The Fort King National Historic Landmark is located in Ocala, in Marion County, Florida. Fort King, originally built in 1827, was named for Colonel William King who commanded the Fourth Infantry before Brevet Brigadier General Duncan L. Clinch.
In 1826, Colonel Gad Humphreys built the first Seminole Agency in what is now Ocala, near where Fort King would be erected in March 1827. Osceola, a Seminole leader and war chief, opposed the forced relocation of his people during treaty talks between the US Government and the Seminoles held at Fort King. In the winter of 1834, orders were given for the troops at Fort Marion in St. Augustine to take up the line of march for the Fort King Seminole Agency. This was to strengthen the force at the fort under the command of Brigadier D. L. Clinch, pending negotiations between the Seminole tribe of Indians and United States Agent, General Wiley Thompson.
As US relations with the Seminole deteriorated, Gen. Thompson forbade the sale of guns and ammunition to them. Osceola, though friendly with Thompson, resented this ban. He felt it equated the Seminole with slaves, who were forbidden to carry arms. In June 1835, Osceola quarreled with Thompson over the gun issue, and was locked up at Fort King. In order to secure his release, Osceola agreed to sign the Treaty of Payne's Landing and to bring his followers into the fort. He did not comply, and in December as Chief Micanopy's forces fought with the army of Major Francis L. Dade, Osceola and his followers attacked Fort King, killing many stationed there. Osceola himself shot Wiley Thompson. These two concurrent events marked the beginning of the Second Seminole War.
During the seven-year war that followed, every major general and Regiment of the U.S. Army were either stationed at or passed through the gates of Fort King. The US Army could not match the guerrilla type warfare of the Seminoles. In May 1836, Fort King was abandoned and burned to the ground by the victorious Seminoles. One year later the US Army returned and the fort was rebuilt. This time the forces stationed there directed dragoon and infantry units in unrelenting "search and destroy" missions against the Seminoles. At the war's end in 1842, most of the Seminoles had been killed or captured and moved to Oklahoma. As we know, a small number of "unconquered and defiant" Seminoles established new territory in the Florida Everglades. Those are known today as the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
With the war ended, Fort King was once again abandoned by troops. In 1844, Marion County was created and Fort King became 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 (using much of the timber from the fort) in Ocala in September 1846. The last remaining buildings of the fort burned down in the 1920s. Some archaeological surveying of the site was performed in the 1950s and more in the 80s and 90s. In the 1990s the county worked to acquire the significant parcels of land on which the fort and surrounding town were once located. On February 24, 2004, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, designated Fort King as a National Historic Landmark. The Fort King National Historic Landmark opened to the public with a visitor’s center and interpretive walking trail in May of 2014 and the reconstructed fort opened in fall of 2017.
Today, Fort King is operated by the City of Ocala. The Fort King Heritage Association, Inc. is a Florida not-for profit corporation formed to protect, preserve and develop the history of Fort King. The City works closely with the FKHA and Marion County to further our collective goals towards advancing a better understanding of our heritage through Fort King.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Fort King National Historic Park, 3925 E Fort King St, Ocala, FL 34470
PHONE: (352) 368-5533
VC HOURS: Tues.– Fri. Noon–5:00PM
The park is open daily sunrise to sunset.
page information credit: National Parks Service, Fort King Heritage Association, Inc., Fort King National Historic Landmark
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors