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August 2013

This month we take a little closer look at Douglas Arthur Teed, the only son of Dr. Cyrus Teed (Koresh). Here is part of the article from Wikipedia

Douglas Arthur Teed was born on February 21, 1860 to Fidelia M. Rowe and Cyrus R. Teed, in New Hartford, New York. At age nine, his father left the family to develop a religious sect called ‘Koreshanity’ after experiencing what he claimed was a divine vision.

… There was an awakening in the Teed household hinging on dogmatic opinions, mysticism, and the exotic. The family did not buy into the new lifestyle, however, and eventually the family lost Cyrus to the religious fervor which consumed him. Dr. Teed persisted in his beliefs, neglecting his duties at home, and eventually settled a communal colony called ‘The Koreshan Unity’. He later incorporated the colony as Estero, FL.

The American Eagle of August 1973 reports that letters from Cyrus Teed indicated affection for his wife and child, and in spite of criticism, Delia accepted him as the messianic personality of the age. However, Douglas and his mother never converted. Due to ill health, she and Douglas moved in with her sister in Binghamton, New York. They remained there until Delia’s death in 1885.

The reference to the American Eagle refers to Claude Rahn’s “A Brief Outline of the Life of Cyrus R. Teed”, however, this biography is, to put it kindly, propoganda. ((1)) So, it is unclear whether or not Teed remained in contact with his wife and son.

However, there was contact at some point 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.

One such painting, “Tropical Dawn”, was presented to a member of the Unity, Victoria Gratia, at her birthday celebration in April 1905.

It seemed the relationship between father and son was a healthy one. Douglas even dedicated a poem to his father for his birthday (known to the Unity as “The Solar Festival”) on October 18, 1905, entitled, The Lost Muse. However, in 1907 Douglas 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.

In a letter to Cyrus, dated May 10, 1907, Douglas Arthur wrote from Winter Park: ((2))

Dear Father,
I have read your letter of May 5th and though its general tone does not differ materially from that of some thirty and odd others of yours on file in my desk, dating as far back as February 25, 1899, it still contains matter of interest.

This letter dealt with the fact that Cyrus was apparently paying for Douglas Arthur’s groceries, which were being supplied by “Heitman’s grocery, in Fort Myers. It seems that Cyrus made light of Douglas Arthur’s complaints to Heitman’s, and so Douglas Arthur fires back by quoting a letter that Cyrus sent him on February 23, 1900, which Douglas Arthur quotes:

My Dear Arthur,
I have now some mines (gold and copper) exclusivley in my possession and absolutely under my control destined to change the official status of the Bureau of Equitable Commerce – They are estimated to exceed seven millions in value. It has afforded me great pleasure to be able to donate to your interests from this source and I have accordingly registered two claims (For Douglas Arthur AND his wife??) at the County Clerk’s Office in Jeff. Co. Col. (Jefferson County Colorado) in your name. From expert estimates these two claims can be safely rated at $25,000.

So, can we call this an early version of spam? Why would Cyrus Teed want to make his own son think that he had such an investment?

By the beginning of May 1907 the suit was settled and Douglas Arthur apparently agreed to a settlement of cash. ((3)) In another letter, dated October 31st 1908, Douglas Arthur has just returned to Winter Park and he writes to Cyrus telling him that he was sorry to hear that Cyrus was ill, but he goes on to say in the letter that he is expecting to receive more of the agreed settlement.

It is unclear what happened after Cyrus died in December 1908. It is doubtful that Douglas Arthur ever came this way again.

Last month we featured what we called “Oddities” – The fact that there are a lot of interesting things to look at inside the Historic Site Settlement. Some things appear to be a little “odd” Here’s another one of them: (Click on the image for a larger view)

This tree, located near the Art Hall has a strange kind of alien look, as though it is walking forward, preparing to reach out to grab you.

This tree, located near the Art Hall has a strange kind of alien look, as though it is walking forward, preparing to reach out to grab you.

  1. For example, Rahn states while talking about Teed’s visit to his cousin, Myron Baldwin: “Dr Teed was impulsed to visit his cousin, Myron Baldwin living nearby, between whom there was a strong bond of attachment and understanding. As he entered a building where Myron was employed on construction work the latter went forward to meet him, intuitively aware of his com1ng and he beheld him surrounded by a brilliant halo of supernatural light. At once he became cognizant of his messianic investure, and then and there he was prompted to bestow a blessing upon Cyrus after the manner of John the Baptist’s blessing of Christ. [Rahn, p.21-22] []
  2. This letter is part of a collection located in the FGCU Archives. We obtained a photocopy. []
  3. $500 by July 1, 1907, $500 by September 1, 1907, $835 by January 1, 1908 and $665 by March 1, 1908. Douglas Arthur also offered to accept “…the baby grand piano I saw at your place.” which obviously was not accepted since it remains in the Art Hall to this day. []

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