[Fig. 18(1)] In the mid-1890s Dr. Cyrus Read Teed, a charismatic former Union Army Medical Corps physician, led his followers into the wilderness, near present-day Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and set about building a commune called New Jerusalem, on the banks of the Estero River. Inspired by a vision he called a "divine illumination," Teed changed his name to Koresh, which means Cyrus in Hebrew.
Hebrews in centuries before Christ often named themselves for Persian King Cyrus the Great, who freed them from bondage in Babylon and allowed them to return to Israel. In recent times, Branch Davidian leader David Koresh also adopted the name. Teed's principal tenets were total celibacy (similar to the Shakers in New England and Kentucky), and a communal sharing of worldly possessions.
The sect practiced equality for women long before the concept of women's suffrage was accepted by American and European society. Koresh envisioned a city of 10 million people, covering 300 square miles. But the commune's population never exceeded 200. Although the Koreshans died out, several of their buildings and artifacts are preserved at the state park.