Old Fort Park in Ft Pierce
The mound at Old Fort Park contains human remains and was the centerpiece of an Ais Indian culture dating back 500 to 1,000 years. Once one of Florida’s largest indigenous groups, the Ais contained several thousand people who lived in east central Florida before first contact with Ponce de Leon and the Spanish in 1513.
The Ais territory ranged along the coast, north to Cape Canaveral and south to Jupiter. The Ais thrived by hunting, gathering, fishing and collecting. They were largely dependent on the Rio de Ais (Indian River) and the Atlantic Ocean to provide subsistence. The Ais collected oysters, set up fish traps, and fished with hooks made from deer toe bones. They gathered sea grapes, coco plums, sea oats, and palm berries, hunted deer and other small game.
The Ais built thatched huts of wood and palm fronds. Their primary means of transportation were dugout canoes made from pine trees. The Ais did not have a written language. Written accounts and drawings of the Ais come from early Spanish explorers and the journal of Pennsylvanian, Jonathan Dickinson. They were all but wiped out by 1740, having suffered invasions and enslavement by the Spanish and other European nations like other early Florida tribes.
Old Fort Pierce Park is the site of Fort Pierce, a military installation constructed by the U.S. Army in Florida with the purpose of being a main supply depot for the army during the Second Seminole War. The modern town of Fort Pierce derives its name from this installation.
Fort Pierce, named for its first commander Benjamin Kendrick Pierce, was built in 1838 and abandoned in 1842 at the end of the Second Seminole War, burning down the following year.
Today, the site is a park along the Indian River. The park is also the site of an ancient burial mound of the Ais Indian tribe.
This site once had a natural spring which made it a popular location for the Ais Indians and later For Spanish sailors who would stop here occasionally to refill their water jars before making the transatlantic crossing back to Spain. (1500-1750) It is not uncommon to find Spanish relics mixed with Indian potsherds in the river at that location.