on this work for some time, and it is now nearing completion. Brother Stephen Chislett has the work in charge, and from all appearances, it is going to be one of the finest barns in I Lee County.

Categories: Monthly Feature.

January 2014

Happy New Year!!

Here is, yet another, Community Current Events column that ran in the Flaming Sword. I cannot stress enough how it is an excellent source for those everyday things that occurred in the Unity. With the dawning of this new year, we wish to present the very first Community Current Events column, which appeared in January 1916. This was eight years after the death of Teed and it appears, at least to me, that the atmosphere in the Unity was changing, albeit slightly. Koresh had NOT returned which prompted some to reformulate their beliefs. Other may have given up all hope and still others turned to other ways of explaining the reasons for the lack of activity.

Current Events in Our Community Life
January 1916

BEGINNING with this issue of THE FLAMING SWORD, we will give our readers a brief account of whatever of interest transpires in our Community during the month. Every Sunday evening Service is held at the Art Hall. One of the brothers conducts the meeting; another officiates at the piano, and one of the six readers (of which there are three sisters and three brothers) reads selected articles from the Writings of our Master. Sunday evening, Dec. 12, the Service was conducted as follows: The congregation sang two Koreshan songs, after which excerpts were read from THE; FLAMING SWORD of Jan’y 25 and Feb’y 1, 1890, and also from the “Guiding Star,” Vol. II, pp. 256 to 259, bearing on the origin of the Teutonic family of nations, with the derivation and definition of the word Teuton. A solo was then rendered, entitled “In the Hollow of His Hand.” This is a comforting thought to all Koreshans, since we know that hand represents the power of truth in ultimates, and that the Science of Universology is the only source from which such knowledge may be gained. The second reading was “The Civilization of the Indo-Germanic Race; Derivation and Definition of the Word German,” from THE; FLAMING SWORD of Aug. 29, 1905. Portions of all these articles were reprinted in the December, 1915, SWORD, pp. 370 and 371. The congregation then sang another song, after which a prayer written by KORESH was read, at the close of which the congregation repeated in concert these words: “Our Father-Mother Deity; with oral acclamation we resound our prayer and praise! Thou art our Hero! Let us glorify Thy name, and Thou, 0 God, glorify us in Thy Holy Temple!” The Service concluded with the singing of the anthem, “Lift Up Your Heads, 0 Ye Gates.”

We are pleased to announce that two new members have recently joined us, both coming from California; Mrs. C. A. Place is from Hayward, and Mrs. H. D. Wilbur from San Francisco. It is indeed gratifying to find people who have had enough of competism, and crave the communistic life. It is well to heed the plea of our Shepherd, to “Yield up the world and its allurements, its bonds. Break the tie; go forward to the promised land. Let God direct. Yield your life to God, and be redeemed with an immortal redemption. Be His children and heirs to his throne, Kings and Priests unto God, for his Name’s Sake.”

Our new boat, the “Estero,” makes schedule trips to Fort Myers every Tuesday and Friday, returning the following days respectively. Sometimes during the fruit season the schedule is interfered with, owing to increased traffic. Lee County is one of the best citrus growing sections in the country, and Estero has many excellent groves of luscious grapefruit, oranges, and tangerines.

The Service for Dec. 19 was very well attended, and the enthusiasm with which our people sang was very marked. A sister read “The Law of Progressive Life,” from the “Guiding Star,” Vol. II, pp. 249 to 254. This is a most wonderful article, dealing with the law of seed-time and harvest, or cause and effect. The solo for the evening was, “Open the Gates of the Temple.” The words were written by that famous author, Fanny Crosby, and the music by Mrs. Knapp. Nothing unusual transpired during Christmas week at the Unity, but from the activities of the local Post Office, it was plain to be seen that the spirit of giving was as much indulged in as ever. We observe Christmas as a legal holiday; other than that it has very little significance to us, since we have come to know that the seventh Messianic manifestation, with a “New Name,” as prophetically foretold, made his appearance on Oct. 18, 1839, and this is the day we celebrate.((1))

Sunday evening, Dec. 26, the last Service for the memorable year of 1915 was held. We surely ought to be the happiest people in the world, because we have the light with which this sin-cursed world is to be illuminated. The first article read was “Devachan and Nirvana,” from FLAMING SWORD of Aug. 13, 1892. The male quartette sang “The Lord Is Great,” written by Walter Howe Jones; following this number, two more short articles were read respectively from FLAMING SWORD of June 25, and June 11, 1892, under the caption of “Theology.” The last paragraph in the last article reads as follows: “The hand that lays its desecrating touch upon the God-ordained and Koreshan fruit of Christian evolution shall become palsied, for no power in earth or hell can, with impunity, attempt the retardation of this mountain of God’s eternal progress.” Following this we listened to a very pleasing solo, “The Star of Bethlehem;” and with the reading of a prayer and the singing of the anthem, “Lift- Up Your Heads,” the Service closed. These Services are very inspiring and a stimulus to all who attend them. We have with us as guests, Mr. and Mrs. Ashley, of Savannah, Ga. Mr. Ashley has been a reader of THE SWORD for many years; but Mrs. Ashley is a comparatively new student, and is very much impressed with the profound teachings of our illustrious Shepherd.

On Saturday evening, Jan’y 1, a social entertainment was given at the Art Hall, which consisted of music, games, dancing, and refreshments. When the participants entered the Hall they were presented with “Good Resolution Caps” and 1916 badges. Each cap was inscribed with a word suggestive of a gift or grace of character, such as: “Moderate, Cheerful, Thorough, Forgiving,” etc. Then came a New Year’s March, to orchestra music, in which all the newly decorated members participated. Some of the games were quite amusing, and the reading of “Mr. Dooley,” and “Way Down South Once More,” by Sister Berthaldine, was enjoyed by all. (Sisters and brothers do not dance together.) Mr. Paul Sargent, son of our worthy brother, John S., sent his father two barrels of the finest apples grown in the state of Illinois. During the evening we were treated to some of them, which we enjoyed very much. Mr. Sargent’s visit to us a year ago is fresh in our memory, and particularly when we visit the Art Hall, because of the two paintings he left with the Unity, which are a source of joy to all. Mr. Sargent left a warm spot in the hearts of our people, and we appreciate his ability as an artist. Our first Service for 1916 was held Sunday evening, Jan’y 2. A sister read the following articles from THE; FLAMING SWORD of March 15, 1907: “The Lord’s Advent the Paramount Issue,” and “The Culmination of the Competitive Conflict.” Those who have these SWORDS would do well to read these articles, particularly the last one, which shows very plainly how the competitive system is going to wind up. The quartette sang “Adonai;” after the prayer, the meeting closed with the singing of “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates.” This is a beautiful anthem, a great favorite of the Master’s, which has been sung for many years at the close of our meetings. We were pleased to receive a visit from Mr. Horace Edgar Bailey of Unadilla, N.Y., who is an old acquaintance of our Master; they were both veterans of the Civil War. A party of twenty-three had a picnic several days ago, for the purpose of getting shell to repair some of the walks in the Park. We went in a power boat to Big Hickory Island, on the Gulf of Mexico. The day was an ideal one; the pure ozone of the Gulf was exhilarating, and a more jolly crowd would be hard to find. Every one did his or her part; while some filled the sacks with shell, others busied themselves getting the dinner, and a sumptuous meal it certainly was. Fish and oysters, for which Lee County is so noted, were served, along with the other good things that had been prepared.

The Service on Sunday evening, Jan’y 9, was very impressive. A brother read “The Failure of Government and the Remedy,” from THE SWORD of Jan’y 1910. Had the article been written yesterday, it could not be more up- to-date. Such articles ought to convince the rankest skeptic, as to the divine prescience of KORESH, The last, which we give below, is wonderfully prophetic:
“The governments of the world, devoid as they are of every spark of the divine principle—love to the neighbor, will find their sepulchre in the valley of the decomposing carcass of a polluted and hypocritical church. But from their ruins, resurrected into the law of the economy of ever- lasting life, the new and living Firstborn shall arise, clothed upon with the Lord’s righteousness, bright and shining as the noon-day sun, kindled into the glowing heat of overwhelming love to God and man. Such is the change and such is the kingdom to succeed the crumbling ruins of the old church which, though now corrupt, had its inception in the very heart of God.”

The solo for the evening was “0 Flaming Sword,” the words of which were written by Sister Berthaldine, and the music by her late son, H. B. Boomer, at the dedication of the Guiding Star Publishing House, at Estero, in 1904. I feel that I am voicing the sentiments of the majority present, when I say it was good to have been at the Service. We are pleased to announce the return to our Home circle of Sister Elizabeth Robinson, who has been with relatives in New York City for several years. Sr. Elizabeth is one of the pioneers of the Koreshan movement, and we are all very glad to have her with us again.

  1. Interesting to note that even after 8 years, there was still a belief in Teed’s role as the New Messiah. []

Categories: Monthly Feature.