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February 2016 – Black History Month

February is “Black History Month”. We wanted to mention that there were, in fact, some African Americans who were members of the Koreshan Unity even though very little is known of them.

Throughout the years it has been said that laborers who built the canals on the Unity grounds were mostly black. That may or may not be true. It appears that Cyrus Teed believed in the equality of the races as well as of the sexes. Of course, that may have meant, in the late 19th century and early 20th century — “separate but equal”. There is little or no evidence of just who or how many blacks were members of the Unity. Our only clues are a few remaining items from our own archives and from the State Archives.

    1)The Koreshan Unity Membership List:
 Long after Teed’s death, in 1963, Claude Rahn a long time member of the Unity compiled a Membership List. This list seemed to be an attempt to list as many members, former members etc. of the Koreshan Unity. Rahn listed the name and (if available) the date they entered the Unity. In the case of African Americans, he only listed their name and then, in parenthesis, the word “colored”. Here are those entries from the list

Derry, Joseph and Sarah
Jackson, Carl and Emma
Patsy (no last name given)

    2)Other sources:

FLAMING SWORD, Community Current Events by Max E. Arendt, September 1932:
“Word reaches us of the sudden death of Carl Jackson, recently of Paisley,
Florida, and at one time connected with the Koreshan movement in Chicago in
the early days. Mr. Jackson was active in organization work among colored
people up to the time of his death.”

The 1930 U.S. Census lists Mr. Jackson and his family:
Carl Jackson, Age-53, born in Illinois
Terlissia Jackson, Wife, age-30, born in Florida

Then his children, all born in Florida:
Catherine Jackson, Daughter, age-15
Sylvester Jackson, Son, age-5
Arie Jackson, Daughter, age-4
Isadora Jackson, Daughter, age-2
Pauline Jackson, Daughter, age-<1

    3)Photos:

In the collection there is one picture of an African American child with a possum on a leash, but no mention of who the person was. When the photographs that were stored in the Koreshan Unity archives were being transferred to the State Archives, many of them were scanned for reference purposes. This small amount of evidence shows us a photo of an African American man and woman, simply identified as “Annie and Watson” and that there were two children known as the Johnson Twins, based on the identification on the back. Take a look at these photos:

The caption on the back simply says: "Annie and Watson"

The caption on the back simply says: “Annie and Watson”

Young man in front of the Koreshan Unity Store.

Young man in front of the Koreshan Unity Store.

Young boy with possum-taken on Unity grounds.

Young boy with possum-taken on Unity grounds.

The back of the last photo (also a postcard) says: “This is inside of the yard of the office, [?] is one of the twins of Jack Johnson, it was the largest possum I ever saw. JHB”. “JHB” was James H. Bubbett.

With all that in mind we offer this small tribute to at least “some” of the African Americans who either belonged to or were employed by the Koreshan Unity.

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February 2016 – Madame Diss Debar

In her book, The Allure of Immortality, Professor Lyn Millner wrote:

“One day, an exciting guest arrived at Beth-Ophrah, an ample woman in an elegant black dress that gathered at the neck. Her two scarves–one orchid, one white–flowed nearly to her waist, and her bleached hair was pinned neatly back, revealing a mysterious scar that ran beneath one eye and upward to her temple.”((1))

This was Madame Diss Debar who was apparently a friend of Berthaldine Boomer (not sure how that happened…). Diss Debar supposedly had money and Dr. Teed was in need of some. That is not to say that the arrival of Madame Diss Debar was intended as a scheme to relieve her of her money. Quite the contrary. As it turned out, she attempted to relieve the Unity of some of their money.

Diss Debar claimed that she was many things, including a princess and a godchild of Pope Pius IX (although if true, that would certainly have not sat well with the Koreshans who were suspicious of Catholics). The Koreshans had taken her in because she had supposedly recanted her past sins of theft and fraud.((2)) They apparently thought that they would convert her totally to Koreshanity, but that never worked out. She eventually left the Unity after being caught stealing and attempting to entice one of the McCready girls into a dive.((3))

So, what about this woman? I’ve written here before about some of the charlatans and odd people who have graced the Koreshan doorstep. This is what I described as the “Dark Side” in an October 2012 post. Madame Diss Debar wasn’t “creepy” like Edgar Peissart, but she was certainly what I would call an “odd duck”…

Here are some links to some articles and books which feature the Madame Diss Debar:

New York Times – September 5, 1909

San Francisco Call – December 8, 1898

Excerpts from Books and Articles((4))


.

  1. Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet, p.175 and Marie McCready, “Memories, Memories, Days of Long Ago”, p.22 []
  2. See Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet, p.176 []
  3. See: AM-0011 []
  4. Beware Familiar Spirits | The New Books of Revelations: The Inside Story of America’s Astounding Religious Cults | New York Times article, May 1, 1888 []

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January 2016 – Page-4

     Victoria Gratia, a.k.a. Annie Glassen((1)) Ordway has always been a bit of a mystery. Being in a leadership role within the Unity, and even crowned Empress by Teed, Victoria seemed to drop from favor soon after the death of Dr. Teed. This indicates that her “popularity” (if we can use that word), never really amounted to much.

Certainly, as long as Teed was alive, she maintained power, but this was always due to the fact that Dr. Teed “always” defended her and her position within the Koreshan Unity. Within eight months after the death of Teed she was gone. One gets the feeling that Victoria was always in a precarious position, at least with many of Teed’s followers. Part of this is due, in my opinion, to the fact that women were, regardless of Cyrus Teed’s theology, still considered inferior. This is seen in the correspondence between Teed and George Hunt. When Teed was “on the road”, he corresponded with Hunt. Hunt, for all intents and purposes, ran the day to day activities at the Unity. Of course, Victoria was on the road too, but I have yet to see much evidence of the her or the Planetary Court ladies running the day to day activities. I think that Teed “believed” in the equality of the sexes, but he was also a pragmatist and saw that the world outside of Estero, at least in the early 20th century, was a “man’s world”. The same belief in equality seems to have held true for African Americans who were members of the Unity.((2))Equality” may have been in “mind” only.

Still, Victoria always had a following, some of whom followed her to central Florida after she left the Unity. She always seemed to believe that she was the female Koresh, even though she was married to Dr Graves, the Koreshan dentist. Twelve years after her departure, she wrote a “proclamation” to the Unity at Estero offering to return. (See the April 2011 post)

One hears things along the historic path and I once heard that Victoria, that is, Annie, had been born and baptized a Catholic. In Lyn Millner’s The Allure of Immortality, she says that an unidentified Koreshan who visited her at her new home in central Florida saw “…her ivory rosary beads were well worn and that two Catholic priests often visited”((3)) If, in fact, Annie Ordway had ever been Catholic, she certainly was not when she married the first time to David Ordway, a grocer, in Boston on February 1, 1863. Their marriage (she was only 19) was witnessed by one “A.A. Miner”, pastor of the Second Universalist Church of Boston. You can view the entry in the “Boston Register of Marriages” which shows David and Annie’s Marriage Record. David apparently remarried after Annie left him for the Unity. David died in 1914 in Chicago.


  1. Annie’s maiden name appears in most genelogical indexes as “Glassen” rather than “Glossen”. []
  2. This is a subject of some speculation. Very little is known about whether or not African Americans were, in fact, members of the Unity or merely employees []
  3. Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet.
    p.246 []

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January 2016 – Page-3

As we continue into January, we want to continue, in a way, to look at some of the personalities of a number of prominent Koreshans. Perhaps the most prominent, at least from the view of a historian, was Claude C. Rahn. claude2 Claude was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1885. His family was one of the first to join the Unity in Estero. Thanks to Claude’s efforts we have a membership list, a short history of Dr. Teed and other information about the Koreshans.

As mentioned in previous months, the Community Current Events column which appeared monthly (for the most part) from 1916 on gives us an insight into the daily lives of the people who lived here. So, this month we feature a complete edition of the “Events” column from February 1927, (covering the month of January) 89 years ago. Claude Rahn, (pictured above), wrote the Current Events column for a time. His brother, Frank, is mentioned in this month’s featured column.

IT GIVES us great pleasure to record in this issue the return of Brothers Elbert W. Lindbeck, of Rock Island, Illinois, and Frank Rahn of Baltimore, Maryland. They are both happy to be back in the Unity again, and we are glad to have them. Brother Elbert is a linotype operator, but understands the technique of job printing as well, and his assistance in this department of the publishing house is very much needed and will be appreciated. Brother Frank Rahn fits in wherever needed; it will be good to see him at his old place in the Koreshan Orchestra, playing the clarinet, or it may be the saxophone, as we understand he brought a saxophone with him.

Claude (L) and Frank Rahn.

Claude (L) and Frank Rahn.

Both brothers are en rapport with the Master and his work, and have proved it by coming back. The Unity was honored with a few days’ visit from Mr. Chas. Greenfield of Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Greenfield, a tried and true friend of the Master, was also his attorney while the Koreshan Unity was located in Chicago; needless to say the older members here who knew him in Chicago were delighted to see him again. We have as guests at the present writing H. W. Manley of New York City, George M. Bassett of Chicago, Illinois, and Montclaire, New Jersey, and George Main, of Gloversville, New York. Mr. Bassett is an old friend of Dr. Price and Sister Adah, and is delighted to be here with his old friends of many years standing. The people of Estero were given a decided thrill on Friday, January 7, when President S. Davies Warfield of the Seaboard Air Line brought into Estero his wonderful Orange Blossom Special train with its six hundred guests. The special came in four sections, about forty Pulman cars all together, with President Warfield, Governor Martin, etc., in the first section. The special was greeted with rousing cheers by the assembled gathering of Esteroites, and Mr. Warfield, Governor Martin, and others soon made their appearance. These gentlemen spoke enthusiastically of the things that had been so far accomplished, and what the future had in store for thiscome. Each guest was presented with a copy The American Eagle, which had for its special feature a cartoon “Welcome SAL !” which portrayed two railroads, the Seaboard Air Line and the Atlantic Coast Line, with the significant heading ” A Rival Appears on the Scene,” and the Seaboard getting all the attention by the characters portrayed. The cartoon was drawn by Bertha M. Boomer at the suggestion of Brother Allen, and it made a great hit with all. There were about six hundred copies of The Eagle distributed to the guests on the Orange Blossom Special, besides a liberal quantity of Koreshan leaflets. Among the special articles featured in this issue of The Eagle was one entitled “Estero Cult Claims Modern Astronomy False,” by Allen H. Andrews, a reprint from the National Magazine, published by Joe Mitchell Chapple, of Boston, Massachusetts. A number of Estero people were invited to accompany the special to Naples, the terminal of the Seaboard Air Line; among those from the Unity were our guest, Mr. Greenfield, with Brother Allen Andrews, Henry Silverfriend, Lou Staton, John Watson, Elbert Lindbeck, and the writer. The Seaboard has under construction a $50,000 depot at Naples and it is quite wonderful what this company has accomplished thus far in this famous resort. The guests were treated to a magnificent buffet lunch at the Naples Hotel, now owned by the Seaboard company. Two first class bands were in evidence; the Scotch Riltie that plays during the tourist season at St. Petersburg, Florida, and the other, composed of Czecho-Slovakians, brought there.by Mr. Ringling of circus fame, from Sarasota, Florida. President Warfield has brought more advertising to this section of Florida in about a year’s time than it has ever had. The company has a tract of land in Estero of four hundred acres, and it is the Seaboard’s intention to build a town on this site. Incidentally, the Science of Universology was brought to the atten- tion of hundreds of people who had never heard of it before; so, all in all, we in Estero have reason to feel elated at the things accomplished on the seventh of January, 1927. We have had a number of inquiries from friends wanting to know if we intend to hold our Industrial and Art Exhibit this year. We have not fully recovered from the destruction of the September, 1926, hurricane; and inasmuch as we are behind with our repair work it was thought best not to add more to our burdens at this time, so we will not give the Exhibit this year. At the present writing our brothers are covering the dining hall and dormitory with galvanized sheet roofing. Mr. and Mrs. L. M. Boomer of New York City were in Estero lately on a visit to their mother and sister at Mirasol Grove, and while here gave the Unity a pleasant call. Messrs David Logan and Charles Melton, driving in their Dodge car from Colorado to Estero, are visiting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. P. W. Campbell of Estero. Mr. Logan is a brother of Mrs. Campbell. Brothers George and Charles Hunt, and Frank Wilson made a few days’ visit to Collier County to survey a tract of land owned by the Unity, known as “Rattle Snake Hammock.” Timber is being cut and hauled from this tract to Rice Island in said county, to be used for piling preparatory to putting a sea wall around the island.

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January 2016 – Page-2

It has been mentioned here, and in other places that the Koreshans, at least most of them, truly believed in their religion — in Cyrus Teed — in all Koreshan doctrines. It is easy, in 2016, to make light of their beliefs. We think of them as being somehow crazy or, at least, misguided fools. But to truly appreciate history, one has to put oneself into that period of time and that culture. There were many things that were not known to people. From 1916 on, the Koredhan publication, the “Flaming Sword” ran a monthly column entitled “Community Current Events”. This column gives us a great deal of insight into the everyday workings of the Koreshans, albeit, years after Dr. Teed’s demise. There isn’t a whole lot of specific information about the beliefs and attitudes of the Koreshans during this time, but it seems clear that even though the “official” line still maintained the belief of the imminent return of Koresh, many, if not most, of the members of the Unity somehow believed that they were simply destined to live a life in community, which they had always done, and that they should continue to follow and study the beliefs and writings of Koresh, but few had any real expectation of Teed’s return.

With that in mind, life in the Unity in the 1930’s tended to lean more towards making it through the Depression. You will note that the tone of the following about prosperity sounds familiar. If they only knew what was coming with regard to the economy, the world etc. perhaps their tone would have been different. Prohibition ended in December 1933 and Germany passed laws noting that a habitual criminal, defined as a person convicted of two criminal offenses, could be detained in a concentration camp indefinitely. The world was definitely changing but life went on in Estero.

With that in mind, here is the “Community Current Events” column from January 1934, which would relay information about what took place in December 1933, 82 years ago last month:

Community Current Events – January 1934
By Alafae Stephens
————————————————————-
GREETINGS and salutations! Here comes 1934, which, all of us are hoping “will bring” the return of that almost-forgotten man, Prosperity. Pessimists tell us “He’s finished; he can’t come back,” but we don’t care much—just so Santa Claus isn’t dead. And if Santa moves his headquarters from the North Pole down to Florida, as has been rumored, we should have a jolly time the year around. Our Christmas doings must be reported the first thing, as they constituted the big occasion of the month, Sister Rose Gilbert, assisted by Sister Florence Graham, entertained the ladies of the Unity at “El Retire” on Saturday night, the twenty-third. A pleasant social evening was passed in listening to the radio, nibbling raisins, nuts, cookies, apples and candy, and drinking coffee. We had quite a big time of it on Christmas, with pumpkin pie and everything. Mrs. Marie McConnell of Tampa sent a box of large, luscious apples, and Mrs. Lovelle Ahrano, also of Tampa, made us a present of some paper-shell pecans, which were immensely enjoyed. Mrs. L. C. Dillard of Washington, D. C., sent individual cards to the members, as she does every year, and many other friends tendered greetings, adding to the enjoyment of the day. Oranges from Brother Peter Blem’s young trees were a welcome item. Dr. and Mrs. A. E. Berry, both practicing physicians, of Tampa, and Misses Lydia and Marian Pierce took Christmas dinner with us. Dr. and Mrs. Berry’s son, Richard S. Berry, was here for a short while about five years ago, at which time he wrote a thesis on Koreshanity as part of his work at Gainesville University. Sisters Berthaldine and Bertie Boomer entertained with a party on Christmas night at their home in Mirasol Grove. The place was appropriately and attractively decorated; under a small Christmas tree were grouped favors for the guests, consisting of packages of candy, nuts, and fruit-cake. Sandwiches, coffee, and fruit punch were served, after which the assembly sang Christmas carols and other old favorite songs. The close of the party marked “the end of a perfect day.” Mr. Henry Moreland and Floyd visited here on Sunday, November twenty-fifth. At the evening services, Floyd favored us with a flute solo, accompanied on the piano by Sister Edith Trebell. This was in addition to a violin solo played by Brother Laurence Bubbett; these violin solos we have come to count upon as a regular feature of the meetings. On Thanksgiving Day, Sister Bertie Boomer gave a house-warming at “The Hermitage,” the new cottage she has had constructed on the road to the Seaboard station. More than fifty guests were in attendance, many of whom brought presents for the house. Sandwiches, doughnuts, apples, and coffee were served to the company. Mrs. Mary Iden, Sister Florence Graham, and Brother Alien Andrews motored to Miami on Friday, December first, where they visited relatives and friends until Monday. Brother Max Arendt returned on the tenth from his sojourn in the North. After seeing the Chicago Exposition, he visited relatives in Milwaukee, then made a trip to southern California for a short visit with friends there. He was glad to get back to Florida, finding its mild temperatures a welcome change from the severe northern blizzards. ‘ Harry DuBois has recovered almost fully from his attack of pleurisy, which, laid him up about a week. That was as long as. Doctor Frank Wilson would allow him. Brother Claude Rahn ran the filling station while Harry was indisposed. Brother John Watson was the guest of honor at a surprise party held in the bakery on the evening of the eleventh, the occasion being his, birthday anniversary. A chicken dinner with all the trimmings was enjoyed by the guests. Brothers Alien Andrews and Laurie Bubbett went to Miami on Friday the fifteenth, returning on the eighteenth. Brother Laurie’s absence left us without a violin solo for the Sunday services, but we, had an excellent vocol solo by Brother David Richards. Misses Meta Monsees, Lydia and Marian Pirce, and Genevieve Bisbing v/ere visitors here on Sunday the seventeenth. Mr. and Mrs, R. B. Stevens and son David, Miss Hilda Cunniff, Mr. Edward Theegarten, and Brother Henry Silverfriend went on a boat party to Hickory Island, where they had a picnic lunch on the beach. They were lucky fishermen, making a good catch by trolling. Sisters Evelyn Bubbett, Ida Fischer, and Cora Stephens and Brothers Henry Silverfriend and Claude Rahn motored to Coconut on the eighteenth where they visited Mrs. Mary Johnson, Mrs. A. L. Smith, and Erwin Fischer and family. Mrs. Edith Johnson of Minneapolis has arrived to spend the winter season with the tea-garden ladies, Mrs. Camphausen and the Misses Lindberg. Dr. John Seebold comes from LaBelle nearly every Sunday and attends the religious services. Brother John Grier has been uncovering a lot of territory in the vicinity of the laundry, making an improvement in the looks of the place. He finds that bad weeds, grow rapidly even in dry weather. Brother Laurie has been taking his “daily dozens” in clearing the grounds about the Art Hall, and Brother George Hunt’s good work of the same kind continues.

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January 2016 – Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year!

We want to begin this new year by looking back… “Auld Lang Syne”, which is loosely translated as “old long since”, or “long long ago”. What that means in Koreshan history is that there is really no dividing line, as though it all ended with the death of Cyrus Teed. The Koreshans were real people and their lives did not end in December 1908. So here is a look at what happened to some of those people.

Marguerite Borden:
      In 2010 we received a link to the website of the Alpine Historical Society in Alpine California. One of their notable residents was Marguerite Borden Head, a former member of the Koreshan Unity who, by the early 1920’s, had become the librarian of the town of Alpine. Her son, Vic, writes of his mother, Marguerite, who wrote poetry under the pen name of Zuella Sterling.

Marguerite is known here as a member of the Koreshan Unity Orchestra, playing the piano. She was a part of that “second-generation” of Koreshans, along with the likes of the McCready sisters, Bertie and Ruth Boomer, Claude Rahn and Imogene and Laurie Bubbett.

Marguerite Borden Death Certificate

Marguerite Borden
Death Certificate

Marguerite married Robert Head in 1910 and moved to New Hampshire, then to California (and the connection to Alpine), then back to New Hampshire. She apparently divorced in 1929 and in 1945 sold her home and moved back to Alpine where she was thought to have died, but her death certificate (right) says otherwise. She died in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in 1954.

With so many Koreshans, they seemed to disappear after the death of Cyrus Teed and the slow decline of the Unity. It is nice to see one who went on to a very successful life.

As mentioned, Marguerite is known for her poetry. A Google search for “Zuella Sterling” turns up a very interesting array of articles and music that Marguerite either wrote or contributed to.

Then there was Franklin Jacke…
      Franklin Jacke was born on January 12, 1875 in Woodland Wisconsin. He had what could be termed a “tragic” life because of the fact that he suffered physically as a hunchback and eventually took his own life on March 31, 1936. According to the late Evelyn Horne, “Franklin came to the Koreshan Unity at Estero in 1903 from Chicago. He was a strong believer of the Koreshan doctrine. Franklin was the manager and store keeper of the Koreshan Unity General Store, serving the people of Estero and surrounding communities. People came as far as Sarasota and Punta Gorda for the Koreshan home baked bread, fresh country eggs, and vegetables raised by the Koreshans.”

At the time of his death, he was manager of the Koreshan Unity store. When he died, Claude Rahn wrote in the “Community Current Events” column of the “Flaming Sword”

The sudden and unexpected death of Brother Franklin F. Jacke which occurred on Tuesday, March 31st, cast a pall of sorrow over our community and among his many friends in the county. Failing eyesight which presaged the possibility of total blindness, and the mounting cares of the Unity store of which he had been the active manager for many years were doubtless the immediate factors responsible for his passing. Brother Franklin who was of a kindly and friendly disposition was born in Woodland, Wisconsin, sixty one years ago, and joined the Unity in 1903, at which time he came to Estero. Except for a short absence while employed in the activities of the Koreshan Unity Co-operative in Bristol, Tenn. he had been in continuous management of our local store, and had developed it into being one of the best arranged and stocked rural general stores in southwest Florida. He was buried in our local cemetery, and the management of the store was placed in the care of Mr. Marion F. Strickland who for some time had been managing our gasoline filling station, and who has had considerable experience in a similar business in this state.” — FLAMING SWORD–v.50, No.5, May 1936, p.13

Lyn Millner in her book The Allure of Immortality wrote about Franklin:

The followers’ faith in Koresh was still strong: “The Master, though unseen is surely sustaining his ‘little flock’ and bestowing his blessing,” a Koreshan wrote in the Flaming Sword in 1936 [See above] as the group prepared to celebrate Teed’s birthday. Even when the post office burned clown, incinerating Teed’s skull and several bones, their belief didn’t seem to waver.” But many of them suffered from physical and emotional pain. There’s a poignant example of this in Franklin Jacke, the hunchbacked keeper of the general store. He came to Estero with the big group in 1903 and took pride in his job keeping the store well stocked and arranged. When the new store opened in the mid-1920’s, he sent his mother a postcard photo of it, writing her that tourist and northerners often remarked that it was the best-kept store they had seen But over the years, ]acke’s eyesight failed, and the store faced financial trouble. By the 1930s, during the time Rahn wrote about, Jacke was in a deep depression. He struggled until he could do it no more. At age sixty one, he committited suicide.

“Dear Folks: I am about blind, cannot see to do my work today. With all the business cares which no one knows, I am unable to stand this I have gone to the river. Look for my hat on the point. I am so blind cannot see people in the store; just a dim outline.” A few Koreshan brothers waded into the river and found the body. The deputy who examined Jacke found deep scratches on his face. It appeared that either before or after jumping into the water, he had tried to claw out his own eyes. George Hunt found the hat and, nearby, ]acke’s coat, pocket watch, and handkerchief neatly folded on the bank.”

Read his obituary and view his gravesite information by going to the Find-A-Grave website.

Finally, whatever happened to some of the earliest members of the Unity, such as James Bubbett:
      January 8th marks the 172nd anniversary of the birth of James H. Bubbett, one of the early Koreshan pioneers. Born in Washington County Pennsylvania in 1844, James eventually ended up in Quincy Illinois, and then Chicago, which is where it is believed that he took an interest in Cyrus Teed and Koreshanity. This “interest” included his wife, Evelyn (nee Trickett). They had married in Adams County Illinois on October 24, 1870. James apparently received an Army pension of six dollars per month according to records of the Adams County Genealogical Society. He was apparently wounded in the left arm, having served as a private in the Pennsylvania 155th, which fought at Antietem, among other battles, although it is unclear exactly when James served. After his death, Evelyn filed for a widow’s pension

According to Marie McCready, James directed the mechanical phases of the printing and publishing operations. At the departure of Annie Ordway in 1909, he became president of the K. U. until his death in 1924. He also played second violin in the Koreshan Orchestra. (no pun inteneded)

Along with his wife, Evelyn, James was one of the early followers of Teed. His three children, Imogene, who married Claude Rahn, (who has been mentioned many times in these posts). James and Evelyn also had two sons, LeRoy, who did not stay in Estero, but returned to Chicago, although he supposedly remained a Koreshan, and Laurence, known as “Laurie” who remained in Estero, eventually becoming K.U. President himself and becoming one of the few remaining Koreshans until his death in 1960.

You can read more of the Bubbett Geneaology on our website.


In the “what to read” department, we have, of course, noted the wonderfully complete book by Professor Lyn Millner, The Allure of Immortality.

If you are looking for more, there is another scholarly book which includes mention of the Koreshans. It is called Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State by Professor Joscelyn Godwin.

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December 2015 – Page-3

   —  As we approach the end of another year, it is always good to look back and get an idea of what life was like in the “Unity”. We rely on the monthly publication of the “Community Current Events which was published in the “Flaming Sword” beginning in 1916. Unfortunatley we do not have a complete collection of this publication, but here is an except from the January 1933 issue. The Community Current Events always covered the previous month’s happenings, so this issue tells us of life in December 1932. Economic conditions were still bleak. In November, Franklin Roosevelt had been elected President. In January of 1933, the month this Community Current Events was published, Adolph Hitler came to power Radio City Music Hall opened and construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge. Yet, life in the Unity went on as it had pretty much gone on for some time:

   LLOYD GRAHAM motored from Miami to spend Thanksgiving day at the Unity. His mother, Sister Ella Graham, accompanied him on the return trip to Miami to remain over Christmas. Mrs. Jeannie Miller, who has resided in Fort Myers for some time to be under her physician’s care, has taken up her residence at the Unity again, being much improved in health. Mr. and Mrs. L. M. Boomer, little daughter and Mr. Ole Slatede, all of New York, arrived in Estero to spend some weeks at their River Bend estate. Mrs. Walter H. Thomas and her young son, Ben- jamin Brooks Thomas, arrived from Philadelphia to spend the winter at Mirasol Grove, the Boomer home. Mrs. Thomas is a daughter of Mrs. B. S. Boomer and sister of Miss Bertha Boomer. Laurence Bubbett left by car December 9, for Baltimore, Md., to visit the Rahn family there. He reported fine weather till he, reached Sumter, S. C., when he encountered winter in full blast. Sleet and snow covered the windshield and he was detained at Fayettsville, N. C., a day or two. Mr. and Mrs. Fred McConnell and son, Duane, Mrs. Lovelle Ahrano, and Will McCready, all of Tampa, were here recently for a Sunday visit with friends and relatives. Michael Rubin, Irwin Myers, Jack Martin, and Morris Kohl, of New York, visited here recently with a view to locating a vegetarian colony in this vicinity. They seemed to be favorably impressed with the climatic and other advantages of this section of Florida. Sisters Bella Armour and Alafae Stevens, Brothers John T. Watson, Alfred Christensen, and Will Fischer drove to LaBelle a few days ago, for a visit with the Newcomb family. Sister Florence Graham entertained several members and a few friends at a card party. Recent visitors and guests were: Mr. and Mrs. L. B. Pulcifer of Warwick, Mass., Emil Tessier of McDonald Heights, Pa., Henry and Floyd Moreland, of Alva, Mr. and Mrs. F. S. Lewis of Everglades, Dr. Myrtle Seller, Miss Lydia Pierce, Miss Meta Monsees, Miss Genevieve Bisbing, and Mr. Percy Bisbing, all of Fort Myers. A dinner which was attended by a number of Unity members was enjoyed at Mirasol Grove, the Boomer home, on Thanksgiving Day. Judging from weather reports received from cities to the north and west of us, we have been enjoy- ing ideal weather while the rest of the country was in the grip of a severe blizzard. The remarkable thing about this is that with the sun 93,000,000 miles away, as supposed in. modern astronomy, there can be such a great difference in temperature between two points separated only by a little over a thousand miles. The weather during the past month has given striking evidence of the absurdity of the contention that the sun is so many millions of miles away. Mrs. A. Camphausen’, Miss Elin Lindberg, Miss Inez Lindberg,-and Mrs. Edith Johnson enjoyed a fish- ing trip to the Gulf of Mexico and Estero Bay. We were pleased to have as guests for several days Dr. and Mrs. Edward R. von Maltzahn of New York City, who stopped here en route to Miami. Dr. von Maltzahn is a nephew of Baron von Maltzahn, former ambassador to the United States, and is a scion of a distinguished German family. Dr. and Mrs. von Maltzahn expressed deep interest in Koreshan Universology, both being of a decidedly scientific turn of mind. From all appearances, they were as charmed with their visit and the things they learned as we were delighted to have them with us, and to impart as much as possible concerning Koreshan teachings (in such a short time), especially the Cellular Cosmogony. Dr. and Mrs. von Maltzahn are touring Florida in what is literally ‘a touring palace. Attached to a Jordan roadster was a commodious aerocar, and at- tached to this was a motorcycle and side car; on top of the aerocar was a mahogony speed boat with out- board motor, the entire ensemble being painted the same color. The interior of the car was furnished in ultra-modern style with German-built furniture, a library, sleeping outfit, Bohemian glassware, a steam radiator, and other comforts and conveniences. The equipment represented an outlay of over fifteen thousand dollars. The von Maltzahns have toured a large part of the world, but prefer to spend their winters in Florida. Because of his deep interest in the Cellular Cosmogony Dr. von Maltzahn took a number of large sized pictures of the model of the concave sphere, a section of the rectilineator with which the geodetic survey (which had established the concavity of the earth) had been made, and of some other mechanical apparatus which we use in demonstrating the Cellular Cosmogony. Mrs. von Maltzahn, who was graduated from the University of Vienna with a PhD. degree, is an authority on archaeology, having written many articles on this subject. She expressed the wish to translate the Cellular Cosmogony into the German language. The Unity membership and guests enjoyed a very pleasant Christmas day. An excellently prepared chicken dinner was served at noon and the many greetings and good wishes sent by friends were read during the course of the dinner. We feel deeply grateful to them as well as to the good friends who contributed fruit, nuts and other things to make the day one to be long and pleasantly remembered.

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December 2015 – Page-2

From the Koreshan Archives:

Gustave Damkohler

Gustave Damkohler

December is the last month of the year,but for the Koreshan State Historic Site, December celebrates one of the settlers in Estero — namely, Gustave Damkohler, the man who ‘donated’ the land that Cyrus Teed saw as The New Jerusalem. Damkohler was born on December 13, 1825 in Berlin, Germany. (Another source says he was born in Blankenburg, Germany, which is southwest of Berlin). He came to America by way of Australia and eventually ended up in Missouri, where he met his wife, Alma. They eventually moved to Florida, in search of a better life. They arrived in what is now Estero, on April 3, 1882. Gustave met Cyrus Teed in January, 1894. Damkohler became interested in the Koreshan movement and offered Teed land. In exchange, he was told he would be given a place to live and that his only remaining son, Elwin, would be educated. Damkohler acted as an agent for the Koreshans and sought out other land for them as well. He evenually became disillusioned and filed suit against the Koreshans and Teed for the return of his land. He ended up with only 80 of his original 320 acres. He left Florida in May of 1899 and headed back to Missouri. He then went on to, of all places, Alaska. It was there that he died in 1905 at the age of 79. Damkohler’s wife and three of his four children are buried somewhere along the Estero River. Gustave is buried in Juneau, Alaska.

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December 2015

This month I’d like to explore further, the documents mentioned in the new book by Professor Lyn Millner, The Allure of Immortality.

One of the criticisms of Cyrus Teed was that he was a charlatan. He may have been, but there is no real proof of this, only hearsay and media reports. Of course, the media in 19th century America is well known for its yellow journalism. Most newspapers never let facts get in the way.

Jeannie Fox Miller (date unknown)

Jeannie Fox Miller (date unknown)


Despite this, there were some rumblings and even lawsuits against Dr. Teed for alienation of affections. One such case was that of Sidney C. Miller and his wife Jeannie Fox Miller. Ironically, Sidney Miller was originally a friend of the Koreshans. His wife, who had become a follower of Teed, invited A.W.K. (Abie) Andrews and his wife, Jennie, to stay with them at their house when the Andrews family first relocated to Chicago. Sidney Miller became more and more uncomfortable with the Koreshans and when his wife moved out of the house, he used legal means to try and ruin Teed. There are a number of references to this both on our website and, of course, in Professor Millner’s book. When the Millers finally divorced, there was supposedly a requirement that none of the Miller children would be bared from partaking in any Koreshan actiity until the age of 14.

In 1892, the “Flaming Sword”((1)) ran an article dismissing all of Sidney Miller’s claims. Here is a view of that article which appeared on page-1.

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  1. January 6, 1892 – Volume-3, No.3 []

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Thanksgiving…

It is unclear if the Koreshans celebrated Thanksgiving in the same way that we do. More than likely, it was just another day, much like Christmas. Special days, but not much celebration.

After the death of Cyrus Teed, life in the Unity began to change. Sure, there was still some expectation of the return of Koresh, but for the most part, as time rolled on, the Koreshan Unity became more of a simple commune of like individuals rather than a dedicated religious group, following their leader.

By 1948, there were not too many Koreshans left and one of the things that had been done to raise money was the conversion of the area on the north side of the Estero River into a trailer park. The photo below (and the back side of it) show Elizabeth Rahn, the second wife of Claude. Ada Price, Emma Norton, the sister of Cyrus Teed, Cora Newcomb and Bella Amrmour. As the back says, this was taken, November 25, 1948.

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