[This is a re-posting from September 2013]
One of the purposes of this website is to look closer at the lives, beliefs and practices of the Koreshans. In the two decades that I have been here, I’ve found a lot of misconceptions and historical fallacies. One of the things I’ve found about the Koreshans is that they sometimes (and Cyrus Teed in particular) tended to embellish themselves and the Unity. Let me be clear in saying that I am not intending to be overly critical. The Koreshans did, in fact, bring a great deal of culture and learning to southwest Florida. Their beliefs were very well “worked out”. But in attempting to convince others of the truth of their beliefs and the strong character of their leader, they sometimes resorted to false claims and (in the case of Dr. Teed), in my opinion, even “made up” words. With all that in mind here is a piece from the “American Eagle”, written in 1973 by Hedwig Michel. She began a series called “The Koreshan Unity Settlement” which was intended to be a kind of history of the movement with most of it taken from original writings. Part One, which was published in the June 1973 edition of the “American Eagle” was a piece written by Laurence (Laurie) Bubbett. It began with an introduction written by Hedwig Michel.
Established in Chicago with groups who joined from New York State and California the Koreshan Unity moved to Florida in 1893-94. They established numerous stations on Florida’s Gulf Coast, stretching from James City west to the south of Naples, at Gordons Pass, with main headquarters at Estero Island and the mainland of Estero. Mound Key, Big and Little Hickory Island served as farming, fishing and hunting areas. Sawmills in Estero and on Estero Island activated their industrial boat and house building projects. The Guiding Star Publishing House remained, as in Chicago, the center of their communal work. Once. established more industries were added, the tropical nursery, a mechanical workshop, laundry, bakeshop, cannery, hat and dress making, sculpture, music and the arts were practiced. A general store and post office were of benefit to the community.
A New Jersey corporation with the certificate to do business in Florida the Koreshans were taxpayers for more than seventy years in Florida, never having received any financial support other than from their members and friends of their religious fraternal commonwealth. Their modest way of living was made possible through their devotion to the cause their leader, Dr. Cyrus Read Teed — KORESH — taught: “In The Name Of Humanity” they were building for future generations.
The following biographical sketch was written by one of the staunch believers in Koreshan Universology. Laurence Bubbett, raised and trained in the Estero Pioneer University, for many years editor of the religious weekly, The Flaming Sword, and leader in the movement, was the son of the incorporators James and Evelyn Bubbett. He knew Koresh from earliest childhood. He carried the Koreshan work through critical years into the recognition of the pioneers’ endurance.
KORESH and his followers built their own monument which now is named as The Koreshan Unity Settlement among the Significant Sites and Properties in the Florida Bicentennial Trail.
Like the Koreshans before her Hedwig seemed to be saying that Estero was the center of the earth, and of course for the Koreshans, it was. The so-called “Pioneer University” was simply the schooling that members received from other members of the Unity. This is not to say that these teachings were elementary. One look at the Koreshan Library of books shows that the Koresahns were very learned and I’m sure that the knowledge they taught was, in many cases, very academic.
Here is the article written by Laurie Bubbett
[Excerpt from The American Eagle - Vol.53 No.98 June 1973]
By Laurence W. Bubbett
President of the Koreshan Unity (1948-1960) and aide to the Koreshan Geodetic Staff that projected a mechanical straight line beside the water’s surface of the Gulf of Mexico at Naples, Fla., in 1897.
Cyrus Read Teed was born on October 18, 1839, near Trout Creek in a small settlement called Teedsville, in Tompkins township, Delaware County, N.Y. He was the second son of eight children of Jesse and Sarah Ann Tuttle Teed. His father, Jesse Teed, was a successful country doctor.((1))
Cyrus R. Teed was descended through his mother from a John Read, who came to America from England in 1630 and settled in Rehoboth, Mass. At the age of eleven Cyrus quit school to help provide for the fast growing family. His parents were of the Baptist faith, and as Cyrus grew older his friends urged him to study for the ministry because of his natural oratorical ability. But Cyrus decided to become a physician and in 1859 commenced the study of medicine with his uncle, Dr. Samuel F. Teed, in Utica, N.Y. In 1858 Cyrus Teed married Miss Fidelia Rowe of Meredith, N.Y., to which union one son was born, Douglas Arthur Teed, who later attained distinction as an artist and portrait painter, in 1862 Cyrus moved with his family to New York City to complete his medical education, but as the Civil War was raging at that, time Cyrus, instead of continuing his medical studies, joined the Union Army, volunteering as a private. Because of his medical knowledge he was assigned to field hospital service and later became attached to the staff of a Gen. Woodford as assistant physician and surgeon.((2)) At the close of the war,((3)) he resumed the study of medicine at New York Eclectic Medical College. He graduated in 1868 and commenced practice in Utica, N.Y.
Being of a deeply religious, philanthropic and investigative turn of mind Dr. Teed sought wider means of alleviating the ills of humanity than mere medical science could afford and so consecrated his life to that end. His intense research in the realm of metaphysics resulted in a spiritual awakening or divine “illumumination” as he termed it, in the autumn of 1869. This “illumination” was the revelation of the mysteries of life and death, of the form and character of the universe of the relation of man to God and man’s ultimate destiny in God. It was the revelation of universal knowledge. Like all prophets and seers, however, Dr. Teed found few who were immediately receptive to his strange and revolutionary teachings, although they were based on the Bible, which he declared was written in the language of symbolism, and he held Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and his standard. Therefore his zeal in putting forth his doctrine resulted in antagonism which was detrimental to his medical practice almost wherever he went.
In September 1886 Dr. Teed was invited to address a convention of the National Association of Mental Science in Chicago, Ill. At this convention he made such a deep impression by his eloquence and magnetic personality that he was subsequently elected to the presidency of the Association. This favorable reception in Chicago induced Dr. Teed to settle there, and in October 1886 he incorporated “The College of life” under the Laws of the State of Illinois.
In December 1886 Dr. Teed published the first issue of a monthly periodical called “The Guiding Star,” which was devoted to presenting his doctrine to the world — the attainment of immortality in the flesh. “The Guiding Star” was continued until May 1889. This was followed by another magazine entitled “The Flaming Sword,” the first issue of which appeared November 30, 1889. This latter publication was continued until fire destroyed the Community’s printing plant at Estero, Florida, in February 1949.
In September 1888 Dr. Teed founded in Chicago, at 2 and 4 College Place and Cottage Grove Avenue, the institution that became known as the Koreshan Unity, a home for followers who accepted his doctrine. Here was practiced a form of communal life based upon that of the early Christians. In 1894 a branch of the Community was established at Estero, Florida, to where the entire Chicago group was moved in 1903. [Credit is due C. J. Rahn, whose compilation of biographical data was drawn upon.]
- There is no evidence that Jesse Teed was ever a country doctor. It is possible he was some kind of country herbalist, healer, etc. much like his daughter, Emma Norton who was the ‘witch doctor’, so to speak, at Estero. At one time Jesse did run his own company, the “Teed Water Works” [↩]
- Although Teed was attached to Brigade Headquarters, there is no record of him acting as a physician and/or surgeon, nor as an assistant. He remained an enlisted man – see Civil War Records [↩]
- Teed was actually discharged on 16 October 1863. He served about 14 months. The war did no end until May 1865. [↩]