Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Koreshan Unity

February 3 – February 13, 2023                                  Most Recent Posts:
Koreshan State Historic Site                                    SKP then Koreshan
Estero, Florida                                          Hiking at Lake Kissimmee State Park

I’ve visited the Koreshan State Historic Site several times and have actually put in an application to be a resident tour guide here but they have a waiting list a mile long their volunteer coordinator tells me.  I find its story fascinating and have written previous blog posts about it.  This is not going to be one of the most informative because I feel like I’ve told the story many times. 

In the far left of this map is the campground.  Every day I walk from there over to the trail that goes along the river and takes me to the Historic Area.  It’s the dotted line by the river.  There is actually a loop you can take to and from the settlement.


This is the path I walked to the Farmer’s Market and took to both of the tours I took.  It really is a lovely walk.  The foliage is not quite as thick as it once was due to the hurricane damage but in a year or two I doubt it will be obvious especially since some of it is bamboo given to the Koreshans by Thomas Edison who came here for the arts programs. 


20230208_084334All of the tours begin here, in the Arts Building although I would highly recommend that when you visit you come at least 45 minutes before the tour you are going to take and go straight to the “founders house” sometimes known as the main building which is the middle of the grounds, beyond the Arts Building.  A picture of it will be further down in this post.

There you will find a highly informative 20 minute or so video which will make your tour much more understandable and interesting.   Or at least that’s my opinion.

The Arts Building is used now as it was then for lectures and concerts.  Today’s tour was given by the lady in the blonde hair whose name I sadly cannot remember.

IMG_5604This is Cyrus Teed who, after he had his “illumination”,  later took the name Koresh which is apparently the Hebrew name for Cyrus.  He called the belief system he created Koreshanity.  His followers were known as Koreshans.  

In the Arts Hall the guide begins the tour by telling his story from being born in New York, going to medical school, such as it was then,  having an “illumination” while working on an electrical experiment and gathering followers for his new community which ultimately moved to the swamps of undeveloped Florida.   That’s a very short sketch.  The details are very interesting especially as regards how well his belief in the equality of women and men went over at that time.

He believed that women were virtual slaves in their marriages.   Many women apparently agreed with him because they joined his group with their children.  Not to say that couples did not also join but there were more women followers than men in the 200 who came to Florida with him.  Given the rights of women in the late 19th century it isn’t hard to understand.  Especially given Teed’s apparent charisma.

Here is Ron, the guide on my second tour who is the head guide and was excellent, discussing Teed’s version of the Hollow Earth Theory.  I suspect Ron knows more about Teed and the Koreshans than anyone else at the park. 


  According to the theory, we are living inside the Earth with the planets and sun suspended in the center.   Below is a model that he traveled with to explain this theory to potential new followers.   This is the original model and it is quite lovely beautiful.  This website has about the best short version explanation of the theory and Teed’s life that I’ve found.

From there the tour moves on to the other buildings still on the grounds. First we  went to the original owner of the property’s home.  The Damkohler House (1882) was the only structure on the property at the time Dr. Teed arrived.  Gustave Damkohler, first invited Dr. Teed to visit Estero in 1894 and  got caught up the charismatic Teed’s ideas.  He deeded his 300 acres to help Teed found his New Jerusalem on Southwest Florida swampland.


Damkohler and his wife and 5 children lived in this one room cabin until all but his oldest son died here it is now thought from mosquito born malaria.   His grief may have been partly responsible for his generosity.  Apparently his eldest son was not so fond of the community and later Damkohler sued the unity to get his property back.


New followers arrived here at the Bamboo Landing on the Estero River (previously known before Damkohler renamed it as Mosquito Creek).  There were no roads when the Koreshan’s arrived to create their utopia from swamp land.  Everything and everyone came by boat.

In this picture the folks are looking at the former bamboo landing which was ripped from the shore and floated up river by the hurricane.  It was brought back two days later after this picture it was removed from the river.  The new landing had been finished just days before this tour.


You would disembark from your vessel and come up these steps to the Koreshan Property.


I believe the only permanent residents on the Estero Unity property now are a number of Gopher Tortoises whose homes are roped off with Green tape to protect them from visitors and to protect unwary visitors from breaking a leg.   You will see these green roped squares at several places all over the grounds.  If you look closely you will see three of them in the photo below



All of the original buildings of the Estero Unity have not been retained as they were too deteriorated when the property was donated to the state for the park and could not be restored.   One of those was the dining hall which apparently at 3 stories tall was the tallest building for years between Naples and Fort Myers, a distance of 50 miles.

Here are three of the remaining buildings which have been restored and are on the National Register of Historic Places.   On the far left is the Schlender cottage,  in the middle the Vesta Newcomb cottage and on the right, the bakery.



This house, known as the Conrad Schlender Cottage,  was once the membership cottage where prospective members of the community would stay while visiting

It is presumed that Conrad Schlender moved into the cottage during the depression and remained until his death in 1965.  He had come to the community in 1907 just one year before Dr. Teed died and the community began to slowly shrink.  He worked here as an agriculturalist and machinist and was one of the last two members of the early community and was allowed to live out his life here even after the land was donated to the state in 1961. 



20230206_093228The story I was told about the Vesta Newcomb cottage was that the Koreshans each had a job to perform for the community for which they were paid in community script.  They could use this script at the community store or cash it in to buy things else where such as train tickets to visit friends and relatives among other things.

Vesta Newcomb came from Chicago to Estero as one of the first of the Koreshan Unity with her mother and brother when she was 15.  She lived her entire life here.  The worked as a teacher for the children, in the kitchen and ran a linotype machine for their printing business.  She ultimately used her money to move this house which had been the barber’s home on one side and  his shop on the other, to this location where she died in 1974.  The last of the original Koreshans


The former barber’s business was her sitting room.


His home became her bedroom.


And finally the bakery which at its height turned out 500 loaves of bread a day for the members and the Koreshan Store.  The second floor had dormitory rooms as did the dining hall.



The largest buildings on the grounds are the Founders House and the Planetary Court.

The founders house is the oldest surviving structure on the Settlement built by the Koreshans as were all the other buildings.  Arriving at the Bamboo Landing one would walk directly to the entrance of the Founder’s House.   Upstairs was the children’s school with one staircase for the girls and a separate one for the boys.



The house had two large rooms downstairs and the school room was upstairs.

One of the downstairs rooms now is a theater room for the excellent video I recommend visitors see as the first thing they do when coming to the grounds.


This room is protected by a glass wall and thus the light is problematic but I wanted to show the original furniture in Dr. Teed’s bedroom and sitting room.  The piece of furniture on the far left with the mirror is a murphy bed.


This picture is slightly better and  at the bottom left shows the top of the tomb in which Teed was buried on Fort Myers Beach which was Koreshan Property at that time.  They ultimately owned 7500 acres but had only 350 left by the time it was donated.  As the members grew older, property was sold to maintain the community.

  Several years after Teed’s death a hurricane washed all but the plaque out to sea.  His body was never recovered.    And yes that is a bust on the center back wall  and a picture on the left of Napoleon.  As I say, this is a VERY interesting story.


20230208_084553The final building is the one I find the most lovely.  It was the home of the 7 members of the Planetary Court.  Each had her own room.  No dormitory living for these women.   Cyrus Teed (Koresh) practiced what he preached.  His governing “council” called the Planetary Court was made up of 7 women each of whom supervised and ran one of the unity’s businesses and dealt with the matters of the community while he was away.  He of course was giving talks and lectures recruiting members.

Of course the rest of the world would not even allow a woman to have an accounts in her own name or to do business of any kind.  So a brother of one of the planetary court lived in the top little room and he was the face of the community when business was necessary in the outside towns, shops and banks.


Here is a picture of Teed, on the far right and the 7 women, with banners, which hangs in the Founder’s House.  It is of one of their annual celebrations.


Beats a dormitory any day wouldn’t you say?  Love all the windows and light.



PXL_20230211_161025055My photo does not do this gorgeous staircase justice and it is the light from the windows behind me that make the lower sections look chalky.

The staircase has never been treated or restored.  It is made of Dade County Pine which does not rot and is resistant to termites.  The pine of course was harvested faster than it could grow back.  It once grew over 185,000 acres of Miami Dade County and was nearly decimated by 1996 with only 2% of the forest remaining.  It has been protected from commercial logging since then and useable lumber can only be found in the reclamation process.  It grows only in South Florida.

The planetary court dining room.  The table could expand to the fit the 8 residents.



While it is not quite as good or as totally accurate (they say) as the current video,  This video was shown at the park for years prior to being replaced 2 years ago with one they feel is more accurate and up to date. 

As I said in my previous post if you want all the details, come down to Koreshan and buy this book  at the Ranger’s Station or the Farmer’s Market.  You can also order it on line.


The members of the Koreshan Unity were very hardworking, artistic and creative people.  The grounds were beautifully landscaped with many exotic plants, some of which remain today as do this beautiful bridge and the gorgeous trees.

Every time I visit there is someone taking wedding pictures by the bridge.


Koreshan State Historic Site is a VERY interesting place and if you come in the last week of January or the first week of February, you just might get to see the GHOST WALK.  I hear it is fabulous.  I was here for one of the week-ends it happened but it was sold out.  Wish I’d known to get tickets WAY early. 
Next time.

Friday, February 17, 2023

SKP then Koreshan

February 3 –February 13, 2023                                  Most Recent Posts:
Koreshan State Historic Site                  Hiking at Lake Kissimmee State Park
Site 48                                                                  Lake Kissimmee: Kayaking
Estero, Florida

Back at SKP (1)Koreshan was hit badly by the hurricane and has been closed ever since.  I was quite worried that I would be stuck in Florida in February with no campsite.
My reservation was supposed to start on the 31st of January for 2 weeks.

Luckily in playing the Florida Lottery I had overlapped my reservations at Lake Kissimmee and Koreshan.  Usually I cancel these overlaps but also “fortunately” I forgot about this one.   Hmmmmmm

Anyway, the park sent me an email saying they would reopen on the 3rd of February.   My reservation at Lake Kissimmee ended on the 2nd so I only need a one night overlap.

I had been on a FHU site at Florida SKP park before going to Kissimmee and had asked them then if I could come for one of their over night or boondocking spots.   When I arrived February 2nd they had a 30 amp grass spot so that’s where I spent the night before  moving on to Estero.  I love Escapees.

Back at SKP (2)I had other RVs on passenger side and the fence dividing me from the next door orange grove which is patrolled by a crowing rooster and some Rhode Island Reds.  Same birds we raised for years.  I felt right at home.   Never saw the rooster but I heard him loud and clear.  The hens were busy working over the area around the orange trees.

Back at SKP (3)

Hens busy at work

Back at SKP (7)


On February 3rd I moved to Koreshan State Historic Site which has a very interesting history that I’ve talked about in previous years’ posts.  You can find those by typing Koreshan in the search box on the top right of this blog.  I’ll also include a link to a fairly good video in my next post about the grounds.  It’s an intricate and pretty amazing story if you hear it all.   And of course I have a book if you are really interested in this unusual “community” and it’s even more unusual founder.

I really do love/hate this park.  Their Friends group is so active.  They do tours of the historic area and have demonstrations, they have an annual “ghost walk” that happened the week-end I arrived but was sold out.  They have musical performances and lectures in the Art Building, have ranger talks on butterflies and birds and tons of other things, lead a guided kayak trip on the river and there is a farmer’s market on Sunday.

Feb 3 Site 48 (1)

Feb 3 Bad News at Koreshan (1)What I do not like about it is the campground whose sites are very narrow.  I thought I’d picked one with a wide opening and it was fine.  I got Winnona in but I was too close to the pine tree on the driver’s side where the site narrows.  When I went to pull out and move over, the wheels must have been turned and I clipped the tree.  No damage to the tree but here’s what happened to Winnona.

Luckily the lights all still work but I pretty much spent the 9 days I was at the park trying to get this repaired at least enough to be driven.   Unfortunately when I went to leave the park the connection between the lights on the RV and the lights on the car no longer work.  I can’t help but think it’s something in the repair since it had been fine for over a year.  Now I have no turn signals or brake lights on Ruby.  Pretty sure that’s illegal.

I definitely hope bad luck doesn’t come in 3’s because right after I had this problem and got the RV positioned correctly and went to level up I found the passenger side was quite low.  The site was too narrow for me to try to reposition again and I wasn’t in any mood to so I thought I would just use enough blocks to take care of it.  

When I went to put the jacks down, they all came down but the passenger’s front which would extend only about an inch.  I’d had no trouble with it at Lake Kissimmee, up and down with no problem.  I hadn’t used the jacks at SKP the night before.   What is going on?

No amount of storing them and putting them out would get me level.  Without being level, I couldn’t put the slides out.  I called the office for a recommendation of an RV Tech.  No they don’t recommend but they could give me 3 cards.  I asked the camp host.  No he did all the work on his RV himself.  Yes that’s what David did, but I don’t.  So I started googling and reading reviews.  Luckily I had gotten here in time to find someone and call them but more on that later.

In these 9 days, I did hike the trails numerous times and kayaked the Estero River once on my daughter’s birthday February 7 to celebrate one of the best things in my life.   I also went to the farmer’s market both Sunday’s I was there.

So I’ll start with the Farmer’s market  on Sunday and return to the Friday I arrived problems later.

This is the hike from the campground to the Settlement Grounds where the Farmer’s Market is held.   it’s a lovely riverside path through pines and palms and the dreaded bamboo.  More on it next post.  That’s the river on the left of the picture to the left.

The Settlement has two lovely bridges.   This is the one I crossed on my way to the market.


There were many booths selling everything you could think of.  I’ll highlight 3 of my favorites.  

Artisian Bread is my downfall.  He makes fabulous bread and pastries.

Both weeks I bought some of his wares and I didn’t take one picture of them>

The name of this booth was Sea Glass Collections.  She’s made lovely jewelry and whimsical signs.  My friend Pam collects sea glass on the beach in Duck North Carolina and I know she will love these things.

And finally the produce vendor with I’m pretty sure every fruit or vegetable that grows in Florida and that’s nearly all of them.  Well maybe no peas.  Too warm now.  But plenty of ripe red tomatoes as you can see.

Definitely a great setting for a farmer’s market.  And WALKABLE!!

After I dropped my kayak rack off for repair, more on that later, I took the kayak to the boat launch and locked it so I could come any time and take it on the river.

Unfortunately because of my shortened stay and the number of chores I had to take care of,  I was only able to kayak the Estero river once.   Then, when I got what problems I could fixed I couldn’t get the high and low tides to make it possible for me to go back.


At the time the community was founded, this river must have been much wider and less over hung since they and later all their goods arrived by boat.  There were no roads here.

There are two directions to go,  east or west.  Meaning turn right or left out of the boat launch.  I turned right, went under route 41 and continued on as the river got smaller and smaller going toward its source.  This has always been my favorite direction to paddle her.

There are many fewer houses facing the river than going east toward the gulf.

As you can see the tide is going out so I can’t stay terribly long but on subsequent days the times were even worse.

There had been several obstacles in the river from the hurrican including what looked like a downed power line which I carefully avoided though I later learned that of course it had been turned off.   I wasn’t able to go nearly as far as I usually do when I met with a complete blockage of the river.

I had no choice but to turn around.   I was going to pass the park and continue on east instead.


I passed the ruined steps that once led from the dock at the store for those delivering or picking up goods here.


Back behind the trees is the  cottage of the original owner of the land Gustaf Domkoller.

This is the Bamboo Landing which was the entry way for all guests and visitors to the site.  Not a great look from my low in the water kayak but I understand that at the time, from a passenger ferry or other boat it was quite impressive.

The river is getting lower, the mangrove roots are reaching down.

IMG_5654This Great Blue Heron was the only bird I saw on this paddle.  I continued east and the river widened and there was a housing development along the shore.  The wind picked up and I wasn’t terribly interested in fighting the wind to see just how much development there was along the section of the river not protected by the park so I turned back and thought I’d come back on another less windy day and see what happens when you paddle west to the gulf, but that was not to be.

Back to the Friday I arrived problem.   That was the day I learned my lesson the hard way to ask a campground volunteer host or a ranger to guide me into the

PXL_20230210_171719288 narrow sites here.  After my research, I called Affordable Mobile RV Service and of course with such good recommendations they were booked out for a week.  I pleaded for them to fit me into their schedule.  After the accident, but before I called them I had discovered that my right passenger’s jack would not extend beyond and inch and thus I could not fully level the coach in this site that was very unlevel side to side.   If you aren’t level, you can’t put your slides out and it may damage your refrigerator.    The woman who does the scheduling, Karen, was one of the nicest people I’ve ever dealt with.  She understood my situation completely.  She said despite the fact that they were slammed and were one technician short,  she would try to send someone today.  It was 2:00 in the afternoon. 

As dark approached I’d decided it wasn’t going to be able to be today.  I hadn’t extended my slides but I was worried about the refrigerator.  Then there was a knock at the door.  I wasn’t expecting the owner Kevin to show up with his 30 years of experience but there he was that very day to help me with the jack problem. 

First he looked under the hood, checked the panel, listened to the hydraulic motor as we ran the jacks up and down several times but to no avail.  He’s thinking the solenoid is the problem.  Notice that he just leans over and looks in the hood.  For me to do that requires a two step stool.  Kevin is 6 foot 5.

He doesn’t have a solendoid but he does have a plan.  He says we’ll just use a bottle jack to hold that side up.  David had a bottle jack and I know it is in one of these compartments but I check and cannot find it anywhere.  Did I take it out thinking I would never use it?

No problem he’ll loan me one of his.  And down on the ground he goes to set it up.


One problem solved temporarily.  But by the time he leaves we’re working by flashlight and I’ve lightened the picture so you can see it.



The next Friday, seven days later he’s back to fix my damage.  As you saw in the above picture of the damage, it had to be repaired before I could leave the campground.  I was leaving on Monday.


And here’s my hero with the finished job.  I need to get a little paint but everything is working.  I sure hope this repair was not the cause of my lights problem on Ruby when towing which is my latest problem.


Next problem, I can’t give him his jack back right now because I’m not leaving until Monday and it’s only Friday.  I ask if I can drop it off on my way North.  He says “don’t worry about it.  You’ll need it until you can get it repaired”.   A nicer more knowledgeable technician and company you will not find.   Boy am I lucky they were so willing to work way overtime to help me.

And now to a problem that I did get solved.

PXL_20230211_165612926I have had my hullivators on top of my Honda since the year after I bought the car.  David gave them to me that Christmas because they are hydraulic lifts.  But after nearly 20 years, one of the feet that support them had too much Florida Rust so I took the whole thing to Estero River Outfitters which I had used before and knew they were great.  I was right.  Justin did the impossible.

Justin at Estero RiverI had taken them to several other outfitters selling kayak/canoe car racks.  All of them told me that style was no longer made by Hullivator and I’d have to buy a whole new system for $1500 or $1600.   Justin on the other hand thought he had some old parts and could fix me up.   He said the hullivators themselves were still fine though I should try to mitigate the rust.   He took them off, kept the rack itself and in the picture above he’s reinstalling it with some new feet and new bars. Justin’s parents opened this store in the 70’s and their 3 sons co-own it now.  Justin is a wealth of information and knowledge.  What he doesn’t know isn’t known.  Can’t recommend him enough

Here it is all redone and ready to go.   I am a seriously happy and now unworried kayaker.  


And that’s about it for the things I did at Koreshan other than daily walks around and two tours of the grounds.  That will be in my next post.

I’m sorry to fill this post with so many problems but that was what happened over this time.  Yes it’s true I seem to have a lot  (maybe more than my share) of problems and they do cause me stress and worry.  We are all getting older.  Winnona, Ruby, and the hullivators are 20 years older.  I am many more years older than that.  We have our aches and pains but still,  we’re going to stick together as long as we can. I Love this way of life.