Ocala is the county-seat of Marion County and is located approximately six miles east of Silver Springs State Park. The community of Silver Springs, located along the State Park, is unincorporated but has been designated a community redevelopment area due to blighted conditions. During its heyday, Silver Springs put the area on the map as one of Florida’s first tourist attractions and continues to be a vital part of the areas’ fabric.
The Ocala/Marion County community has a complex history including nearby Native American settlements, a steamboat hub, Seminole Indian conflicts, nexus for six military roads in the 1800s, and one of the most thriving black communities in the South in the early 1900s. The area’s deep ethnic history and roots are not well known or understood by most residents.
Marion County’s formal beginning started in 1842 when Congress passed legislation offering free land to entice white and black pioneers to the area after the Seminoles were forced from the area to an Oklahoma reservation and deep into the Florida Everglades. The county got its name in 1844 at a meeting held at Fort King, now a National Monument. Ocala was later declared the county seat in 1846.