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Spanish explorer Juan Ponce Deleon landed on the east coast around present day St. Augustine in 1513. This was the first known visit by a European. Ponce Deleon arrived during the Easter season and the “Pasqua Florida,” or festival of flowers. He named the territory “Florida,” but there is some question as to whether it was named for the festival of flowers, or if it was because of the many flowers he found in bloom at the time.

Except for about twenty years under British rule, Florida was under Spanish sovereignty for more than two hundred years. Spain tried to defend the territory from Indians and unauthorized settlers, but finally gave up and the United States acquired the land in 1821. Andrew Jackson was appointed the first territorial governor of Florida.

Florida became a state on March 3, 1845, the twenty-seventh state of the union.


General Francis Marion, “Swamp Fox”

Marion became a county almost one year before Florida became a state and was named after General Francis Marion, who was nicknamed “Swamp Fox” and was known for his heroic action during the Revolutionary War. General Marion was depicted in the movie The Patriot, with Actor Mel Gibson. The Act creating the county of Marion of the Territory of Florida was signed on March 14, 1844, by the territorial governor, R. K. Call. Up until that time, the territorial business was done through Newmansville, the county seat of Alachua County. Newmansville was about fifty miles from Ft. King, which was the center of activity for the territory which was to become Marion County. The roads in those days were not very good, and travel time was extensive, so political influences began the process to establish a new county. Shortly after Marion County was formed the first known Sheriff, William Strifel, was appointed over the county, but the only known fact was that Sheriff Strifel only served for the remainder of that year.

Marion County was created from portions of Hillsboro on the south, Alachua on the north, and Orange, or Mosquito as it was then known, on the east. In 1849, Putnam County was created and took the northeast portion of Marion. Levy County’s creation took some of the western portion of Marion in 1877.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office came into being as a result of the State Charter in 1845. The first Sheriff was Edmund Davis Howse, who was sworn in on October 31, 1845. Sheriff Howse served until 1851.