Cult of Florida :: The Koreshans of South Florida

in cult •  12 days ago

Recently, the wife and I had an opportunity to take our Landwhale out to camp near Fort Myers, FL. We camped at Koreshan State Park, named as such due to the fact that it was the former homestead of the Koreshan Unity, founded by Cyrus Teed in 1903.


The community itself was carved from the wildness of the Florida landscape at that time. They built their own homes, stores, bakery, laundry, machine shop, and more, and had their own power generator well before the rest of the area was being served by electricity, and their own print shop that produced work of much better quality than the local newspaper in Fort Myers. They were very progressive and productive.

It's a great story of adventure, and there are likely many stories each of those people could tell about being recruited by the charismatic founder in Chicago or New York and brought down to the prehistoric wetlands of Florida.

They had their own particular religion as well. They believed in a sort of hollow earth theory. More specifically, the earth and the visible universe were on the inside of a giant sphere, and the sky above you was the inside of that sphere.

Ok.

At any rate, when Teed died in 1908, his followers left him in a bathtub for almost a week, presuming he would resurrect. That ended badly, and they buried him.

The last original follower of the cult died in 1974, and presumably she believed in their hollow earth theory until the moon landing in 1969. Imagine how devastating that would be to have your entire life's belief system torn down at the very end, just before you die.

The overall story of the Koreshan community is wild and interesting, and worth a read if only to imagine what it must have been like back then. Here's a more detailed chronology and background for any interested (I know I was).



One of two fancy bridges the Koreshans built leading from the Estero River into their community.



Although the grounds are mowed and clean today, back in the day things probably looked a bit more organic.



The original owner of the land, Gustave Damkohler, a homesteader from Germany, built his house here in 1882 before selling the land to Cyrus Teed.



Gustave's house as seen through the window.



The original hand made nails and wood are still holding the structure together.



The slightly more fancy home of Cyrus Teed, which was built once he bought the land and moved his followers here.



Ah, and the Planetary Court, where the more powerful ladies of the community resided in a very beautiful house. Of course, the third floor housed a man, Henry Silverfriend, also named the "Watcher of the House" or "Protector of the Sisters."



Probably unreadable at steemit sizes, but a list of the Planetary Court members and original photos of the home itself.



Some of the homes in the community were smaller, but they were all built by each resident themselves.



The machine shop, laundry, and power station.



Power! You can see where the diesel engine in the back would generate power (normally there would be belts on the various spindles) leading to the generator and the wires in the forefront that would distribute power to the community underground.



The diesel generator, which was finally turned off for the last time in the 1930s when Florida Power and Light brought power service to the community.


 

History is pretty cool. It seems like in today's modern age there's not as much chance for pioneering adventure like this. Or maybe there is, but we're all too comfortable to ever want to do something so different and drastic.


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They lived like a cross between cosplay and cult but for the 1800's. Interesting what people will believe. Great write up, Neg:)

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I would chalk up the 'weird beliefs' to a product of their time, but people today still believe in weird things. Who knows what is right and wrong?

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Time Lords ... lol. #drwho

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I love historic sites. I'm the one that makes everyone else crazy by reading every word on all the plaques. Funny, I only discovered this passion in my adult life, I think because it was all thrust upon me on educational outings with my scholarly parents. At the time it didn't seem that cool or interesting.

I love all the images in this post. I almost feel like I visited the site myself! And what a great site to explore -- a turn-of-the-century cult. I'm not sure I realized they existed that early in the 20th century. That land whale of yours sure gets you around!

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I used to kind of ignore the plaques, but there's where all the real information is. I love going through these historic sites and imagining the stories that happened, and all the lives involved, and how most of it is almost kind of...forgotten. Even charismatic powerful fellows don't always leave much of a legacy. It's sad and powerful all at once.

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So true. My brother-in-law, @preparedwombat, writes a lot about history on his blog, even in 50-word short stories. It sort of brings characters back to life for me. It's really neat because it's such a digestible amount of information, and it piques my interest. I often go searching for more info. Here's one of my favorites: The Art of the Deal.

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That little story from @preparedwombat...was brutal (at least the historical context made it so). I may have heard the story back in my high school days, but perhaps not. There are millions of those kinds of stories throughout history, and so few of them ever get told.

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It's true. Well, when you think about the many events that occur in even one life, and then you start to multiply by everyone alive today and throughout history, it becomes so overwhelming. The neat thing about plaques (and biographies, and historical fiction, for that matter) is that although they can't possibly capture the complexity of a person's life, you can hone in on its most important or startling highlights.

Hiya, just swinging by to let you know that this post made the Honorable Mentions list in our daily Travel Digest. Please drop by to check out all the rest of today's great posts and consider upvoting the Travel Digest if you like what we're doing.

Funny coincidence. My 50 worder in the works is someone escaping a cult... coming soon...

Just saw it on the map. Did you live on the East coast of FL, Neg?

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Yes, I do. Southeast portion of FL.

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