Blog Description

Mound House Happenings shares the latest in ongoing projects, site improvements, scheduled programs and events, plus interesting facts and photos on our unique archaeology, history and ecology.

Mound House

Mound House
October 15, 2013

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Koreshans: Beginnings of the Unity

Mound House staff and volunteers had the opportunity to visit Koreshan State Historic Site on May 17, 2012 where we had the opportunity to learn more about the unusual religious organization that developed in Estero as the nineteenth century closed. This multi-part series continues with Cyrus Teed's developing religious ideas and his first trip to Southwest Florida.

In 1878 Dr. Teed was admitted to membership in the North Family of Shakers at Lebannon, New York. His contact with the Shakers and the Harmonists laid a foundation for his own communal group. During this time, he also practiced medicine in Binghampton, Trout Creek, Connorsville, and Deposit in Delaware County. By August 20, 1880 he was back in Utica and by the end of the year he had established a communal home in Moravia and was running the family mop business. Members of this first group were his mother, father, his sister Zanetta, his sister Emma, her husband, and a few others.

After two years the mop business failed. The communal home also began to receive criticizism when Mrs. Ellen M. Woolsey left her husband in order to join the group. It became necessary for Cyrus to leave Moravia and begin practicing medicine again. Over the next six years, due to continued financial troubles and religious persecution, the group migrated to Syracuse, New York, then to New York City before finally settling in Chicago. It was there that Teed began to realize his dream. By 1892, at their communal home called “Beth Ophra,” the Koreshan Unity had grown to a membership of 110. Some followers also formed a short-lived community in San Francisco, 1891-1892. Small church groups also existed in other towns. Even so, Teed had aspirations of building “The New Jerusalem” where he expected his followers to grow to 10 million!

In 1893, Koresh was riding a train from Pittsburgh to Chicago following a speaking engagement when a fellow traveler told him about a development for sale on Pine Island in Southwest Florida. Rail passes were available for those interested and Teed was able to get three. On December 6, 1893 he boarded the train from Chicago to Punta Gorda, accompanied by Annie Ordway and Berthaldine Sterling Boomer. They met a Mr. Whitehead who showed them the property at St. James City. The $150,000.00 price tag was too much for the Koreshans. They regretfully returned to Chicago. But before they left, Teed left copies of the Flaming Sword, a Koreshan publication, at the cable station at Punta Rassa, near Ft. Myers. Gustave Damkohler came to pick up his mail and read the Flaming Swords. Apparently intrigued, he wrote Koresh and invited him down to Estero.
Tune back in next week to learn about the Koreshans' visit to Estero.