By first impressions, this is an insignificant little sand hill that you stand on. With a height of 130 feet above sea level, it is dwarfed by other Florida hills of the Apopka and Lake Wales Ridge (Bok Tower) that rise to almost to 300 feet above sea level. Even the Capitol building in Tallahassee sits on a hill 75 higher that this hill. There are thousands of 130 foot high hills in Florida. But this hill is incomparably more historically important than all of the others.
This hilltop was the setting of the final act 'played out' between two 3,000 year old civilizations - Celtic and Roman Christian Europeans and Nativistic North American Indians. The attempts of the two peoples to live peacefully together had begun with the Vikings in Newfoundland (A.D. 1000). The setting then changed to locations down the Eastern Seaboard such as Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth Rock (1620). The setting then moved West down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and overland through the Cumberland Gap (1700's). In the late 18th Century, the setting of the treaties and conflicts between the two peoples was in the vast pinelands and along the high river banks of Georgia and Alabama (1790). In the early 19th Century, the story culminated here on this hilltop in the oak hammocks of Central Florida (1835).
Immortal Words by Native Americans were spoken here.
• In meeting with the Federal Government - "We were all made by the same Great Father and are alike his Children. We all came from the same Mother and were suckled at the same breast. We are Brothers and as Brothers, should treat each other in an amicable way. We should not quarrel and let our blood rise up against each other". Holata Mico, October 1834
• In response to being forced to Leave Florida - "Why Quarrel About Dividing the Hind Quarter, When We are Not Going to Hunt. Why Strain the Water, When You are Not Thirsty.”
Emathla, October 1834
• In further response to orders to Leave Florida - “There Remains Nothing Worth Words. You have Guns, So Have We. Your Men Will Fight. So Will Ours. I will make the White Man Red with Blood then Blacken Him in the Sun and Rain Where the Wolf Shall Smell of His Bones, and the Buzzard Live upon His Flesh.” Osceola, June 1835
The U.S. Government of the 1830's wanted this hill. While it had no strategic value being difficult to supply, garrison, and defend, it had enormous symbolic value. This hill and Fort King symbolically represented the conclusion of Manifest Destiny east of the Mississippi River. It was Athens to the Greeks, Rome to the Romans, Jerusalem to the Hebrews, Stalingrad to the Russians, and London to the English during the German Blitz. It had to hold, if America was to stand.
The events that happened here took place when the lid to the 'melting pot' was closed to Black Americans and American Indians. While the lid slowly began slipping off through the abolishment of Slavery, the end of 'Jim Crow', and with the Federal recognition and reparations to the Indian Tribes, it would take another 150 years before that lid finally was removed and broken into pieces.
What are the lessons learned from walking this hill? First, of all introspection. Here, we can learn about ourselves, how at a time in our Past, many of us were intolerant and how at the same time many of us were noble. Here we can learn how it is better to look beyond the emotions of the present situation to define a better long term future.
In the late 1990's this hill was approved for a new condominium complex. The hill would have been leveled. The ravine and seep spring would have been destroyed. Another remnant piece of our once grand and great forest would have been lost for all future generations. Here we can learn that sometime we need to rise above economic gain to save a piece of our priceless heritage. The County began here in 1843 when Fort King was decommissioned and deeded to Marion County as its first Courthouse. The people of Marion County who voted to tax themselves to save this hill in 2000 are the real heroes of this story for not only saving its place of origin but all of the things you have learned about while on this trail.
Here we can be one with our Past, Present, Future. Ultimately, the purpose of this hill and the story we tell is to make us all better Americans.
This is the last stop on the Interpretative Trail. From here you should follow the arrows and trail markers back to the Heritage Center. We hope you have enjoyed this trail experience and we invite you back to continue returning to your roots.