Tomoka State Park is located on a peninsula at the junction of the Tomoka and Halifax rivers, an area that has provided food and shelter to Native Americans for thousands of years. Much of what we know about these early inhabitants comes from archaeological excavations within the park.
Researchers suggest that the land containing the Tomoka Mound Complex just south of the Nocoroco village site was occupied as early as 5000 B.C. These early occupants were ancestors to the Timucua who lived later in the area. The mound complex is made up of 10 mounds.
Archaeological excavations have been able to tell us how these people lived and what the environment was like. They used tools made of non-local stone that came from the Florida Peninsula through trade. Remains of freshwater snails indicate that the water surrounding the site was fresh before changing to the slightly salty brackish that it is today. An interesting detail is that no pottery was found, perhaps because the culture existed before pottery came into use. They might have used organic containers to cook and hold food.
The site was then occupied by a band of the Timucuan Indian tribes of South Georgia and Northeast Florida. The tribes were all different politically but are grouped together since they spoke different dialects of the Timucua language. The Timucua lived in a village called Nocoroco, first reported on by the Spanish diplomat Alvaro Mexia in 1605. Nocoroco was occupied for hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans.
Because of its location at the tip of the peninsula, it is thought that Nocoroco was an important village. There is evidence of hunting, fishing and gathering. What happened after the Spanish encountered the village is unknown, but the Timucua and their settlements were devastated by exposure to European diseases. Any remaining members most likely were absorbed into the Seminole Tribe.
The land occupied by both the Tomoka Mound Complex and Nocoroco was passed into British possession after being granted to Richard Oswald in 1766 along with 20,000 acres to establish the Mount Oswald Plantation. An enslaved workforce grew and harvested indigo, rice, timber, sugar and oranges. The site was abandoned in 1785 after the British withdrew from Florida following the American Revolutionary War.
Spain regained control of Florida after the war and, in an effort to encourage settlement, began offering land grants in 1790. When Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, the grants were upheld if settlers could prove the grant documents were valid and someone could provide testimony.
The land containing Tomoka State Park was abandoned in 1835 during the Second Seminole War. In 1937, the Florida Board of Forestry acquired the first parcels of land that would become Tomoka State Park. Additionally, the Nocoroco Site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. This designation recognizes Nocoroco as one of the nation’s historic places worthy of protection and preservation.