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April 2016 – Page-3

This post ran in 2012. Since 2016 is an election year, we thought it fitting to revisit an election year in Koreshan history. The year was 1906 which became, in some ways, a turning point for the Koreshans. The whole notion of taxes, representation etc. has obviously continued 110 years later…

In his 1978 article in Florida Historical Quarterly, Elliott Mackle wrote:

The removal of Unity headquarters to Estero was in fact a consolidation. Furniture and personal goods of Chicago Koreshans were brought south in carload lots. Printing presses used for the production of tracts and magazines were installed in a print shop near the river and publication resumed. The population grew to about 200, a peak never significantly surpassed during Dr. Teed’s lifetime. Meanwhile, however, the Koreshans’ relations with nearby property owners, which had been relatively free of friction since 1894, began to change. Neighboring small farmers, alarmed at the influx of people into a sparsely populated district, began to speak out against Koreshan plans to build railroads and elevated boulevards through their fields. As a precaution against interference, therefore, Dr. Teed decided upon municipal incorporation of Estero. A meeting of registered voters and affected property owners was held on September 1, 1904. Incorporation was approved, municipal organization and ordinances voted, and officers, all of them Koreshans, were elected. The town’s corporate limits conformed to plans for New Jerusalem:
110 square miles were contained within Estero’s boundaries. The property of several non-Koreshans who objected to incorporation was not included within municipal limits.

Resistance and opposition to the incorporation from the local press were minimal since, in 1904, the Koreshans had supported the election of Philip Isaacs, editor of the Fort Myers Press, forerunner of today’s Fort Myers News-Press.

Mackle goes on to say:

Dr. Teed’s relations with the press had not been very amicable. Reporters had portrayed him as a pompous schemer and a fraud. Teed often had turned such insults to good account by using them as excuses for playing the martyr in the pages of his own publications. Lee County, however, had now become his base of operations and the home of the Unity. Posturing was easily detected, and laughed at, in a small community like Fort Myers. Prudence was required; he wanted good publicity, and he also wanted treaties, however temporary, with the powerful. Isaacs’s role as editor, coupled with his elevation from town councilman, his last official position, to the bench, must have made him seem an influential person. In fact he was controlled, as were both the Democratic party organization and the newspaper, by the wealthy Hendry family. The treaty between Teed and Isaacs lasted two years. Teed brought disaster on himself, and on Isaacs, by neglecting to form some new arrangement. And Isaacs, like Teed, misjudged the power of his position, thereby contributing to his own undoing. These personal disasters, which accompanied a severing of public ties between Estero and Fort Myers, were occasioned by the events of the election of 1906. The seeds of the conflict had been sown two years earlier. Municipal incorporation had entitled Dr. Teed and his officials to claim a share of county road tax funds, but they found that county officers were loath to divert dollars from their own projects, particularly those in Fort Myers. There was also, in some quarters, a resentment against the northern newcomers who sought to establish what might become a rival county seat, who boasted that they would revolutionize the world and turn it inside out, and who followed a messiah other than Christ. County officials, needing a bargaining chip, looked back to the records of the Democratic primary election of May 1904, when Koreshans had been permitted to register and to vote. 15 In the November general election, however, the Koreshans had voted for Republican Theodore Roosevelt, rather than the Democrats’ nominee. Although the Koreshans had otherwise supported the ticket, this defection provided an excuse to disenfranchise them for the election of 1906. The instrument of this disenfranchisement was a pledge which participants in the first Democratic primary of May 1906 were required to sign if challenged. It stated that the voter would support all Democratic nominees of 1906, and that he had “supported the Democratic nominees of 1904, both state, county, and national.“ Based upon laws passed to deny blacks the franchise, this pledge was so worded as to exclude those who had voted for Roosevelt and those who had not been in Lee County in 1904 and had therefore not voted. The Koreshans stubbornly refused to be intimidated. They appeared at the Estero precinct polling station on the day of the first Democratic primary, protested against the pledge, but then signed it after crossing out certain of the qualifications, and bloc-voted for the candidates of their choice. The Democratic executive committee, of which Philip Isaacs was chairman, thereupon threw out the entire vote of the Estero precinct, including eight votes by the non-Koreshan electors, and instructed election inspectors to bar Koreshans from voting in the second primary. Isaacs and the party had not found it necessary to curry Dr. Teed’s favor. The Democratic candidates for county office could be elected without Estero support, and the Koreshans were ineligible to participate in Fort Myers municipal contests-a bond referendum, an election for town aldermen, in which Isaacs was a candidate, and the elevation of a Hendry to the office of mayor.

When the Koreshans began publication of the “American Eagle”, its main purpose, as stated in a previous post was to oppose Issacs and others in the 1906 election.

Here are some examples of the political “cartoons” that the Koreshans created. These are contained in a little booklet given to Dr. Teed by Walter Bartsch, a member of the Unity. You can view the entire booklet of cartoons by going to this link


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Revisionist History and Strange Stories

Having been involved with Koreshan history for over 20 years, I’ve always found it interesting to see and hear what some people are saying. The story of Cyrus Teed, a.k.a. Koresh and the Koreshans have been told many different ways. For example, the Koreshans themselves put Koresh up as some kind of martyr after his death in 1908. It played better than admitting that he simply died of a circulatory disease, as was probably the cause of his death.

In this age of the Internet, you can do a search and find a million sites. For example, a recent Google Search found over 8 million hits for “Hollow Earth” and almost 10,000 hits for “Cyrus Teed”.

The history of the Koreshans is certainly bizarre in some ways, but it is real history and not some kind of fairy tale. I recently ran across a short video produced by the Travel Channel. In it they say that Teed was beaten nearly to death at a political meeting where the Koreshans were trying to incorporate Estero to avoid paying taxes. After Teed’s death, the real cause for the demise of the Koreshan”cult” was that cursed “celibacy”. Hmmm… I suppose that is partly true, but the way it was explained in the video was not really true. They took many real historical episodes and combined them into one story. Yes, Teed was beaten — yes, the Koreshans sought to incorporate Estero (and did), but not to avoid taxes, but to get their share of tax money. Celibacy certainly played a part in the demise of the Koreshans, but the demise was more due to the fact that none of Teed’s claims were substantiated. Take a look for yourself and see what this revisionist history sounds like.

A few years back the History Channel had a program called “Weird U.S.”. Their video is not available online, but they have a web page devoted to the Koreshans. Their explanation is a little more fact and less sensational. The video was not quite as accurate, claiming that they put Teed’s body onto a barge of some kind and sent it down the Estero River. Of course, Teed died on Estero Island (Fort Myers Beach), so there was no need to move his body down the river.

Then there are the strange ones out there. A web site that claimed Teed returned in 2006, walking ashore in England. Here is an excerpt from the website

From the website

From the website

Teed was never seen again until: On December 26th, 2006 98 years after his last appearance a man claiming to be Dr Cyrus Reed Teed appeared to walk from the sea and onto the beach at Canvey Island, Essex, UK. Whilst on the island Teed attempted to turn Canvey into his New Estero and set out a series of plans to create a community based upond his updated vision of the Cellular Cosmogony. After only 6 months Teed once again disappeared, leaving only his suit behind in Canvey Heights Country Park.

You can find all these in one place or another. Since Teed’s death in 1908 there have been a number of people either claiming to be Teed’s successor or Teed himself, even to the point where one man informed the State Historic Site that he would be returning soon and that they should prepare for his return.

What is fact is that the Koreshans were “different“, but their belief in a communal society was not uncommon at the turn of the 20th century. The idea of a hollow earth was also a plausible idea in the 1890’s since science had not progressed to the point where ideas such as theirs were found to be totally lacking.

Within the last month, the Huffington Post ran an article entitled The Florida Sect Doomed From the Start. Maybe, but the article, which was intended to make light of the weirdness of Koreshan beliefs said things like “Here is the written premise of the Koreshanity — do you see how it rhymes so well with insanity?“. That is easy to say in 2016. The point here is that the Koreshans were “real” folks who were, for the most part, very well educated. Yes, Cyrus Teed died and was not resurrected, but the basic notion of the Koreshan belief was the “Golden Rule” and living in community, something that was tried all over the world, from the Economites, to the Shakers and to the Harmonists, and perhaps that is what really matters, not their attempts to take science in a different direction, nor in the attempt of 21st century pundits to show the Koreshans as whackos.

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April 2016

 —  In 2009 when the “College of Life” began the process of transferring photographs from their archives to the State Archives, the State Historic Site helped with the process and thus the State Historic Site was allowed to copy many of the photographs for local interpretation and use. It was exciting since most of the photos had never been seen before, at least not by the Park staff. In this sample, Dr. Teed is seen posing with Annie Ordway, a.k.a. “Victoria Gratia”.

Dr. Teed and Victoria

Dr. Teed and Victoria

It appears they are on the porch of the “Founder’s Home”. Comparing this with other photos, Teed doesn’t look too healthy, or perhaps just not happy. It is always difficult to determine attitude in these old photographs. Victoria certainly looks hapy though. The “Doctor” may have been very warm in his attire and it may have been a hot day. Or, perhaps he had other things to do besides posing for pictures? No one could really know. The nice thing is that we get yet another glimpse of life in Estero more than 100 years ago.((1)) The Koreshan Unity (College of Life) collection at the State Archives can be viewed in the Florida Memory Project

Virginia Harmon Andrews

Virginia Harmon Andrews

April is the month of the Lunar Festival, (celebrating “Victoria Gratia“) as well as many other important dates in the Koreshan calendar. April 4th marks the 170th birthday of Virginia Harmon Andrews, the wife of Dr. A.W.K. Andrews.((2)) She and her husband were one of the first followers of Dr. Teed. A visitor to this website sent us transcripts some years ago, of letters that Dr. Andrews wrote to his wife Virginia’s mother, Margaret Harmon explaining why he and his wife had come to believe in Dr. Teed’s mission. They give us some valuable information about followers of Dr. Teed. [See AM-0153]

We also remember the marriage of Cyrus Teed and his wife, Fidelia M. Rowe, on April 13, 1859. For all intents and purposes Teed left his wife, even if the official Koreshan line never admitted this. Teed never divorced her and there are indications that he made sure she was cared for as she became an invalid. There is some discussion about what exactly happened, but it is widely believed that Teed got caught up in his own beliefs and chose to become celibate and carry on with his work. His wife is found in the 1860 census living with her parents and Arthur Teed, their only child, although it is said that Teed moved his family to New York City in 1862.

Teed’s parents, Jesse Sears Teed and Sarah Ann Tuttle also celebrate their 180th wedding anniversary this month.

And so it goes…

  1. Dr. Cyrus Reed Teed, founder of the Koreshan Universology, with Koreshan Unity president Victoria Gratia at his Estero home. Between 1903 and 1908. Black & white photoprint, 5 x 7 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. . []
  2. Portrait of Koreshan Virginia Andrews. Not after 1921. Black & white photoprint, 3 x 5 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. []

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March 2016 – Page-3

We never tire of posting articles from the Community Current Events column, or, as it was known in 1916, “Current Events in Our Community Life”. This one, from April 1916 describes life in the Unity in the early part of the last century, within eight years of the death of Cyrus Teed.

Here is the April 1916 edition,((1)) with the addition of a photo related to parts of the article.

WE HAVE HAD a very pleasant two week visit from Brother Peter Campbell and his wife, Sister Jennie, and their little grandson, Raymond King Trebell. They have been connected with this work for a good many years, being among the early pioneers here in Estero. Sister Jennie was caretaker of the younger folks in Chicago, and brought them to Estero years before the Northern Division of the Unity left Chicago. She had at one time in her charge as many as 42 children; and while these have now grown to be men and women, it is pleasing to notice her motherly regard for them all, and every once in a while we hear of some of them gathering at their New York home. Brother Peter had charge of the saw mill on Estero Island, during the pioneer days, and did his share in helping to transform Estero from a wilderness into a beautiful spot.

It will be of interest to many to know that the Campbells, with their daughter Edith, were with the Master on Bunker Hill, Portland, Ore., when he delivered that memorable message, the “Proclamation,” the “Battle Cry of the White Horse Army,” which is recorded in THE FLAMING SWORD of January 24, 1891 This “Proclamation” is also in pamphlet form. The Master told Brother Peter it was necessary for the message to be delivered from that very spot. Since our friends have lived in New York City, they have performed some valuable work in behalf of the Koreshan cause. It surely has been a great pleasure to have been favored with this visit,’ and we hope they will repeat it often, as no one will be more welcome than they.

At the Sunday evening Service of March 12, a sister read the following article from the Writings of KORESH, in FLAMING SWORD of August, 1908: “Does Humanity Constitute a Brotherhood?” The quartette sang, “The Lord Is In His Holy Temple,” after which three more short articles were read: “Progress Through Dispensations,” “Thoughts are Things,” and “Incarnation and Insanguination,” from FLAMING SWORD of Oct., 1908. “In the Hollow of His Hand,” was then sung; the Service closing with a prayer, and the Anthem, “Lift Up Your Heads, 0 Ye Gates.”
We had visiting us for a week, Mr. Benjamin Franklin, of Philadelphia, who has been somewhat interested in Koreshanity for the past twelve months.

On Saturday, March 18, a great many of the members of the Unity availed themselves of the opportunity to visit the Boomer property, across the river, and inspect the new barn just completed. The contract was let to the Koreshan Unity; the

Koreshans gather at the Boomer Barn in 1916.

Koreshans gather at the Boomer Barn in 1916.

construction was in charge of Brother Stephen Chislett, and certainly reflected great credit on him and his co-working brothers for fine workmanship, and on the Unity, in having such efficient and faithful members.

Sister Berthaldine, the mother of Mr. LL M. Boomer, and her daughter, Sister Bertie, made this occasion one to be long remembered. The building was gaily decorated, and presented a gala appearance. Sister Elizabeth Robinson played a number of new records, as well as many others from her voluminous collection, on her Victor Talking Machine, which were very much enjoyed. The male quartette sang the following popu-lar numbers, assisted on the violin by Brother Harold Moreland: “Hail Columbia;” “The Battle-Cry of Freedom;” “Flag of the Free,” and the “Song of a Thousand Years.” The one thing which furnished the most amusement was the so called fish pond, inasmuch as each had to exhibit what he caught. The pond was a large clothes basket, which was out of the fisher-man’s view, filled with packages contributed by the different members. Some of the -contributions were exceedingly funny. Refreshments were served as a crowning climax, after which the members took the boat for home, with a most pleasant memory of a well spent afternoon.

That same night Mr. and Mrs. Albert Miller, of Chicago, came in on “The Estero.” Mrs. Miller, or Sister Alice as she is familiarly known here, was on the contributing staff to THE FLAMING SWORD in the early days in Chicago, and wrote under the name of Alice Fox Miller. Her keen grasp of Koreshan fundamentals is very marked in all her articles. Mr. Miller, though not of our faith, has nevertheless been a good friend to the cause; on certain occasions assisting the Unity very materially. We appreciate and always enjoy a visit from them.

At our Sunday evening Service of March 19, the following article was read from THE FLAMING SWORD of March, 1909: “The Possibility and Process of Redemption.” Every now and then the Master used to give what he pleased to call “A Home Talk.” The above selection is such a “talk,” stenographically reported by Sister Isadora. It is truly a wonderful article; one that can’t be read too often, inasmuch as special emphasis is placed on doing the commandments : “Blessed are they. that do his commandments.” The quartette sang, “Adonai.” Having many visitors at this time, the decorations were unusually attractive and beautiful.

On the following Monday, a picnic was arranged in honor of our guests. “The Estero” left the dock in the morning, with twenty-eight on board, bound for Garlos Point. At the mouth, of the river we anchored, and some of the brothers busied themselves gathering oysters. The tide was low, and in a short time we filled several sacks. Our next stop was the fish house, where, with a silver hook, we purchased the choicest silver mullet caught in these waters; these were cooked to suit the taste of the most exacting, and it is needless to say that everyone did full justice to the good things prepared. Brother John Sargent made a short speech, thanking us all for helping him to celebrate his birthday, he having reached his seventieth milestone. This was news to us; nevertheless, we were glad to help Bro. John celebrate. Many interesting things were recalled during the day, in connection with the Koreshan movement, which were exceedingly interesting to some of the newer members, as well as a joy to those who had passed through them. The day was all one could wish for; and having to wait till about nine in the evening for the tide, we returned home under the most glorious moonlight, feeling very much rejuvenated.

On Saturday evening, March 24, the Dramatic Art Club of the Unity, under the direction of Sister Bertie Boomer, presented at the Art Hall, Lady Gregory’s short play, “Spreading the News,” with the following cast: Bartley Fallen, John Clinchy; Mrs, Fallen, Bertha M. Boomer; Mrs. Tully, Marie Fischer; Mrs. Tarpey, Ella Graham; Shawn Early, Arnold Fischer; Tim Casey, Lou Staton; James Ryan, Frank Rahn; A Policeman, Alfred Christensen; A Removable Magistrate, Chas. Hunt; Jack Smith, D. J. Richards. This is one of seven short plays that Lady Gregory has written, and the London Daily News speaks of them as follows:

“There is indeed something very fine in the genius of Lady Gregory, which enables her thus truly and delicately to convey the fine edge of humor and the preying loveliness of grief. She has a very sure hand. It would be hard to recommend too highly this ingratiating volume of plays.”

The audience was well pleased with the production; the many complications proved exceedingly humorous, but at the same time imparting a good moral lesson, that of circulating stories without the least basis of foundation, and when repeating same, coloring it to suit one’s own fancy. The special scenery provided for the occasion was very effective, for which much credit is due Brothers Peter Blem, John Clinchy, and Lou Staton, who assisted Sister Bertie in making this feature a decided success.

At our Sunday evening Service of March 25, the following selections were read by a sister from the Writings of our Master: “The New Jerusalem, the Hidden City of God,” in FLAMING SWORD of Oct., 1908, and “The Koreshan Religio-Sociology” in F.S., Sept., 1908. The solo for the evening was “Open the Gates of the Temple.” We are often asked why we don’t increase in numbers faster than we do, but the following quotation from THE SWORD of Sept., 1908, is the best answer that could be given:

“The Koreshan Unity is the power ordained of God to fulfil the purpose of the Almighty in the estab-lishment of the new order of society. We are often advised to drop religion from our advocacy of the cooperative and communistic principles to which we hold. We are frequently informed that our work would progress more satisfactorily if we would leave religion out of the question. We have to again iterate our statement: We want the fruit of the age only, as our gathering represents, and therefore do not urge irreligious people to enter our institution. We are after the people who love the Lord, and who can be induced to love him through the power of regeneration, which began to work in them at the beginning of the Christian dispensation.”

On Wednesday evening, March 29, the K. U. Orchestra gave a concert in honor of our friends from New York City. The Campbells hail originally from Scotland, and so does our Orchestra leader. Brother James W. Calderwood, so he aimed to make the evening ring with memories of the “Auld Kintry.” The stage was decorated with Scotch thistles. The writer sang “Ye Banks and Braes of Bonny Doon;” Brother James Calderwood sang “The Auld Scotch Sangs” very effectively, and responded to an encore with “Annie Laurie.” Another distinctive feature was a Highland dance by Brother John Watson, dressed in his Scottish kilts.

Brother Harold Moreland, a recent acquisition to the K. U. Orchestra, made his initial bow in this concert as a violin soloist, playing for his first number, “Chopin’s Nocturne,” in a very beautiful manner, which gained him instantly the approval of his audience; he responded to an encore with Mascagni’s “Cavaleria Rusticana.” His technique is very good, and with the right kind of training Harold is destined to become a master on the violin. The Orchestra played the following numbers: “The Winning Fight;” “Vienna Beauties, Waltz;” “Moskowski’s Serenade;” “Light Cavalry” and several Waltzes and Two-Steps in which dancing was participated, making the evening one of great enjoyment.

At the Sunday evening Service of April 2, the following selections were read by a brother, from the Writings of KORESH : “The Apostolic Succession,” from THE FLAMING SWORD of March, 1910, and “The Science of the Resurrection,” from SWORD of July, 1910. The male quartette sang, “The Lord Is My Shepherd.”

We have had with us for a few days, Mr. L. M. Boomer, of New York City, who is paying a visit to his mother and sister, as well as looking after the interests of his property, which we have previously mentioned in this issue. Mr. Boomer is manager of the McAlpin Hotel in New York, one of the largest hotels in the world.
At our Sunday evening Service of April 9; a sister read articles from FRAMING SWORD of June, 1909, entitled: “A Return to Correct Principles,” “A House Divided Against Itself;” and “The Performance of Uses of Life;” The quartette sang “The Lord Is Great,” after which “The Confession of the Messiah” and “The Overcomer and Baptizer,” were read from FLAMING SWORD of May, 1909. The last being a short paragraph in which KORESH states as follows:

“Some one at the end of the age must overcome for all other men. We mean by this, that there must be a Discoverer, a Teacher, who must be the Baptizer; for it is only through his power to overcome and baptize, that others can come into the power of .life. ‘Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.’ Elijah the Prophet is the High Priest of conjunction. He will purify the sons of Levi; that is, the sons of conjunction. Elijah is the Lord in his personal coming; he is Peter, who comes in authority.”

Also, March 29, is the 124th anniversary of the birth of Hedwig Michel.

Hedwig Michel

Hedwig Michel

She was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1892 to Ferdinand Michel and Emma Wertheimer. Many call her the “last” Koreshan, others say she was merely an opportunist. There is no doubt that she helped to sustain the Unity in bad times with her management skills, but one has to wonder why it was that two original Koreshans, Allen Andrews and Laurie Bubbett ended up as enemies after Hedwig entered the scene. Hedwig and Laurie were also accused of spending money on themselves instead of on the remaining Koreshan members. At one point Hedwig and Laurie took a cruise to Europe. Perhaps it was necessary, but it certainly makes one wonder about Hedwig’s commitment to the “community”. Others simply say that she was committed to the Unity and she did everything she could to carry it into the 20th century that saw scientific advancements that disproved many of the Koreshan theories. The Fort Myers News-Press ran an article in their “Tropicalia” section back in 2010 asking many of the same questions. Amy Bennett Williams, the Tropicalia editor, pretty much came to the same conclusions. Namely, that despite her talents, Hedwig could have done nothing to stop the demise of the Koreshans. Her somewhat caustic personality also contributed to some ill will. Author Lyn Millner, in her book, writes that Hedwig was described as an “Interloper”((2)). Some former park rangers have said that when Hedwig was living in the Planetary Court she used to come out agitated and tell them what they were doing wrong. Perhaps that was nothing more than her apparent difficulty in letting go.

  1. Catalog # PA—0209–The Flaming Sword, April 1916–Current Events in Our Community Life – By D. J. RICHARDS []
  2. Quoting Bill Grace in: Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet. p.255 []

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March 2016 – Page-2

More of “Whatever Happened To?”

This time we want to feature a member of Cyrus Teed’s own family. We hear some about his parents, but rarely about his brothers and sisters, save Emma Norton Teed who lived in the Community for most of her adult life, dying in 1950.

But this is about Cyrus’ younger brother Oliver Francis Teed. He was born on March 15, 1847. Like Cyrus, he too was a doctor, although there does not seem to be much about when or where other than the fact that he and Cyrus shared a practice in Syracuse, New York in the late 1880’s

During the Civil War, Oliver enlisted in the Union Army in January of 1862. The records list him as a musician. He was discharged and re-enlisted, serving until the end of the war in 1865.

Oliver married Minnie Davis on September 20, 1871. Minnie’s death date is, at this point, unknown, but they apparently had no children.

Oliver followed his brother, Cyrus, and apparently believed in his teachings. It is unclear just how much of an ardent follower he was. When Cyrus’ father, Jesse Teed returned from Chicago to New York in 1891, Oliver went with him. On their way home, Oliver lost his wallet and all his money. Jesse wrote to his daughter, Emma Teed Norton. The letter is somewhat comical (as Jesse was prone to do). You can read the letter here. At some point Oliver returned to Chicago. According to Lyn Millner, Oliver was “expelled from the Koreshan house” after he became romantically involved with Sarah Crosten, the sister of Annie Cole.((1)) Annie’s husband, Thomas Cole had sued Cyrus over the fact that Annie had left him to join the Koreshans. It is a twisted tale. Oliver and Sarah were married in Kenosha Wisconsin on September 29, 1894. According to the 1900 Census Oliver was back in the community along with his and Sarah’s two daughters, Mabel and Mildred. Sarah is reported to have died on October 8, 1897 in Chicago.

The McCready sisters and Vesta Newcomb, in their book, “Folks We Knew While in the K.U.” wrote this about Oliver:

Doctor’s brother and was at both Beth Ophrah and Estero. ‘Vesta says his wife had been Sarah Crofton, but believe she had, died, before he and, the children came in (M). The girls often ,spoke of “Aunt Anna,”((2))

Death Certificate for Mildred Teed

Death Certificate for Mildred Teed

who ,had taken care of them for awhile’ (R); believe Mildred died fairly young, but Mabel married a man by the name of Hummel and she and Nina kept in touch for years (M).

Much of this information turns out to be a little off. It was, of course, Sarah Crosten who was his second wife. They were right about Mildred Teed, however. She married a man named Harry Claphousen and lived in Norristown, Pennsylvania. She died of tuberculosis at age 29 on May 1, 1926. I have not found any further information on Mabel Teed.

Oliver spent some of his last years in Veteran’s homes. He returned to Estero at some point and he died there in February 1913.


  1. Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet. P.108. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2015.
    []
  2. This would have been Annie Cole []

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March 2016

Art Hall - Click for a larger image

Members of the Koreshan Band in front of the Art Hall.

Members of the Koreshan Band in front of the Art Hall.

 —  The photo above gives us a rare look at the Art Hall. Compared to the current view, it looks a little lonely out there! The building, was restored about 8 years ago. It was built about 1905. It was the center for cultural, social, educational and religious activities of the Koreshan settlement. Theatrical productions, lectures and musical events were held here. The building housed paintings done by Douglas Arthur Teed, son of Cyrus Teed, [See the last posting] as well as paintings done by members of the Koreshan Unity. The stage of the Art Hall used to hold original instruments from the Koreshan Band and Orchestra which performed here. (See picture to left).

This photograph, from over 100 years ago, shows us the stark reality of the landscape in Estero at that time. You will notice that there is no US-41, nor any road for that matter. This view, looking south, shows us no Melaleuca trees devouring the landscape either. This photo, once again, reminds us that the Koreshans were true pioneers in every sense of the word. (Click on the photo for a larger view).
[Photographs from the Ritter Collection]


    February Birthdays:

  • Jesse Putnam (1869-1950) – February 5
  • Henry Silverfriend (1864-1949) – February 6
  • John A. Grier (1855-?) – February 20
  • Douglas Arthur Teed (1860-1929) – February 21
  • William McCready (1854-1926) – February 21
  • Emma G. Fiske (1856-1931) – February 27

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February 2016 – Douglas Arthur Teed

Sunday, February 21st is the anniversary of the birth of Douglas Arthur Teed, the son of Cyrus Teed. Most people familiar with the Koreshans, and anyone who has ever visited the Art Hall, has seen the many paintings by Douglas Arthur.

Douglas Arthur was, for all intents and purposes, abandoned by his father, Cyrus, in order to pursue what he believed to be his calling. There is no evidence to suggest however, that Cyrus Teed gave up all contact with his wife and son. Douglas Arthur eventually visited his father in Estero, but even that part of his relationship with his father isn’t totally clear. This excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Douglas Arthur tells of his reunion, of sorts, with Cyrus.

Douglas did seek out his father later in life. In 1905, he visited the Koreshan Unity. An article in the Fort Myers Press expressed gratitude of southern Florida receiving such a distinguished painter, and suggested the possibility of Teed remaining in Florida to paint. There are numerous accounts in the communal paper espousing the talents of the artist son of Koresh. A special hall was built to house 27 of his works, which Teed painted especially for the commune. The people of the Unity were flattered by Teed’s interpretation of Estero, and the uncharted surrounding Florida land. Many of these works were painted in an egg-tempera and have faded quite badly. Only a few oil paintings retain the artist’s original intent.((1))

One such painting, “Tropical Dawn”, was presented to a member of the Unity, Victoria Gratia, at her birthday celebration in April 1905. In May 1905 a celebration was held and the Art Hall was officially opened. Douglas Arthur’s paintings were the focal point.

Lyn Millner, in her book, “The Allure of Immortality” wrote:

There was an especially surprising guest at the Art Hall celebration: Arthur Teed, Cyrus’s son, now in his forties. He had become an artist of some renown a romantic impressionist who worked in oil, egg tempera, charcoal, and ink. When Arthur was fairly young, he had found a sponsor in New York who paid for him to study at the best schools in Europe. For the party at the Koreshan Art Hall, thirty of his works were on exhibit, including one he painted as a gift for Victoria’s birthday. There were landscapes, studies, and scenes, like the vividly colored Triumph of Death, which the visitor described as styled after the Old Masters. The collection was eclectic, including a sunset in Estero, a Dutch hut, and a study entitled Combat between Egyptian and Assyrian Kings. Arthur’s work was the first permanent exhibit in the hall.“ Teed had purchased some of his son’s paintings-—or that was Arthur’s understanding, though he had not been paid; Teed might have thought the paintings were gifts. There had been ugliness between them several years before, perhaps related to Teed’s abandoning Arthur and his dying mother in Binghamton, but it’s apparent that by 1905, they had moved past this. In fact, Arthur was full of admiration for his father. For Teed’s sixty-sixth birthday, Arthur dedicated a poem to him, one he had written in Rome. It was printed in a small booklet bound with a woven cord. On the dedication page, Arthur had written, “A son takes pleasure in dedicating this little fancy to his father, Dr. Cyrus R. Teed (Koresh), . . . with a wish for the continued felicities of a ripe age and great work done.((2))

The Wikipedia article mentions that in 1907 Douglas Arthur sued the Koreshan Unity for overdue payment, citing the paintings which hung in the Art Hall. In 1908, a full settlement was made out of court between Douglas and the Unity. That same year his father died.

Throughout the years there have been problems with Teed’s paintings and the Florida environment. The Florida Park Service continues to help to preserve these artifacts. In July 2010, the Douglas Arthur Teed’s paintings were digitized. You can view the painting mentioned in the Wikipedia article by. You will also be able to view the other works that hae been digitized.

  1. “Douglas Arthur Teed.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Arthur_Teed. []
  2. Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet. p.204-205. []

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February 2016 – Black History Month

February is “Black History Month”. We wanted to mention that there were, in fact, some African Americans who were members of the Koreshan Unity even though very little is known of them.

Throughout the years it has been said that laborers who built the canals on the Unity grounds were mostly black. That may or may not be true. It appears that Cyrus Teed believed in the equality of the races as well as of the sexes. Of course, that may have meant, in the late 19th century and early 20th century — “separate but equal”. There is little or no evidence of just who or how many blacks were members of the Unity. Our only clues are a few remaining items from our own archives and from the State Archives.

    1)The Koreshan Unity Membership List:
 Long after Teed’s death, in 1963, Claude Rahn a long time member of the Unity compiled a Membership List. This list seemed to be an attempt to list as many members, former members etc. of the Koreshan Unity. Rahn listed the name and (if available) the date they entered the Unity. In the case of African Americans, he only listed their name and then, in parenthesis, the word “colored”. Here are those entries from the list

Derry, Joseph and Sarah
Jackson, Carl and Emma
Patsy (no last name given)

    2)Other sources:

FLAMING SWORD, Community Current Events by Max E. Arendt, September 1932:
“Word reaches us of the sudden death of Carl Jackson, recently of Paisley,
Florida, and at one time connected with the Koreshan movement in Chicago in
the early days. Mr. Jackson was active in organization work among colored
people up to the time of his death.”

The 1930 U.S. Census lists Mr. Jackson and his family:
Carl Jackson, Age-53, born in Illinois
Terlissia Jackson, Wife, age-30, born in Florida

Then his children, all born in Florida:
Catherine Jackson, Daughter, age-15
Sylvester Jackson, Son, age-5
Arie Jackson, Daughter, age-4
Isadora Jackson, Daughter, age-2
Pauline Jackson, Daughter, age-<1

    3)Photos:

In the collection there is one picture of an African American child with a possum on a leash, but no mention of who the person was. When the photographs that were stored in the Koreshan Unity archives were being transferred to the State Archives, many of them were scanned for reference purposes. This small amount of evidence shows us a photo of an African American man and woman, simply identified as “Annie and Watson” and that there were two children known as the Johnson Twins, based on the identification on the back. Take a look at these photos:

The caption on the back simply says: "Annie and Watson"

The caption on the back simply says: “Annie and Watson”

Young man in front of the Koreshan Unity Store.

Young man in front of the Koreshan Unity Store.

Young boy with possum-taken on Unity grounds.

Young boy with possum-taken on Unity grounds.

The back of the last photo (also a postcard) says: “This is inside of the yard of the office, [?] is one of the twins of Jack Johnson, it was the largest possum I ever saw. JHB”. “JHB” was James H. Bubbett.

With all that in mind we offer this small tribute to at least “some” of the African Americans who either belonged to or were employed by the Koreshan Unity.

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February 2016 – Madame Diss Debar

In her book, The Allure of Immortality, Professor Lyn Millner wrote:

“One day, an exciting guest arrived at Beth-Ophrah, an ample woman in an elegant black dress that gathered at the neck. Her two scarves–one orchid, one white–flowed nearly to her waist, and her bleached hair was pinned neatly back, revealing a mysterious scar that ran beneath one eye and upward to her temple.”((1))

This was Madame Diss Debar who was apparently a friend of Berthaldine Boomer (not sure how that happened…). Diss Debar supposedly had money and Dr. Teed was in need of some. That is not to say that the arrival of Madame Diss Debar was intended as a scheme to relieve her of her money. Quite the contrary. As it turned out, she attempted to relieve the Unity of some of their money.

Diss Debar claimed that she was many things, including a princess and a godchild of Pope Pius IX (although if true, that would certainly have not sat well with the Koreshans who were suspicious of Catholics). The Koreshans had taken her in because she had supposedly recanted her past sins of theft and fraud.((2)) They apparently thought that they would convert her totally to Koreshanity, but that never worked out. She eventually left the Unity after being caught stealing and attempting to entice one of the McCready girls into a dive.((3))

So, what about this woman? I’ve written here before about some of the charlatans and odd people who have graced the Koreshan doorstep. This is what I described as the “Dark Side” in an October 2012 post. Madame Diss Debar wasn’t “creepy” like Edgar Peissart, but she was certainly what I would call an “odd duck”…

Here are some links to some articles and books which feature the Madame Diss Debar:

New York Times – September 5, 1909

San Francisco Call – December 8, 1898

Excerpts from Books and Articles((4))


.

  1. Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet, p.175 and Marie McCready, “Memories, Memories, Days of Long Ago”, p.22 []
  2. See Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet, p.176 []
  3. See: AM-0011 []
  4. Beware Familiar Spirits | The New Books of Revelations: The Inside Story of America’s Astounding Religious Cults | New York Times article, May 1, 1888 []

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January 2016 – Page-4

     Victoria Gratia, a.k.a. Annie Glassen((1)) Ordway has always been a bit of a mystery. Being in a leadership role within the Unity, and even crowned Empress by Teed, Victoria seemed to drop from favor soon after the death of Dr. Teed. This indicates that her “popularity” (if we can use that word), never really amounted to much.

Certainly, as long as Teed was alive, she maintained power, but this was always due to the fact that Dr. Teed “always” defended her and her position within the Koreshan Unity. Within eight months after the death of Teed she was gone. One gets the feeling that Victoria was always in a precarious position, at least with many of Teed’s followers. Part of this is due, in my opinion, to the fact that women were, regardless of Cyrus Teed’s theology, still considered inferior. This is seen in the correspondence between Teed and George Hunt. When Teed was “on the road”, he corresponded with Hunt. Hunt, for all intents and purposes, ran the day to day activities at the Unity. Of course, Victoria was on the road too, but I have yet to see much evidence of the her or the Planetary Court ladies running the day to day activities. I think that Teed “believed” in the equality of the sexes, but he was also a pragmatist and saw that the world outside of Estero, at least in the early 20th century, was a “man’s world”. The same belief in equality seems to have held true for African Americans who were members of the Unity.((2))Equality” may have been in “mind” only.

Still, Victoria always had a following, some of whom followed her to central Florida after she left the Unity. She always seemed to believe that she was the female Koresh, even though she was married to Dr Graves, the Koreshan dentist. Twelve years after her departure, she wrote a “proclamation” to the Unity at Estero offering to return. (See the April 2011 post)

One hears things along the historic path and I once heard that Victoria, that is, Annie, had been born and baptized a Catholic. In Lyn Millner’s The Allure of Immortality, she says that an unidentified Koreshan who visited her at her new home in central Florida saw “…her ivory rosary beads were well worn and that two Catholic priests often visited”((3)) If, in fact, Annie Ordway had ever been Catholic, she certainly was not when she married the first time to David Ordway, a grocer, in Boston on February 1, 1863. Their marriage (she was only 19) was witnessed by one “A.A. Miner”, pastor of the Second Universalist Church of Boston. You can view the entry in the “Boston Register of Marriages” which shows David and Annie’s Marriage Record. David apparently remarried after Annie left him for the Unity. David died in 1914 in Chicago.


  1. Annie’s maiden name appears in most genelogical indexes as “Glassen” rather than “Glossen”. []
  2. This is a subject of some speculation. Very little is known about whether or not African Americans were, in fact, members of the Unity or merely employees []
  3. Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet.
    p.246 []

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