Archeological investigation has revealed that the area was inhabited by varying cultures of indigenous peoples from as early as 6500 B.C., and there were two lengthy periods of occupation. The second lasted through 500 A.D. In early historic times, the Timucua inhabited the area.
Ocala is located near what is thought to have been the site of Ocale or Ocali, a major Timucua village and chiefdom recorded in the 16th century. The modern city takes its name from the historical village, the name of which is believed to mean “Big Hammock” in the Timucua language. The Spanish Hernando de Soto’s expedition recorded Ocale in 1539 during his exploration through what is today the southeastern United States. Ocale is not mentioned in later Spanish accounts; it appears to have been abandoned in the wake of de Soto’s attack.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Creek people and other Native Americans, and free and fugitive African Americans sought refuge in Florida. The Seminole people formed. After foreign colonial rule shifted between Spain and Great Britain and back again, in 1821 the United States acquired the territory of Florida. After warfare to the north, in 1827 the U.S. Army built Fort King near the present site of Ocala as a buffer between the Seminole, who had long occupied the area, and white settlers moving into the region. The fort was an important base during the Second Seminole War and later served in 1844 as the first courthouse for Marion County.
The modern city of Ocala, which was established in 1846, developed around the fort site. Greater Ocala is known as the “Kingdom of the Sun”. Plantations and other agricultural development dependent on slave labor were prevalent in the region. Ocala was an important center of citrus production until the Great Freeze of 1894–1895.
Rail service reached Ocala in June 1881, encouraging economic development with greater access to markets for produce. Two years later, much of the Ocala downtown area was destroyed by fire on Thanksgiving Day, 1883. The city encouraged rebuilding with brick, granite and steel rather than lumber. By 1888, Ocala was known state-wide as “The Brick City”.
Downtown Ocala in 1883.
In December 1890, the Farmers’ Alliance and Industrial Union, a forerunner of the Populist Party, held its national convention in Ocala. At the convention, the Alliance adopted a platform that would become known as the “Ocala Demands”. This platform included abolition of national banks, promoting low-interest government loans, free and unlimited coinage of silver, reclamation of excess railroad lands by the government, a graduated income tax, and direct election of United States senators. Most of the “Ocala Demands” were to become part of the Populist Party platform.
A Charter was issued on March 16, 1886 for the First National Bank of Ocala. President of the bank was named Enoch W. Agnew and Wilson W. Agnew as cashier. The bank closed and began turning away customers on April 20, 1895. By 1915, there was only $200 outstanding in notes on this very rare Ocala bank which issued $5 Brown Back notes only.
The Bank of Ocala was established by John F. Dunn and decided to nationalize the bank as the Merchants National Bank of Ocala on November 21, 1887. Cashier for the bank was named R.B. McConnell and John F. Dunn continuing as President. The downfall of the citrus industry and the Depression proved too much for the bank to overcome, closing on January 14, 1897. The bank issued only $5 brown back notes and by 1915, only $375 remained outstanding.
February 18, 1911 marked the day that the Ocala National Bank was open for business with John L. Edwards as President and H.D. Stokes serving as cashier, they would sign all large size notes and Type 1 small size. The bank encountered several ups and downs eventually being bought out by the Florida National chain of banks in 1936 changing its name to Florida First National Bank at Ocala. The bank was located on the northeast corner of Ocklawaha Avenue (now Silver Springs Blvd.) and Magnolia Street.
Monroe and Chambliss National Bank of Ocala began on July 7, 1914. President of the bank was T.T. Monroe, Z.C. Chambliss as Vice-President, and cashier was named J.M. Thomas. The bank was purchased in the 1970’s and renamed the Barnett Bank of Ocala. The bank was housed in the old Merchants National Bank building at 101 Main Street in Ocala.
- Browse Videos of Florida’s Historical Towns and Banks
- Florida Currency Museum Open Showcasing The William Youngerman Collection
- State of Florida Civil War Currency
- Recent Acquisitions
- Mr. and Mrs. Youngerman attend the inagural “The Value of Money” exhibit
Notes & Currency
- 18__ Fernandina $3 Obsolete Note
- 1882 $50 Jacksonville Note Charter #3869
- 1902 $10 Punta Gorda Note Charter #10512
- 1882 $5 Palatka Note Charter #3223
- 1902 $5 Key West Note Charter #7942