Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Koreshan Unity Settlement
I am regularly reminded of one of the main reasons we are on the road. It is to find the interesting and sometimes unusual history of this land. Just down the road from us is the Florida Historical site of the Koreshan Unity Settlement. It is the interesting and somewhat bizarre story of a cult founded by Dr. Cyrus Teed in late 1800’s New York State after a divine illumination during a dream. After moving around the state, he finally moved to Chicago where his movement started to gain some followers. His was a Utopian dream with some new theories on both faith and science. Two of the center pieces of his cult were the ideas that the universe was a hollow sphere and that he was to become immortal after death and be resurrected to lead the faithful forever. His was just one of many new “religions” that developed following the Civil War.
He and his group came under increasing pressure in Chicago because of their beliefs and involvement in local politics. Teed purchased 350 acres in Florida and moved his commune there. At its peak the group numbered around 200. This was a far cry from his dream of 10 million to build a New Jerusalem in Florida.
He again became involved with local politics and ran afoul of a local sheriff who beat him soundly over his views. He died in Dec of 1908 from injuries from that beating. When it became clear to his followers that he was not going rise from the dead after leaving him in a bathtub for a week, the cult began to fall apart. By 1940 only 40 elderly people remained, mostly women.
In 1960, with only four members left, most of the land was donated to the state of Florida. The last member died in 1982.