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.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Moment of Zen

Edison Sailing School

Once again, Mound House was extremely proud to host the Edison Sailling School's summer camp from June 11th to June 15th. For more information on the program, please contact Stephanie Webb at the Edison Sailing School at (239) 454-5114.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Calusa of Southwest Florida

The Calusa of Southwest Florida
The Calusa (kah LOOS ah) lived on the sandy shores of the southwest coast of Florida. These Indians dominated most of south Florida, from Charlotte harbor to Cape Canaveral, through Lake Okeechobee all the way down to the Florida Keys. Some experts believe the population of this tribe may have reached as many as 50,000 people. Spanish explorers describe the Calusa men as tall and well-built with long hair. Calusa means “fierce people,” and they were seen as a fierce, war-like people. Many smaller tribes were constantly watching for these marauding warriors. As European explorers tried to invade the Calusa lands they too became targets of the Calusa attacks.
How the Calusa Lived
The Calusa lived on the coast and along the inner waterways of Southwest Florida, relying on the water for transportation and food. They built their homes on stilts and wove Palmetto leaves together in order to fashion roofs, but their houses did not have any walls. The Calusa Indians did not farm like most of the other Indian tribes in Florida. Instead, they fished for food on the coast, bays, and rivers. The men and boys of the tribe made nets from palm tree webbing to catch mullet, pinfish, pigfish, and catfish. They used spears to catch eels and turtles. They made arrowheads from shells and bones to hunt for animals such as deer and raccoon. The women and children gathered shellfish like conchs, crabs, clams, lobsters, and oysters. The Calusa also collected wild fruit from trees like sea-grape, prickly pear, and the seven year apple.
The Calusa as Shell Indians
The Calusa can be considered the first “shell collectors.”  Shells were discarded into huge heaps. They used the shells for tools, weapons, utensils, jewelry, ornaments, and even built huge mounds to live on out of the shells. Shell mounds can still be found today in many parts of southern Florida. Environmentalists and conservation groups protect many of these remaining shell mounds because so many have been destroyed by development. One shell mound site is Mound Key at Estero Bay in Lee County. Its construction is made entirely of shells and clay and the top is the highest location in the county, 31 feet! This site is believed to be the capitol of the Calusa, where their king, Carlos lived. Archaeologists have excavated many of these mounds to learn more about these extinct people. One of the mounds archaeologists excavated is at Mound House on Fort Myers Beach, today you have the opportunity to enter the mound in their underground exhibit. Artifacts uncovered during digging such as shell tools, weapons, and ornaments are on display in many Florida history museums. However, removing these artifacts destroys the site forever. That is why it is important that you leave any artifacts you find in place and allow a professional archaeologist to examine them.

The Calusa as Sailors
Living on the coast caused the Calusa to become great sailors. They defended their land against other tribes and Europeans that were traveling through their territory. What is today called the Caloosahatchee River, which means “River of the Calusa,” was their main highway. They traveled by dugout canoes, which were made from hollowed-out cypress logs about 15 feet long. They used these canoes to travel as far as Cuba. Europeans reported that the Calusa attacked ships that were anchored close to shore. The Calusa were also known to sail up and down the west coast salvaging the wealth and sailors from shipwrecks.
What Happened to the Calusa?
What happened to these fierce sailing Indians? The Calusa people disappeared in the late 1700s. Enemy Indian tribes from Georgia and South Carolina began raiding the Calusa territory. Many Calusa were captured and enslaved by the British. In addition, diseases such as smallpox and measles were brought into the area by Europeans and these diseases wiped out entire villages. It is believed that the few remaining Calusa Indians left for Cuba when the Spanish turned Florida over to the British in 1763 and any that remained in Florida likely joined with the Indian groups pushed south by the British and eventually become the Seminoles.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Koreshan Unity in Southwest Florida

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 starts with some background on the Koreshan leader Cyrus Teed and the revelation that inspired him to build a"New Jerusalem" in the wilds of Southwest Florida.
                                                         A view of Koreshan State Historic Site
Cyrus Reed Teed, the founder of the Koreshan religion, was born on October 18, 1839 near Trout Creek, Delaware County, New York. He was the second son born into a family of eight children. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to New Hartford, New York onto the land of his grandfather, Oliver Tuttle. At the age of eleven, Cyrus quit school and went to work on the Eire Canal. As Teed grew up, he was surrounded by religious revivalism. In fact, Upper New York State was so saturated with new religious movements, it became known as the “Burned-Over District.”
On April 13, 1859, he married his second cousin, Fidelia M. Rowe of Merideth, New York. Delia, as she was called, was the daughter of William and Polly Maria Tuttle Rowe. His family urged him to become a Baptist minister like his grandfather Oliver Tuttle, but Cyrus chose to follow another relative’s path and began studying medicine with his uncle, Dr. Samuel F. Teed, a twenty-five year old physician, in Utica, New York. As a young doctor, Teed was drawn to unconventional experiments, such as alchemy, and others involving dangerously high levels of electricity. On February 21, 1860, a son, Douglas Arthur Teed, was born to Cyrus and Delia. Cyrus moved his family to New York City in 1862, living in Brooklyn and continuing his medical studies.
Once the Civil War erupted he enlisted in Company F, 127th New York Infantry of the New York volunteers as a corporal on August 9, 1862 at the age of twenty-two. On April 12, 1863, he was assigned to Brigade Headquarters. While on march near Warrenton Junction, Virginia on August 1, 1863, he suffered sunstroke. This led to paralysis of his left arm and leg. He was assigned to the General Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia where he was treated for sixty-one days until his release in October. He was granted a discharge from the army and returned to New York City to complete his medical studies at the Eclectic Medical College of the City of New York, graduating in February of 1868.
Following his graduation, he returned to Utica and rejoined his uncle’s medical business. Below their office, they hung a sign in foot high letters which said, "He who deals out poison, deals out death." They were referring to prescription drugs, which they never recommended. A very busy pharmacy, the Watford Drug Store, a half block away, shows no record of the Teeds ever writing a prescription. However, below the doctors' office was a tavern, and, reportedly, people found this reference to “dealing poison” very humorous.
By 1869, he had moved just outside of Utica to a town named Deerfield. Next to his home he set up a laboratory. It was in autumn of that year that Cyrus had what he later referred to as his "Illumination". During an experiment he was badly shocked and passed out. During his period of unconsciousness, Cyrus described the messenger as:
"Gracefully pendant from the head, and falling in golden tresses of profusely luxuriant growth over her shoulders, her hair added to the adornment of her personal attractiveness. Supported by the shoulders and falling into a long train was a gold and purple colored robe. Her feet rested upon a silvery crescent; in her hand, and resting upon this crescent, was Mercury's Caduceus..."
 Inspired once he awoke, Teed vowed to apply his scientific knowledge to "redeem humanity." In 1891, Teed took on the pseudonym “Koresh,” Hebrew for Cyrus, from the book of Isaiah 44:28, which states, “I am the Lord . . . who says of Cyrus, ‘he is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose.’” This was the basis upon which Teed formed the tenets of “Koreshan Universology.” Teed's ideas, called Koreshanity, caught on with others. Koreshanity preached cellular cosmogony, alchemy, reincarnation, immortality, celibacy, communism, and a few other unique ideas. Cellular Cosmology refers to the idea that the Earth was enclosed and we live on the inside of a sphere. According to this theory, human beings live on the inside of the planet, not the outside. Gravity thus does not exist, and humans are held in place due to centrifugal force. The sun is a giant battery-operated contraption, and the stars mere refractions of its light.The Koreshan God had a male-female aspect. Koreshan prayers were directed to a Mother-Father God.
As you see above, Koreshan beliefs were quite foreign to a majority of Americans at that time. While some folks were very intrigued and joined the group, others found them so bizarre that the Koreshans were forced out of many areas that they tried to live and preach in. Check this page next week to learn about the development of the Koreshan Unity before their arrival in Florida.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Sunset Beachwalks - UPDATE!

Since the inception of Parke Lewis' Summer Sunset Beachwalks, they have been a hit on the Island! Each beachwalk has garnered approximately 25 - 30 guests, which is an absolutely great turn out. They've received so much attention that even the Island Sandpaper printed about it on the front page of this weeks paper!

(Original posting below)

The Town of Fort Myers Beach is offering a series of four sunset beachwalks this summer. Hosted by the Town’s Environmental Educator, the evening beachwalks will depart from Newton Park at 7:00 PM. These one hour walks have been scheduled to coincide with the extreme low tides of summer full and new moons and offer a unique opportunity to see and learn a little something about the  otherwise submerged marine life on the sandbars and tidal troughs of Fort Myers Beach while enjoying one of our famous sunsets.

Bring a camera and plan on getting wet feet!

Schedule :
Tuesday June 19
Tuesday July  03
Tuesday July 17
Tuesday July 31  

For questions please call (239) 765-0865

Friday, June 8, 2012


Every year as summer approaches, Southwest Florida eagerly awaits the arrival of the rainy season. This year, the rains started in May, and the native vegetation landscaping at Newton Park shows it. Coastal dune soil is naturally sandy, poor in nutrients, and water percolates through quickly.  High-tide storm events send waves from the gulf crashing into the seawall at Newton Park and salt spray from the gulf is carried across the entire park by onshore winds. This salt spray and the occasional flooding from the big storms and hurricanes greatly limits the types of vegetation you will find naturally occurring next to the gulf. Only the toughest and most well adapted native vegetation can hack these harsh conditions.  

As you walk inland from the surf, you may notice the newly sprouting stands of sea oats, now growing rapidly, their roots trapping storm and windblown sand to build the dunes not only in front of Newton Cottage but all along the beach. Nourished by the rains, beach creeper vines which had lain almost dormant through the dry season start to grow almost by the hour, their winding tendrils extending sometimes as much as 60 feet along the grounds at Newton Park. Just landward, you will find the colorful dune sunflower and blanket flowers suddenly revitalized and blooming. Farther inland, cordgrass grows beneath seagrape, coconut and cabbage palms. The radiant orange geiger trees, red coral bean and firebush are farthest inland.

Summer visitors to Newton Park have a unique opportunity to see true native Florida coastal strand and dune vegetation growing on the shores of Estero Island as it used to be. 
Newton Park is located just ½ mile south of The Mound House on Estero Boulevard.       

Newton Park Sea Oats overlooking the Gulf

Winding Beach Creeper Vine

Blooming Dune Sunflowers

Sea Grapes forming an arched canopy at Newton Park