Quite possibly one of the most enchanting destinations in the entire Southeastern United States, Ocala, beloved by residents and tourists alike, is a city in Florida surrounded by natural attraction and farmland.
The history of this city, as well as the contemporary stature, provides an intricate tale behind the making of a great American destination.
It’s this story that makes Ocala perhaps the most enchanting city in all of Florida…
How Did Ocala Come to Be?
Ocala is famous for its charming surroundings, making it no coincidence that the region has been inhabited since prehistoric times.
However, it is interesting to note that two periods in our knowledge stand out in particular…
First, there were the Timucua, whose local chiefdom of Ocale provided the name for the city of Ocala. In total, their territories stretched from the Altamaha River in the state of Georgia to Lake Georgia in the center of the state of Florida as well as from the Atlantic Ocean to the Aucilla River that stops short of the Gulf of Mexico; though it is important to note that the Timucua were never united as single political unit.
Unfortunately, the Timucua suffered horrendous losses from European infectious diseases starting in the 16th century; so much so that a population estimated to have been in the low hundreds of thousands fell to the low thousands before being exterminated by a combination of English colonists and their Native American allies at the start of the 19th century.
The chiefdom of Ocale was no exception to this outcome, having been abandoned when it came under attack by a Spanish explorer in 1539.
Second, there were the Seminole, who came into existence as a blend between Native American refugees from northern conflicts, Native American survivors from Floridian conflicts, escaped African-American slaves, and even some white Americans. In contrast to their predecessors, the Seminole managed to maintain good relations with first the British and then the Spanish, though tensions started to rise when the United States acquired Florida in 1819 as American colonists started to settle throughout the region.
Eventually, these tensions resulted in the Seminole Wars, which became the most expensive Indian Wars in American history but ended with the forced resettlement of the Seminole in what is now the state of Oklahoma.
The city of Ocala sprung up around Fort King, which had an important role in the second Seminole War as a buffer between the Seminole and the American colonists. Given the region’s name as the Kingdom of the Sun, it should come as no surprise to learn that it was a center of citrus production with slave plantations, which had become even more important when it was connected to the railroads in 1881. However, while the railroads cemented the importance of produce to the city of Ocala, they also encouraged the development of other industries, which have combined to contribute much to its current appeal.
On the next page, we look at what Ocala has become today…