Described as an “eclectic physician and alchemist turned religious leader and messiah”, Cyrus Teed grew up in New York and was the founder of the Koreshan Unity, a religious settlement based on the goal of everyone working for the good of all. Central to the Koreshanity tenet was the idea of Cellular Cosmogony; the belief that the universe exists inside a giant, hollow sphere.
Growing up, though his family wanted him to become a Baptist minister, Cyrus chose to follow his uncle, Dr. Samuel F. Teed, and began to study medicine in Utica, New York. In 1869 while working in his laboratory, he’s said to have had a mystical experience. “Teed believed that God, in the form of a beautiful woman, divulged all the secrets of the universe and urged him to use his scientific knowledge to interpret the Bible“, writes Atlas Obscura. Following the “illumination”, he changed his name to Koresh — Hebrew for Cyrus — and in 1894, in search of an environment to freely practice their religious beliefs, the Koreshan Unity relocated to Florida.
“It was to be Utopia, the ‘New Jerusalem’, a life without crime, tobacco or drugs.”
Located in Estero, FL, the Koreshan State Park was planned to accommodate up to ten million people. The Koreshans — arriving from Chicago and bringing with them fifteen train car loads of possessions and equipment — planted vegetable gardens growing tomatoes, cow peas, sweet potatoes, greens and beans. Gardens were carved out of “thick mangroves, pine trees, scrub oaks, and saw palmettos”. Koreshan publications described the grounds as bearing a variety of fruit trees; oranges, grapefruit, avocado, lemon, lime, mango, tamarind, fig, olive, banana, guava, date, gooseberry, sugar apple, coconuts.
They built and operated an art hall, publishing house, boat works, cement works, sawmill, bakery, a 3-story dining hall — once the tallest structure in Lee County — demolished 1949, tea garden, laundry & drying yard, store, hostelry.
Dr. Teed died December 22, 1908 — some say due to complications arising from a beating received in front of R.W. Gillams grocery store in Ft. Myers. Many of his followers believed he’d be resurrected, and “until his body washed away in the hurricane of 1921, believers still waited for the Florida-based messiah to rise from his tomb on Fort Myers Beach“, writes Florida Weekly.
By 1960, there remained four members. Hedwig Michel, who fled Nazi Germany and came to Estero in 1940, along with the remaining members deeded the property to the State of Florida in 1961.
HOURS AND ADMISSION
Koreshan State Park
3800 Corkscrew Road, Estero, Florida, 33928
8AM to Sunset (Daily)
$5 per vehicle, $2 per pedestrian/bike rider.
- Things To Do in South Florida DECEMBER / JANUARY 2015 (cookmixmingle.com)
- Koreshan State Historic Site Farmers Market (floridastateparks.org)
- Koreshan State Historic Site Ghost Walk (floridastateparks.org)
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