They believed that the entire universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere. Like some humans of the past and present, they worshiped a deity. And they followed a man by the name 'Koresh' (or 'shepherd' in Hebrew).
Koresh was the chosen one and had a godly vision. After his dream, he went forth and created his utopian city of "New Jerusalem". His real name was Dr. Cyrus Teed and led this group of 200 colonists to settle along the Estero River in Florida. And there they prospered for many years until his death in 1908.
The Koreshan believed that their God was biune, or one that was both male and female. This belief led to the equality of men and women in their settlement. To the outside world, this was scandalous. Women should not think. Women should be wives, cook and raise children. Therefore, the town leaders would not speak to the female leaders of their community. A designated man became the "voice" of the Koreshan when dealing with business matters. The Koreshans built and operated a printing facility, boat works, cement works, sawmill, bakery, store and hostelry. They were also farmers selling some of the best vegetables and fruits to the outside community.
But after Koresh's death, the membership began to decline and by 1961, the 4 remaining members deeded the property to Florida. Today it is a safe haven for many Gopher Turtles. This endangered turtle is listed as vulnerable due to habitat loss and the human need to eat them or keep them as pets.
Snap back to the present and here is what I had observed about the Koreshan Historic State Site. There are campsites, kayaking opportunities down the beautiful Esteros river, picnic areas, and wonderful historical and wildlife opportunities. Most of all, the volunteers who work at this park are very kind and helpful.
Humanity is a curious one. We may judge this group as quirky or strange. Some may have even called it a cult. I wonder if we took a closer look at our own inner worlds, how many people would judge us as strange? Or perhaps even dismiss our beliefs as nonsense? I have come to the conclusion that in this world there is no right or wrong. There just is. And somehow I have to learn how to navigate through it all. I kinda like it:)
This is what I remember (in case I ever lose my marbles down the road:)
- It was a beautiful day outside with my friend.
- I'm glad these Gopher Turtles have a place to live where they will be protected from the ever expanding human population. We observed several on this day around the park.
- This park demonstrated a peaceful coexistence between humans, history and the wildlife.
- And most importantly, I'll remember that lovely picnic with my friend Sydney under the shady tropical trees.
And through it all, the mother and grandmother of all the Gopher Tortoises at this park sat in her burrow. Her stories, like those of the Koreshan, will be shared for future generations to come.
PS. Dogs are loved here. They had water bowls out on the porches for them. If you are dog aficionados looking for a place that smiles instead of frowns at your pooches then this State Park is the place. It was remarkable how many people stopped to talk. Living in Arizona, I forget how nice the outside world can be. In Tucson, we lock our doors, don't say "hi" to people unless we know them, etc. So it was refreshing to meet so many happy people again out on the trails.