Ocala is a city in Marion County, Florida. As of 2007, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau was 53,491. It is the county seat of Marion County, and the principal city of the Ocala, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated 2007 population of 324,857.
Ocala is located near the site of Ocale or Ocali, a major Timucua village and chiefdom during 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. Hernando de Soto passed through Ocale during his famous expedition through what is today the southeastern United States in 1539. Ocale is not mentioned in any later accounts; it appears to have been abandoned in the wake of de Soto's attack.
In 1827 the U.S. military outpost of Fort King was established near the present site of Ocala as a buffer between Seminoles and white settlers. The fort saw service during the Second Seminole War and later acted as the first courthouse for Marion County in 1844. Fort King was the genesis of the modern city of Ocala, which was established in 1846. Greater Ocala is known as the "Kingdom of the Sun". Rail service reached Ocala in June 1881, encouraging economic development. Two years later, much of the Ocala downtown area was destroyed by fire on Thanksgiving Day, 1883. Buildings were rebuilt with brick, granite and steel rather than lumber. By 1888, Ocala was known state-wide as "The Brick City".