Founded in 1894 by Dr. Cyrus Teed, an unconventional physician from Utica, New York, graduate of the Eclectic Medical College of New York, which later was considered fraudulent and declared defunct.
Cyrus's Illumination period in 1869 after a brief snafu during a chemistry experiment in his lab, he claimed divine inspiration, changed his name to Koresh and he named his new religion Koreshanity. Teed's philosophy embraced the ‘Hollow Earth’ theory which asserts that the Earth and sky exist inside the inner surface of a sphere. Essentially, that we live inside the Earth rather than on the surface. He didn't get much followers so he moved his act to Chicago and quickly gained 150 followers most of whom were women. Then he decided to stake out some acreage in Florida (which at the time was pretty darn cheap since it was in the mangroves) along the Estero River. He bought a bunch of acreage there for $20 from a squatter and then later he expanded that to 300 acres.
Teed’s grand vision was to create “The New Jerusalem”, a home for 10 million people, though the original settlement was only around 300 acres of swampland. The settlement was founded on his beliefs of alchemy, the Hollow Sphere theory, reincarnation, celibacy, and communism or communal living - each according to his ability and needs. But to me, I think it was just one big friendly commune.
So he moved south and 250 women, some without their husbands, moved with him. Some men came too. It was a self sustained place once they got set up and built a bakery and some houses and then a sawmill on the southern end of the property. There is an open air flea market on Sundays right behind the court house.
I can just imagine the mosquitos, snakes, no electric....but, they cleared the pines and mahogany and sold to the public and built a whole community of houses. They opened a bakery and sold 600 loaves a day to the public. They fished and sold them. He had fruit trees and imported different plants throughout the world and his gardens were the best.
There are still so many original cottages dotted throughout the one big section of the land.
Koreshanity thrived until Cyrus Teed got involved with politics and had a fight with a Fort Myers Marshall who must have roughed him up a bit because he never fully recovered and died 2 years later in 1908, sending the group into a tailspin from which it never recovered. At first, many followers expected him to rise from the dead, and waited for his resurrection until the Health Department ordered his burial. He was buried on the southern end of Estero island but years later "The Tampa Bay Hurricane" of 1921 lifted his coffin and Teed's remains sailed out to sea.
I think my favorite are was where the bridges were. They were lovely and the trees were gorgeous all around. If you look closely you can see some pretty neat vegetation and fruit trees kind of hidden in the forest.
The last Koreshan was a woman named Hedwig Michel who died in 1982 at the age of 90. She’s actually buried at the commune, her grave adorned by a plaque attached to a rock. Hedwig Michell was a member, a president and a spiritual leader in the community. Her saying was "You are building for future generations. Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for Humanity".
There were 55 remaining Unity members in 1930 and only 10 in 1948. The group got smaller every year until its last member, Hedwig Michel, died in 1982. But prior to that, the last two members deeded the property to the state of Florida for use as a State Historic Site. And, in 1979 the property was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
This was the old General Store for members and also sold to the community.
The State of Florida made a beautiful park out of it and you can reserve spots for Tent camping, Car/Van camping, RV's and Trailers. Their prices fluctuate with the season. Each site has electric, water, fire pit and BBQ grill. Hot showers are available on the property along with restrooms. For reservations visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/koreshan-state-park
Below is a typical campsite and they do come with electric and water. There is a laundry room with vending machines for snacks and drinks and a very big shower and restroom facilities. The showers were hot and the bathrooms were very clean.
There is a 1/2 mile nature trail along the river on site. Otters, Manatees, Black Bears, Herons, Bob Cats and squirrels (lol) I'm sure. They offer canoe and kayak rentals, at about $15 for 2 hours.
There is a Cast Iron Cafe and Blacksmith shop which do reenactments of cooking in the late 1800's but it is only open on weekends and it is just an exhibition. I took my bike with me and you can pretty much ride the whole place on cement. Nice trails.