When the U.S. Government acquired Florida in 1821, scouts were sent to survey the peninsula. They found a vast population of Seminole and Timucuan Indians. The government wanted to populate the Florida peninsula with white settlements, but the Seminole Nation was an obstacle. In 1825, the government created an agency to oversee the Seminoles in what would become Marion County.
Due to the animosity caused by relocating the Seminoles out of north Florida, conflicts increased between the settlers and the Seminoles. The U.S. Army established a military outpost to protect the northern boundary of the Indian reservation. Two companies of the U.S. Fourth Infantry under Capt. James M. Glassell explored the area and camped on a site near present-day Fort King Street and Northeast 36th Avenue. The site was called Cantonment King, or Camp King, in honor of the detachment's former commander, Col. William King. Fort King was a central location during the Second Seminole War.
Marion becomes a county
Pioneers in Marion County came to the area for free land offered under the Armed Occupation Act during the 1840s. Six military roads converged on Fort King, making it an obvious meeting place. Soon a store, post office, courthouse and church sprang up near the fort. However, no homes existed due to a provision of the Armed Occupation Act that outlawed personal dwellings within two miles of the fort. As a result, log cabins were scattered throughout the dense woodlands.
Between 1842 and 1844, the county was still a part of Alachua, Mosquito (Orange) and Hillsborough counties. The closest county seat was in Alachua, a difficult 50 miles from Fort King. As a result, early settlers began to get restless for a new county.
Gabriel Priest, the first state senator from Marion, represented Alachua County when he introduced a bill to create the new county. The territorial legislative council authorized the formation of Marion County. Richard Keith Call, the territorial governor, signed the law on March 25, 1844.
For more on Marion County's history, visit the Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology, 307 SE 26th Terrace, Ocala. Be sure to follow the museum's Facebook page for news and upcoming event announcements.