History Happened Here

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Marion County

Year Founded: 1885


Records are unclear regarding a possible earlier incorporation date of 1868. Florida experienced an early land rush spurred on by the relative peacefulness accompanying the end of Indian hostilities after the Second Seminole War.

By act of the territorial Legislature, the county was formed in 1844. Fort King became the seat of the new county. Shortly after statehood in 1845, the surrounding community was platted. In 1846, the Marion County Commissioners passed a resolution declaring, “the county site of this county shall be known as Ocala.”

The reason for the name Ocala cannot be found in any of the county or city records. Historical documentation, however, leads one to believe the name was derived (either on purpose or accidentally) from maps and writings left by Hernando De Soto describing this area as the Ocale Region. (The spelling of Ocali is also found in Spanish records in reference to the Indian Tribe and the surrounding locale. There was also at least one Timucuan Indian who bore the name.)

During the Seminole War, Fort King, the principal fort in the state, stood on the present site of this city. The name was changed to Ocala in 1847, presumably by someone familiar with the history of the Indians and the Spanish in Florida. Some of the literal meanings that have been suggested for the name are “water margin,” “lay on the fire,” “kingdom,” “fertile soil,” “abundant,” “green,” “fair land” and “big hammock.”

According to the 1885 Charter of Ocala, the Town of Ocala itself was locally incorporated in 1868 and approved by the state in 1869. However, official records of the incorporation and reorganization were lost and there were some questions regarding its legality. Because of this, the city reapplied and was declared, “legally incorporated” on January 28, 1885. The new incorporation set boundaries of the city at 1,000 yards in each direction of the public square. These boundaries were changed over the next few years when the city limits were extended to one mile in each direction of the public square. And, that was the city of Ocala at the turn of the century – four square miles and a population of 3,385.

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