Chronological History of the Fort King Site

1835 – 1842:  The Second Seminole War, was the longest of the US Indian Wars; the only war  longer was the Vietnam War.

1826: Gad Humphreys built the first Seminole Agency in what is now Ocala, near where Fort King would be erected.

March 1827: Fort King was built. The fort was named for Colonel William King who had commanded the Fourth Infantry before Brevet Brigadier General Duncan L. Clinch.

October, 1834:  Osceola was recognized as a Seminole leader opposed to emigration at talks between the US Government and the Seminoles held at Fort King.

June 1835: The Seminole Agent, General Wiley Thompson puts Osceola in chains at Fort King.  Osceola is released after he agrees to emigrate.

December, 23, 1835:  108 soldiers commanded by Major Francis L. Dade, left for Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay on a march to reinforce Fort King.

December 28, 1835:  Micanopy attacks and defeats Major Dade. This battle is commonly referred to as the “Dade Massacre.” Osceola and 80 warriors killed Agent Thompson and Lt. Constantine Smith outside Fort King. The Seminoles raided the nearby sutler’s store of Erastus Rogers. Rogers, a clerk, and a boy were killed and the building was set on fire.   These two events are considered as the beginning of the Second Seminole War.

May 1836:  Fort King was abandoned and it was burned by the Seminoles in July.

April 1837:  A second Fort King was built. Fort King was the military headquarters for most of  the War. Colonel Duncan Clinch, one of the earliest commanding officers at Fort King, wrote: “From my knowledge of the Indian character, I consider this post of more importance, in controuling (sic) the Indians, and in giving protection and security to the inhabitants of Florida, then any other post in the Territory, as it is in the immediate vicinity of the largest number of the Florida Indians, and between them and the white inhabitants.”

1839: Major General Alexander Macomb convened “peace talks” at Fort King.

1840:  The last fighting at Fort King took place. Sixteen men, led by Captain Gabriel Rains on a  scouting mission, were attacked just outside the fort. They fought their way back into the fort;  three soldiers were killed.

August 14, 1842:  The War was declared over.

August 15, 1842:  The soldiers killed in the war, including Dade’s troops and 34 soldiers who died at Fort King, were reburied under the “Coquina Pyramids” at the National Cemetery in St. Augustine.

1844:  Marion County was created. Fort King was designated the county seat. The fort’s buildings were used for the courthouse and offices. The first term of the circuit court was held at Fort King in November 1845. The fort was used as the courthouse until a new one was built in Ocala in September 1846.

1920’s:  The last remaining building from Fort King was destroyed by fire.

1927:  The Ocala Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased one acre of land that was thought to have the Fort King cemetery located on it.

1933:  The Ocala Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erect monument on cemetery site.

1953-1954:   Neil Survey – first archaeological investigation of Fort King (Published in the Florida Historical Quarterly, 1955.)

1968:  Hurricane Gladys blew over a pine tree, exposing a cellar from a building associated with Fort King.

1987:   During the research of Ocala’s Comprehensive Plan, City staff begins to realize how  historically important this site is for Ocala/Marion County, and the nation.

1988-1989:   Ocala applies and receives first matching grant from the Florida Department of State, Bureau of Historic Preservation for an auger archaeological survey. The north 15 acres are surveyed. Bruce Piatek completed the survey.

1991:  Ocala applies and receives second matching grant from the Bureau of Historic Preservation to do an auger archaeological survey. South 22 acres are surveyed.  Bruce Piatek, after permission from the McCall family, completes auger and ground penetration radar survey.

1991-1992:   Presentation is made to the Pennies for Parks Committee. They recommend it to the County Commission to move forward with the acquisition of the 15-acre parcel and the 22-acre parcel. This is based upon both the historical and environmental importance of the site.

1992:  North 15 acres are acquired. City signs interlocal to maintain and protect park site.

1992:  Negotiations break down on southern piece. 22 acres are not purchased.

1994:  Ocala applies and receives third matching grant from Bureau of Historic Preservation to do an intensive archaeological evaluation of northern 15 acres. (From these surveys we knew that the fort itself was not located on the 15 acres; however, buildings that surrounded the fort and the Seminole artifacts were numerous in this area.) Survey done by Gary Ellis.

1997-1998:  Worked with the Trust for Public Lands to acquire option on northern 22-acreproperty in order to enable Ocala time to apply for additional grants to locate actual fort.

1998:  Option expires from Trust of Public Land, but landowner agrees to not put property up for sale.

1998:  An intensive archaeological study is completed on southern property to locate the stockade walls of Historic Fort King. Survey done by Gulf Archaeology Research Institute, Gary Ellis.

1999:  Site is put on list by Congress (with the help of Congressman Cliff Stearns) and is signed by the President for Park Services to study.

1999:  City, County and State agree to buy the property.

2000:  Southeast Archaeological Center completes assessment of site as a potential national historic landmark.

January, 2001:  The property is acquired. McCall family sells site to City/County. City agrees to maintain and protect site.

May 2001:  National park staff comes to Ocala to hold roundtable discussions on the possibility  of site becoming a National Park.

April 2002:   National Park staff conducts public meetings on Fort King.

October 2002:   Paul Nugent meets with Carol Shull Chief, National Historic Landmarks Survey at Fort King Site.

April 2003:   Landmarks Committee of the National Parks System Advisory Board votes unanimously to recommend Fort King site for designation as a National Historic Landmark.

June 2003:   National Parks System Advisory Board recommends and forwards the nomination to the Secretary of the Interior for her concurrence.

February 24, 2004:  Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton designates Fort King as a National Historic Landmark.

May 4, 2004:  Dr. Janet Snyder Matthews, Associate Director for the National Park Services Cultural Resource Department presents landmark designation to the citizens of Marion County on the Downtown Square.

September 2004:  City, County, State and private organizations pursue National Park Service to develop Fort King as a national park.

December 2005:  Due to lack of funding at the Federal level, national park designation is not pursued by the parks service.

December 2008:  City applies to Bureau of Historic Preservation to do a location archaeological survey to locate out buildings from the Fort in preparation for national park development plan.

March 2008:  City ranks number one in state to receive grant funds for Fort King to archeological survey.

April 2011:  Fort King Heritage Association incorporated in the State of Florida.

March 2012:  Fort King Heritage Association endorsed by both the City Council and Marion County Board of County Commissioners.  Memorandum of Understanding approved.

May 31, 2014:  The Fort King National Historic Landmark opens to the public with a visitor’s center and interpretive walking trail.

Fort King Statement of Importance

Constructed by the U.S. Army in 1827 with native longleaf pines, it was America’s first attempt to establish a presence in the interior of unmapped, wilderness Florida.

On this hilltop outside the fort, occurred some of the most historic and dramatic scenes in American history.

Here, government agents told the Seminoles they must leave Florida or they would be removed by force.

Here the Seminole War Chief Osceola first became known to the world.

Here – You can stand in his footsteps as he slams his knife into the Enforcement Order and challenges the Government to use their force!

“This is our land! You have guns! So have we. Your men will fight! So will ours, til the last drop of our blood moistens the sand.”

Here was garrisoned every regiment of the U.S. Army during the seven year Second Seminole War (1835-42).

Here stood the West Point Officers many of whom 25 years later would command the massive Armies of the North and South during the American Civil War (1861-65).

Here on this hilltop in the wilderness stood a future President of the United States (Zachary Taylor).

Here stood an Army Colonel whose name would be immortalized in American folklore (Icabod Crane).

Here stood thousands of rank and file enlisted men of the U.S. Army many being emigrants from England and Scotland seeking a better life in the West.

Here stood trappers, traders, pioneers, bounty hunters, and black American slaves.

Here were the beginnings of Ocala and Marion County.

After his death in captivity, Osceola was buried with full military honors outside the walls of Fort Moultrie, S.C. Inscribed on his headstone by the U.S. Army are the words ‘Osceola, Patriot and Warrior died January 31, 1838.’

Here At Fort King, we can study Patriotism.

At Fort King we can become one with our past, learn from it, and become a better people.

Seminole Nation, I. T.

Seminoles: A People Who Never Surrendered

 The Seminole are classified among the Muskogean peoples, a group of remnant tribes having joined in forming this division in Florida during the border wars between the Spanish and the English colonists on the Florida-Carolina frontier in the 18th century. The name Seminole, first applied to the tribe about 1778, is from the Creek word ‘semino le’, meaning ‘runaway,’ meaning emigrants who left the main body and settled elsewhere.

In 1817, with the accusation that the Seminole were harboring runaway slaves, Andrew Jackson commanded nearly 3,000 troops to attack and burn the town of Mikasuki, starting the first Seminole War. Shortly thereafter, Spain ceded Florida to the U.S., bringing the Seminole under U.S. jurisdiction. A treaty later provided the tribe with a reserved tract east of Tampa Bay.

In 1832, the Payne’s Landing Treaty took away all Florida land claims from the tribe, and provided for removal to Indian Territory. Ratification of that treaty in 1834 allowed the Seminole three years before the removal was to take place. But under the U.S. government’s interpretation, 1835 (not 1837) ended the three year period prior to removal. The Seminole disagreed, and their bitter opposition resulted in the second, or Great Seminole War. Among the worst chapters in the history of Indian Removal, the war lasted almost seven years and cost thousands of lives. It finally ended in 1842 with the agreement that several hundred members of the tribe could remain in Florida. They stayed in the Florida swamps but never surrendered. Their descendants are the Seminole in Florida today.

No people have fought with more determination to retain their native soil, nor sacrificed so much to uphold the justice of their claims. Removal of the tribe from Florida to the Canadian Valley was the bitterest and most costly of all Indian removals.

Indian Territory

As tribal leaders surrendered during the war, their followers immigrated to the Indian Territory under military escort. The first were led by Chief Holahti Emathla in the summer of 1836. His party, who had lost many of their number by death during the two month journey, located north of the Canadian River, in present Hughes County. Their settlement was known by the name of their influential leader, Black Dirt (Fukeluste Harjo).

In June, soon after the arrival of Chief Mikanopy at Fort Gibson, council was held with the Creek of the Lower Towns. When the matter of location of the Seminole was discussed, Chief Mikanopy and the Seminole leaders refused to settle in any part of the Creek Nation other than the tract assigned them under the treaty of 1833. A treaty signed by the U.S., and delegations of the Seminole and Creek Nations in 1845 paved the way for adjustment of the trouble that had arisen between the two tribes. The Seminole could settle anywhere in the Creek country, they could have their own town government, but under the general laws of the Creek Nation.

By 1849 the Seminole settlements were located in the valley of the Deep Fork south to the Canadian in what is now the western part of Okfuskee and Hughes counties, and neighboring parts of Seminole County. The revered Chief Mikanopy, who represented the ancient Oconee, died in 1849. He was succeeded by his nephew, Jim Jumper, who was soon succeeded by John Jumper, who came to Indian Territory as a prisoner of war. He became one of the great men in Seminole history and ruled as chief until 1877, when he then resigned to devote all his time to his church. Wild Cat, the principal advisor to Chief Mikanopy during his last years, never accepted being under the rule of the Creek Nation. Although his views won out in the end under the Treaty of 1856, he made no profit from it, because six years earlier he left the Indian Territory to start a Seminole colony in Mexico.

By 1868, the refugee tribal bands were finally able to settle in the area that is known as the Seminole Nation. For the first time in 75 years they had a chance of establishing tribal solidarity. Their council house was built at Wewoka, designated capital of the Seminole Nation.

When the Seminole people made their last settlement in Indian Territory, eight tribal square grounds were established in different parts of the nation where the old ceremonials, dances and ball games were held.  Two of these square grounds were known as Tallahasutci or (Tallahasse) and Thliwathli or (Therwarthle). There is still a loose organization of the twelve Seminole “towns” or “bands” that were organized for political and geographical reasons in re-establishing the tribal government that had formerly existed in Florida.

The Century Turns

The Oklahoma Constitutional Convention divided all of Indian Territory into 40 counties, no county being exactly as the
pre-statehood Indian Nation, county or district with the  exception of the Seminole Nation. It remains as Seminole County today.

The Seminole Nation is indeed alive and vibrant with its tribal culture, language, churches, and its art