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January 2015

 —  January brings us a number of prominent Koreshans. Perhaps the most prominent, at least from the view of a historian, was Claude C. Rahn. claude2Claude was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1885. His family was one of the first to join the Unity in Estero. Thanks to Claude’s efforts we have a membership list, a short history of Dr. Teed and other information about the Koreshans.

As mentioned in previous months, the Community Current Events column which appeared monthly (for the most part) from 1916 on gives us an insight into the daily lives of the people who lived here. So, this month we feature a complete edition of the “Events” column from January 1922, 93 years ago.

      OUR GREETINGS are somewhat belated, nevertheless, we wish you a Happy New Year just the same, and trust that fate will be kind to you. From the way many of our readers express themselves in their letters, we take it for granted that the nearest thing to their hearts is the Science of Universology. In a letter KORESH wrote to a friend concerning his doctrine he said: “It is the very Word, the presence of the Eternal One. While I write, the glory of the divine presence is so full, I wonder why the world so long refuses to imbibe this life.” Let us hope that a general awakening will take hold of the hearts of the people this A. K., 82, or as the world in general regards it, A. D., 1922, ‘for the knowledge of the truth as promulgated from The Guiding Star Publishing House.

Dr. Price, formerly of Chicago, but who for the past year or more has been living at Rita, Fla., in the Everglades, made us a few days’ visit before the Christmas holidays. It was our good fortune while the Doctor was here to have an orchestra concert on the night of Dec. 22, in which he took part. He is an elocutionist and entertainer of decided ability, and despite his three score years and thirteen, he’s as youthful and agile as ever on the platform. The four numbers he gave us, three of them his own compositions, were something that will live long in our memory. The first poem was concerning the Sunset in Florida. We have often remarked that our sunsets were beyond description, but we will have to modify our opinion somewhat since listening to the Doctor’s poem, because he has created a most beautiful setting and describes them in language most ornate.

The second number was an Irish letter compiled from letters he had written for Irishmen to their loved ones in old Ireland; needless to say he did the subject full justice if we may judge from the levic effect it had on the audience. The third was about the stars in the sky, and his grandmother’s conception of how they were produced. The Doctor remarked that since his study of Koreshan Science he has had to somewhat revise his early’belief concerning them.

The last number was “Darius Green and His Flying Machine,” given by request. The Doctor prefaced this number with a few remarks of his own experience during a flight he made in a flying machine in San Diego, Calif. The principal reason he gave for this ) flight was to satisfy his own curiosity concerning the ‘• horizon; theoretically, he knew from Koreshan Science (that the horizon came up to the level of the eye no matter how high he went, but this was the actual deJ monstration, and substantiated the Koreshan axiom: if the premise be proven, the conclusion is absolute by logical’ reasoning. To revert to “Darius Green,” we remember the Doctor saying that Mr. Trowbridge, the author, presented him with a gold medal for his rendition of it, stating that he had really gotten more out of it than the author himself had.

At the above concert Mrs. Guy Smith, of The Estero Inn, sang five numbers, each of which received a round of applause. Mrs. Smith is quite a favorite with Koreshan and Estero audiences, and her appearing is always looked forward to with great pleasure Prof. Schoedler played several numbers; Dr. Price remarked: “I never heard the piano played better.”

On Christmas eve, “Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch” was presented on the screen to a large audience at the K. U. Art Hall. This play is in a class by itself, and is the best of its kind presented in Estero. It possessed a special interest to us, because we had the pleasure of conducting a party over the grounds last winter, and among them was the author of “Mrs. Wiggs,” Mrs. Alice Hegan Rice, and Mr. Rice, who is also the author of many works. The play was made possible through the efforts of Miss Bertha M. Boomer and Estero people, who contributed to this reel for this occasion.

Among other interesting pictures shown during the month were those made by the Ford Educational Film Co., describing how iron ore is brought from Northern Michigan in large vessels through the locks at Sault Ste Marie, passing the city of Detroit, and unloading at Ashtabula, Ohio, for the Pittsburg iron mills and other points. A reel, showing the process of transforming iron in its raw state to molten metal and made into ingots, and another reel where these ingots are reheated and rolled into bars the thickness of ribbons, was an inspiring sight to many in the audience.

For the last five or six years the Koreshan Unity has taken a most active part in the Lee County Fair held at Fort Myers, and on several occasions obtained first prize for the best decorated booth, besides numerous other prizes for our products. This year we are looking forward to an exhibit of our own here in Estero. This no doubt will enable hundreds of people to see Estero, and also give them an opportunity to learn more about our System and what we are here for. It is our intention in the near future to erect a permanent building for this purpose, that will enable us to promulgate Koreshan Universology with suitable models and diagrams that will illustrate the Cellular Cosmogony.

The Unity is the recipient of a gift from Messrs. Peter Campbell and Claude Rahn of New York City, of a 5075 h.p., De Lavergne Oil Engine, and the work of installing it will commence soon. We have had a 50 k. w., 2300 volt generator for some time, and as soon as the machinery is in running order we will be able to furnish all the departments with electricity, doing away with a great deal of overhead expense. We have also received from Brother Peter, as he is familiarly known to us, a 9 inch swing machine screw bench lathe, for the making of small parts. The Unity has a great deal to be thankful for in having such loyal and generous friends, whose great desire is to see this movement succeed.

The K. U. Orchestra gave a concert Dec. 31, and a rare treat was in store for all present. In addition to our usual audience there were about a dozen tourists from Naples and a number from Fort Myers We were very much pleased to have with us Mr. Atwood, an exceptionally fine singer, formerly of Chicago, but now of Fort Myers. Mr Atwood gave us three numbers; the name^of the first we failed to get, but recall that it ranged quite high, possibly G above the staff. The next was “When the Bell in the Lighthouse Rings Ding Dong,” which took the opposite course, possibly to F below the staff; the last was Tosti’s “Good Bye,” a selection that was an exacting test for the voice, but of which the singer was absolutely master. He was accompanied on the piano by Mrs. Bishop, proprietress of the Graystone Hotel, Fort Myers. She is an excellent accompanist, and contributed much to the success of the singer.

By request Prof. Schoedler played Lizts’s “Hungarian Rhapsody,” and for an encore played “Moonlight on the Hudson;” needless to say, he did himself proud. Brother Robert Campbell played on the cornet “Home, Sweet Home,” with variations, in which he was encored twice. The orchestra music was also of a high class and was much enjoyed by all present.

At a recent offering of “Way Down East” at the Arcade Theater, Fort Myers, the music was furnished by five members from the Unity Orchestra.

We are pleased to record the visit of Mr. Leroy H. Bubbett of Chicago, who in the early days was connected with the Unity, coming in with his parents, Brother James and Sister Evelyn. Roy says “It’s good to get back and renew old acquaintances.”

Mr. and Mrs. Albert Miller, of Chicago, who are spending the winter in Fort Myers, were the guests of the Unity over the Christmas holidays.

Miss Hamilton, a niece of Brother Lou Staton, who teaches in the school of Fort Myers, spent the holidays at the Unity.

Mr. and Mrs. L. M. Boomer, of New York City, Mrs. Thomas and her two daughters, of Philadelphia, Pa., and Miss Doris Boomer and her brother Robert, of New Orleans, La., spent the holidays at Mirasol Grove, and it was the first time in years that Sister. Berthaldine has had her family around the festive board celebrating Christmas.

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December 2014

In November of 2012 the News-Press printed a timeline for the Koreshans. Since it has been about 120 years since they first arrived in southwest Florida, here is a link to that timeline.

In the past we’ve looked at the “other” side of the Koreshans and the factions that sprung up after the death of Dr. Teed. This month we want to take a look, not so much at the factions, but at life inside the Unity. That is, life as it was “really” lived. No doubt most of the Koreshans got along and lived, as best they could, within the framework of a community. We know for a fact that even some of the most stalwart members had “issues” with the rules and the beliefs. Some of that stemmed from the fact that a community required community rules which didn’t always meet the desires of individuals.

One such example is the Acuff family. They were living in Texas when the head of the family, William, reportedly read a Chicago newspaper and saw an ad for the Koreshans((1)). The Acuff family pulled up stakes and headed for Florida. In her paper for the Historical Society, Coleene Huddlestun writes:

…..”William Sylvanus Acuff and his wife Mary Magdalene Talley Acuff had a homestead on the Texas plains near a place called Albin. They had two daughters and four sons then. Their closest neighbors were miles away. It was a lonely life, but they were together.

In a paper from Chicago, William Acuff, my grandfather, read about a utopian community being established in Florida. He wrote for more literature. He was convinced it would be good for him and his family–a better way of life. I do not know how much he believed in the teachings of Koresh–Cyrus Teed. They sold their homestead and stock, outfitted a covered wagon, and left Texas with as many belongings as they could put in the wagon with the six children, ranging in age from about twelve or thirteen years old to about two or three years old. Their wagon was pulled by a team of oxen, and they had two milk cows attached to the rear of the wagon. My father told me these things. He was their oldest son.

When they reached New Orleans, they sold the wagon, oxen, and cows and boarded a boat that sailed them as far as Tampa, Florida.

The Koreshan Unity had sent a boat to Tampa to get them and other families who were joining the community. They reached Estero in the fall of 1898 or 1899*. They had had a long, rough trip. When they reached the Koreshan community, any money and possessions that they had was turned over to the community. The family was divided–the men to the men’s house and the women to the women’s house. The children were separated from their parents, and the boys were separated from the girls. The houses were rather primitive, and they needed more buildings. The houses had no screens or ceilings, and the insects were very bad. The roofs were thatched with palm and palmetto fronds.

My Grandmother Acuff’s last child was born about six or seven months after they reached Estero. We believe that was in the summer of 1899 or 1900. (The Social Security Death Index says Arthur was born in July 1901)((2))

She’s goes on to recount how the rules of the community separated husbands and wives and children. Apparently this did not sit well with Mrs. Acuff who begged her husband to leave. Apparently, she did leave, and worked as a cook in a Fort Myers restaurant, taking her youngest son with her. While she worked, he was there, in a box. When he was old enough to walk, she had to take him back to the Unity. She continued to ask her husband to leave until she finally divorced him. She met and married a deputy sheriff and eventually moved back to Texas. You can read her granddaughter’s paper by going here.

On the Koreshan side of the matter, we find this quote in the McCready-Vesta Newcomb book Folks We Knew in the K.U.

“The Acuffs came from Texas shortly before the birth of Arthur, who was born in the thatched cottage on the river bank. Mollie, who had apparently been something of a beauty in her younger days, abandoned the family, including Arthur, and left before long. Maude was one of those who died during the typhoid epidemic.”

So, which is it? Did she abandon her family? The point I want to make is that there are always two sides to a story and the existence of papers showing some “behind the scenes” things that put the Unity, and some of its followers, in a less that favorable light, is important to recognize in any historical assessment of the Koreshans.

One other incident with regard to the Acuff family involves Elbert, son of William Acuff who apparently attempted to run away from the Unity. This is from the Fort Myers Press in 1908:

“This week K. B. Harvey, who runs a line of steamers between this city and Sanibel, had a peculiar experience according to his account which is as follows: “Last Saturday as I was coming up the river, a launch containing Dr. Teed and Messrs. Hunt and Gray, of the Koreshan Unity, came alongside my boat and said I had a boy on board that belonged to their colony and for whom they had a warrant for running away. They wanted the boy and I asked that they would wait until I got to the dock and unloaded my boat when we would see what was the matters. We went to the dock and I started to unload, when I had some business down at the express office to which place I went. When I returned to my boat the men had the boy and were gone. I saw them out in the river and called to the boy who said he was under arrest. They went off with him. The boy had run away but I was an innocent party in the matter, and think they should have shown some consideration. We do not know what Mr. Harvey intends to do in the matter, but give the story as told by him.”((3))

  1. Coleen Acuff Huddlestun, The Effect of the Koreshan Unity on One Family, Preseneted to the Historical Society; February 10, 1984, Hall of Fifty States. []
  2. (the Acuff family probably arrived in Estero in the fall of 1900.)–Joyce Nelle Ratliff, Feb 2000 []
  3. FORT MYERS PRESS; Fort Myers, Lee County, Florida; Thursday, March 19, 1908: “TOOK THE BOY” []

Categories: Monthly Feature.

November 2014

Everyday life in the Koreshan Unity… Here is the December 1922 (describing life in November 1922) “Community Current Events” in its entirety. With the mid-term elections taking place, it is interesting to look back at some issues from 1922.

Some Political Issues Decided; an Enjoyable and Varied Program “Was Given Thanksgiving Night
December 1922
THE COUNTRY’S ATTENTION has been riveted during the past month on candidates and election results, and it was no less so with us here in this southernmost part of the United States, only ours was more local than national. The principal issue to be decided here was whether the people of Lee County were in favor of county division at this time. There was considerable dissatisfaction over the successful candidate in the primary, so much so than an independent candidate came out to contest the election, over the issue of county division, but the results were unmistakable, the majority favored it. So this issue will undoubtedly be enacted into law at the coming legislature and Hendry County will become a reality, with LaBelle as the county seat.

Another issue which caused considerable dissatisfaction was that of county commissioner for district number three. There is only one party, practically speaking, in Florida, and that the democratic. A candidate winning in the primary is almost equivalent to his being elected. But. this year the unexpected happened, the defeated primary candidate, besides many others who seemed to be in a position to know, preferred charges of gross irregularities against the successful candidate over the way things had been con- ducted at Naples, and the matter was taken before the judge of this district, but the judge, for some reason or other, refused to allow the ballot box to be reopened. The name of Mr. A. M. Smith, the defeated primary candidate, was again placed on the ticket to run against Judge Wilkinson, the present incumbent, and we are glad to state that Mr. Smith won by the small majority of seven votes. Estero is situated in district number three, and we supported Mr. Smith, both in the primary and the general election, and we believe he will make a conscientious officer and will devote his energies to the best interests of all concerned.

It is customary in the Unity to hold a caucus the night before the election, to inform ourselves as to the merits and demerits of the candidates up for election and decide whom we will support. After reaching this decision, our vote is cast as a unit. So in a close race the Unity vote is a deciding factor, which emphasizes the axiom that “In unity there is strength.” The Koreshan Unity cast fifty-seven votes in the last election. Dr., Price was chosen to act as chairman of our caucus, a position he is eminently fitted for, and in his jolly manner the business was transacted with dispatch and good order.

In “Reasons for Thanksgiving,” by Moses Folsom in the Jacksonville Times-Union of Nov. 26, we read that: “President Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation while the capital of the nation was in New York.” This, we are told, was done the third day of October, 1789. The thought occurred to us, of all the people in the world today that can be truly thankful, none can claim more than Koreshans for having found the absolute truth as revealed to us through our beloved Master and exposited in his wonderful Science of Universology. The last Thursday of November of each year is set aside as a national holiday; but inasmuch as we are grateful to Him, not one day in the year, but the entire 365, for what he has done for us, we observe it like any other (with emphasis on the Eighteenth of October, the Master’s Natal Day) in the performance of use to the neighbor. However, the matron stressed the point in the pro-visions, of the day, and in the evening a merry entertainment was given in the Art Hall, in which dull cares had no part.

The opening number was “The Landing of the Pilgrims.” Sister Berthaldine Boomer read extracts from the November Mentor of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. At the conclusion of her reading the stage curtains were drawn, revealing a tableau portraying the landing. A benediction was offered and songs sung by the Pilgrims in thanks for their safe arrival. This; number was a winner, and many wished a flashlight picture could have been taken of it.

Two humorous short plays were enacted, the first being Maud E. Hall’s “The Scrubtown Sewing Circle’s Thanksgiving.” The cast was: Sisters Rose Gilbert, Ella Graham, Bertha S. Boomer, Florence Graham, Bertha M. Boomer, and Barbara Ehrisman, and each did their part well. This play was hilariously funny and concluded with the following in concert.

“We know we are guilty of shamming ’tis clear,
We feel not so old as we’ve tried to appear,
But just to amuse you ’tis surely all nght,
And so we will wish you good night.

The other play was entitled “The Physical Torture Club,” by W. N. Bugbee. The cast represented a family by the name of Bangs and the parts were taken by Dr. James Russell Price, Mrs. Price, their grandson, Harl Price Cook, and Sister Edna Schwmdel. The daughter (Sister Edna) was what might be called a “physical culture crank” and was very anxious for her brother to follow in her footsteps, so they performed their exercises, but the boy ..was too mischievous to make much headway. The father, who was terribly afflicted with rheumatism, wondered if these exercises wouldn’t help his rheumatism, and after a little urging decided to give them a trial, the whole family taking part. From this to the end the play was a scream- in more senses than one; needless to say all four played their part as if they were professionals, to the merri- ment of all present. Other interesting numbers were the children’s humorous recitations and song, accompanied by their teacher, Sister Marie Fischer, on the guitar. All that could participated in the grand march. Next was two quadrilles, the first one by eight sisters, and the second one all brothers, both under the direction of Brother William Fischer. The orchestra played a number of selections during the evening. The entertainment came to an abrupt, but very humorous, end when the lights went out before the last dance was finished. This joke, if intentional, was enjoyed as much as any, all retiring after spending a most enjoyable evening.

Our boat, “The Estero,” which has been on the ways for needed repairs, was recently launched and made the first run to Fort Myers in many months for the purpose of inspection by government officials, as required by law; it returned with a cargo of provisions for the Unity store. The fruit crop in Florida this winter is most excellent. This year the Flower Grove is shipping their fruit by truck, as are many other shippers. However, “The Estero” has been booked to haul fruit from a number of groves here.

We have gone as far as we can for the time being with our new power house. The cement floor was laid recently. The engine after a few additional fittings, is ready to turn over; the auxiliary engine with air tanks for starting purposes is now installed and ready for business, but a circulating water tank will have to be erected besides putting on belting and other accessories before the plant will be ready for operation. These will come in due time.

What child doesn’t thrill over a circus? and many grown-ups, for that matter. Well, we are glad the children of the Unity, through the kindness of Mrs. Edith Trebell, saw Sparks’ circus that came to Fort Myers recently, and all report having had a most enjoyable time.

Mrs. C. Newcomb and daughter from Colorado are guests this winter at the Campbell home in Estero. Mrs. Newcomb is a sister of Mrs. Campbell, and at one time was an active member of the Unity.

Mr. Louis Bessemer, of Washington, D. C., recently made the Unity a two days’ visit. .Having spent many of his boyhood days in the Unity, he returned to it with much enthusiasm and was delighted to meet our people again. He represents the Radcliffe Chautauqua organization, with headquarters at the national capital. His love for Koreshanity is greater than ever and he said Estero is the apex of the thought world. His work brings him in contact with the fore-most business men of the cities he visits and whenever the opportunity presents itself he proclaims the great work carried on at this center. His coming to us at this time was most refreshing; the only fault we found was that his stay was entirely too short.

Lili Lehman, in her book “How to Sing,” says: “The true art of song has always been possessed by such individuals as are dowered by nature with all that is needful for it—that is, healthy vocal organs, uninjured by vicious habits of speech; a good ear, a talent for singing, industry, and energy.”

It was our good fortune, in company with a number of other brothers and sisters of the Unity, to listen to an artist possessing the above qualifications. The artist in question was Miss Helen Davis, who, in company with Mr. Victor Young, composer-pianist, gave a “Joint-Recital” with the Edison Re-creation Phonograph, tendered to the music lovers of the county by the Parker Book and Music Store of Fort Myers, Fla., at the Gwynne Institute on Wednesday evening, Dec. 6.

Mr. Young made a few preliminary remarks about some of the wonderful things Mr. Edison had contributed to humanity, and stated that for years Mr. Edison had cherished a desire to produce a phonograph that would re-create the human voice, and that he and Miss Davis were there that evening to demonstrate to the audience the success of the invention, they to be the sole judge. He stated also that of all the instruments to re-create the most difficult was the piano, and the test would be more with the voice than with the piano.

Miss Davis’ first two numbers were: (a) “The Quiet Road” by Speaks, (b) “No Sir!” by Wakefield, and there it was; singing with records of her own making, blending perfectly without a perceptible dif- ference, with the exception of the movements of her lips. She sang five more -numbers with the phono-graph. For a moment during one of the numbers the lights were turned off, and when turned on again there was no singer on the stage, but the effect was just the same, proving unquestionably that Mr. Edison almost had made the impossible, possible,—that of re-creating the human voice.

Mr. Young, likewise, accompanied records of his own making: (a) “Little Shepherd” by Debussy, (b) “Crescendo” by Lasso, and (c) “Improvisations of Old Songs,” his own composition, and several other selections. We have already stated the difficulty of re-creating the piano, but nevertheless the artist’s playing was scarcely perceptible with the record. The thing that impressed us most in the performance, however, was the consummate skill of the artist, every movement and touch synchronizing with the record. It was truly an event, as both were artists of the first magnitude.

The program concluded with two selected groups of songs by Miss Davis without the phonograph, accompanied by Mr. Young, and two selected numbers by Mr. Young on the piano. In these the artists were not restrained, but everything ad lib. We don’t recall the titles of their selections, but it will be some time before the effect produced will be effaced .from the memory. Miss Davis has a rich, flexible mezzo-soprano voice, also perfect diction, with all the delicate gradations possessed by the best artists. We can only think of the artists’ mission to Fort Myers at this time in the words of the poet:

“0 Music! sphere descended maid,
Friend of all pleasure, wisdom’s aid.”

[This article was originally published in November 2011]

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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.