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May 2016

Many Koreshans have sunk into obscurity. One can go through the Rahn Membership List and see many, many names of people that we know very little about. On the other hand, some of the earliest members of the Unity and their families are well know. One of those would be Bertha May Boomer, known to the world as “Bertie”. Her mother, Bertha Sterling Boomer was one of the original Koreshans who accompanied Dr. Teed to Estero in his hunt for the New Jerusalem.

Bertie Boomer Passport Application 1917.

Bertie Boomer Passport Application 1917.

Bertie May was born May 1, 1882, despite the fact that her gravestone in the Pelican Sound Cemetery says 1880. The 1882 date is confirmed by Bertie’s 1917 Passport Application, one of two found online. The first one, from 1917, shows that Bertie was living full time in New York City and that she planned on visiting Panama and Jamaica.

The second application, from 1920, shows that she had lived in Cuba for two months in 1917 and that her permanent residence was back in Estero. On this trip she planned on visiting Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru.

Bertie appears to have spent most of her time living with her mother at the home across from the Unity, known as Mirasol Grove. She also lived, for a time, in Fort Myers. Somewhere along the way, after 1920-1930, Bertie’s life seems to have changed, at least it appears that way thanks to the collection of papers that the archives obtained from the estate of Harry Manley. See the Manley Collection here.

Based on what is in this collection there seems to be some sort of “fringe” that Bertie appears to be tied into. There is not enough known, however, so one cannot say for sure. You can read more about the Bertie Boomer-Harry Manley-Hedwig Michel-Peter Bender relationship by revisiting the February 2014 posting.

Bertie died in 1941 in a freak accident. She was on the beach and accidentally run over by fellow Koreshan Harold Case. Here is the entry from the October 1941 Flaming Sword.

FLAMING SWORD–v.55, n.10, October 1941 — “Estero residents were shocked on Wednesday evening, September 3, to learn of the sudden death of Miss Betha M. Boomer, who was run down by a truck at Fort Myers Beach. Miss Boomer, who had been in swimming with a party of friends, left the water to get her bathing cap which she had forgotten. A glaring sun was low in the horizon and it is supposed that she failed to see the approaching truck which was driven by Mr. H. C. Case of Fort Myers. Miss Boomer was for many years a member of the Unity in Estero. She was an accomplished artist, being a graduate of Chicago Art Institute, and had a wide circle of friends. She is survived by her brother, Mr. L. M. Boomer, President of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Company of New York, and a married sister, Mrs. Walter Thomas, living in a suburb of Philadelphia.

There is a new book out about an important member of the Koreshan Unity, Jeannie Fox Miller. The book, entitled Jeannie’s Journey: Great Grandmother’s Pioneering Tale is by Linda Tilson Davis. Click on the link for purchase information. Here is a description of the book:

Born in the mid-Victorian era, Jeannie Fox shuns her Quaker heritage to take an unusual, circuitous journey through life. Her ambition to become a teacher is realized but societal norms and laws force her to give up teaching when she marries. After having two children she begins to question her obligations and rights as a wife and joins a religious-scientific cult and commune in Chicago in part to escape her uncomfortable marriage. When she is threatened with losing her daughters, she leaves the commune and resumes her career as a teacher but maintains allegiance to the cult leader and his followers. A temptation to rejoin the commune is not as strong as the attraction to move to Oregon’s Hood River Valley and become a fruit rancher. Relations become stressed with her oldest daughter over her younger sister’s choice of a husband and lifestyle. A life-long dream to take a world tour turns into tragedy forcing her home prematurely to face the consequences and the remainder of her life.

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