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.