MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Fort King in Marion County helps to tell the story of how soldiers and the Seminole tribe lived among each other and fought during the 1800s when Central Florida was the site of the Seminole wars.
Fort King, originally built in the area that would become Ocala, was the most interior fort in all of Florida at the time of the Seminole wars, according to Bill Rodríguez of Ocala’s Parks Division.
"This was the first time they came this far inland,” Rodríguez said.
Fort King was reconstructed 4 years ago and is a historic landmark that continues to educate the public.
“The fort construction itself is 162 feet by 152 feet long," Rodríguez said. "The palisade walls are the original 16 foot tall of what the fort would’ve been when it existed here in 1837. The blockhouses which are at opposing corners here on the northwest and southeast corners are 15 foot by 15.”
Once a year, a large reenactment takes place on the site so students and the general public can learn what life was like from the 1830s to the 1840s.
"We'll have folks that are demonstrating how to build a shelter, how to start fire," Rodriguez said. "The demonstrations include everything from cooking to historical talks, to pottery making, gun making and just everyday life of not just the soldiers but the Seminoles and the sutlers that surrounded themselves around the fort to provide goods to the military."
A trading post is also set up to reenact the way sutlers would exchange goods with soldiers and Indians in the 1830s and 40s.
“The Indians lived in the woods; they hunted, that was something they had a surplus of and they would use it to trade for things like guns, knives, cookware,” Robert Wilson, a sutler reenactor, said. “So, I could make a profit with the Indians and I could also sell things to the soldiers, too.”
During that time, Indians traded hides including raccoons, deer, bear, panther and red wolf and it would be sent back to Europe to make leather.
“It’s super important for us to constantly be reminding, not just the outsiders of where we came from, but reminding ourselves, you know, our young tribe members of where we started from, of where we came from, the constant wars that we had to be in,” Quenton Cypress, a Seminole tribal member, said.
For the city of Ocala, it's important to preserve this part of the county's past.
“This is our history. This is the beginning of Ocala, the town that we all so much love.” Rodríguez said.
To learn more about the Fort King National Historic Landmark, click here.