Saturday, October 18, 2008

Koreshan Unity Settlement Historical Site

Ok, I admit I came here thinking that it was going to be cannon fodder for massive mocking (spoken with the arrogance of someone educated after the boys landed on the moon of course!) However, with the exception of the twisted science, these people were incredible impressive! The mocking will be kept to a minimum. Click on the picture for a larger view to read to plaque.

Getting the mocking out of the way
After accidentally electrocuting himself, Dr Cyrus Teed had a "vision" and started a religious movement based on that vision. In the vision he was shown that the earth was a hollow sphere. The sun and moon were in the center of the sphere and that the stars were reflections from discs that circulated around the sun and moon. Totally whacked. Even in the late 1800's this idea was a little out there.

The Arts Center
Things that were kind of cool:

Along with the hollow earth, Dr Teed also had these crazy ideas about living in a Utopian community with communal living, equality between men and women, and believed heavily in education and the arts. In 1894, Dr Teed and a bunch of his followers moved to Florida and worked their butts off in snake and mosquito infested swamps to build their settlement. They built an Art Center, school, general store, communal dining room, various residential buildings, and work buildings. They had the first symphony in the area and had regular plays and concerts.
It was like the first fairly successful hippy commune. Most of the followers were upper or upper middle class people that were looking for an alternative to the city life that the Industrial Revolution was presenting. Dr Teed promised a life free from crime, tobacco (like that's a good thing?!?!) and drugs. He promised they would always have jobs, a place in the community and would be taken care off. In turn, they donated all their worldly possessions to the community. Sounds hocky, but it worked. These people worked hard and thrived for a good many years. If "celibacy" wasn't part of their doctrine, they may still be around today.

Among the frequent local visitors to the community were Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. They both had summer houses in close-by Ft Myers. Henry Ford enjoyed exchanging exotic plants and flowers with the community. Thomas Edison had this new fangled thing called "electricity" that he was trying to find new and creative uses for. The Ft Myers townspeople were afraid of this "electricity", convinced that it would poison the cows milk or make the chickens stop laying eggs. However, the Koreshians thought it sounded like a wonderful thing and they set the whole community up for electricity. They had a "Generator Building" that provided electricity for the whole community.
The community was run by 8 women who served as the Planetary Court (Dr Teed was very much into astrology and at the time there were 8 known planets that were visible with the technology of the time). Because the outside world still didn't respect women, they had male counterparts to deal with the outside community in matters of law and politics.
Many of the original structures still stand. In 1961, the last 4 remaining members deeded the settlement and 305 acres to the state of Florida. Now it is a State Historical Site.

I saw a gopher tortoise while I was there. He was munching on grass and having a good ol' time before he saw me and gave me this dirty look :)

1 comment:

Christina Baldwin said...

I love this stuff - I'm SO glad you are doing a blog!! I live vicariously through you, and love all the information!