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February 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Harry Manley and Hedwig Michel

Harry Manley and Hedwig Michel

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

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

Regarding Harry Manley, (which is where most of the material on these other groups came from). He was supposedly a member of the Unity, although as far was we know, he never lived inside the community. He lived, for awhile, in the caretaker’s home on the Boomer property. Eventually he lived on Katherine Street in Fort Myers. As I already stated, Manley had a number of ideas, all present in his transcribed letters to and from Peter Bender and others. These ideas were NOT Teed’s teachings. I have noted the lack of Harry Manley’s name in Claude Rahn’s membership lists. However, not being included in Claude Rahn’s list doesn’t mean that one in not a Koreshan. Manley certainly had contact with many of the “core” that I mentioned above.

Bender Death Record

Bender Death Record

His correspondence with Peter Bender shows how Manley and others attempted to bring Bender out of Nazi Germany, but it obviously never happened. Bender died in a Nazi concentration camp, on April 4, 1944. (Another source says April 2, 1944) The camp, Mauthausen-Gusen, was located in Austria and was generally used to incarcerate intellectuals. The reason for his incarceration was: “wife was a Jew” and “Party behavior”. Also see the Wikipedia entry which you can find here You will see, to the right, the entry from, taken from the Concentration Camp Death Record books. His wife, Charlotte, who was Jewish, was declared dead later. On June 30, 1951 the authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany declared her dead as of December 31, 1945.but there was never any record of her death.

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

Current Events in Our Community Life
February 1916

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

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

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

Categories: Monthly Feature.

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