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In 1894, Cyrus Teed and his followers made their home within the swampy wilderness of Southwest Florida. A self-proclaimed messiah, Teed called himself Koresh and settled his Koreshans near what today is Estero. They believed in reincarnation, strict celibacy and, among other things, that the Earth is a hollow sphere that contains the universe. 

They came looking for an escape from the religious persecution they faced up north. Ultimately, they ended up helping shape the development of Southwest Florida.

The Koreshans made their home on a 300-acre plot given to them by a German homesteader and eventual member of their commune. But they didn’t seek to isolate themselves. They established a general store that became a major retail hub in Lee County (pictured). Their bakery at its peak produced 300 loaves a day. An arts hall hosted concerts and performances that attracted the likes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. A printing press produced both Koreshan literature and commercial work from the nearby community. In 1904, they were instrumental in forming the town of Estero. At its peak, the commune had more than 200 members—and certainly had a host of detractors from the outside community; Teed himself was once beaten during an altercation in Fort Myers.

After Teed’s death in 1908, the number of Koreshans dwindled. In 1961, the remaining members donated their land to the state. Koreshan State Park features a historical site that gives visitors a glimpse at the brief time when the commune was thriving.

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