Ocala History


The name of this town, the county seat of Marion County, is of Indian origin, but the meaning is unknown. After the Indians left the area, white settlers moved in and began to farm the land. Some of those settlers had slaves. In fact, the 1860 census indicated that 62% of the 8,609 residents of Marion County were slaves, a fact that worried those whites who thought that Union sympathizers might incite the blacks to attack their owners, especially because so many white men were away at war. To raise money in 1863, local officials put a value on the slaves to raise taxes; they valued slaves according to age, although skilled mechanics, no matter what their age, were assessed at $2,500 each. Black children eight years of age and younger were valued at $800 each; workers between 16 and 25 were valued at $1,200 each, those between 35 and 50 at $900, and those over 50 at $300 each.

When the civil war ended in 1865, more and more people moved to Florida to take advantage of the opportunities for making a living and raising families. In the Reconstruction period after the war, officials organized a company of black soldiers to enforce the rulings of the local administrators and placed ex-slaves in county offices. Ex-slaves like Singleton Coleman, Scipio Jasper, and Samuel Small represented Marion County in the Florida Legislature for several years, and H.E. Chandler, a black educator from the North, represented the county in the Florida Senate. Samuel Small also served as chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. Marion County has grown rapidly in the last 100 years as more and more people moved in to take advantage of the rich farmland, good horse-grazing facilities, and natural beauty. Today, Ocala has a population of around 42,045, of whom 10,060 (24%) are black.

Other readings
Barbara E. Janowitz. Historic Marion County. Ocala: Marion County Historical Society, 1990.
Eloise Robinson Ott and Louise Hickman Chazal. Ocala Country: Kingdom