In “The Grapes of Wrath,” the novelist John Steinbeck paints a scene of proles from the dusty, Depression-era Oklahoma plains fretting over severing the link to their own past, as they must abandon some of their possessions before heading to California, where a better life awaits.

“How will we know it's us without our past?” Steinbeck’s narrator ponders.

How indeed.

Fortunately for residents of Marion County, the Ocala City Council and the County Commission have opted for a path of remembrance and preservation.

The government bodies this week approved spending $100,000 each for their share of a land purchase to make whole the Fort King historical grounds. Joining them in this venture is the Fort King Heritage Association, which will put up $100,000 of its own to help buy the 1.32 acres situated between the gateway to the Fort King National Historic Landmark and the spot where those who served at the fort were initially laid to rest.

The deal with landowners James and Janice Dobbs will allow the agencies to convert a 62-year-old house on the property into a temporary museum. As the Star-Banner reported this week, the city will make the site available for archeological research. Eventually, the heritage group wants to erect a new museum and education center, as well as replica buildings to go with the mock-up of the original Fort King that sits there now — overall, a $27 million project.

We applaud this effort and appreciate the City Council and the County Commission for partnering in conserving Fort King’s part in Florida’s history.

Originally built in 1827, 18 years before statehood, the fort was an outpost in America’s southern frontier. Soldiers quartered there kept watch on local Seminoles and sought to protect settlers moving into the area.

In 1835, after a dispute with the U.S. representative to the local tribe, the Seminole war chief Osceola was jailed briefly at Fort King. To gain release, he feigned support for a treaty by which the Seminoles were to be removed from the land. Once freed, Osceola led an attack on Fort King that killed the federal agent and four other people. That incident, along with a simultaneous Seminole massacre of U.S. troops dispatched to relieve the post, ignited the bloody, seven-year Second Seminole War.

The Seminoles burnt down Fort King the following year, but U.S. Army later rebuilt it. After the war ended in 1842, the feds gave it to the community. It became the first courthouse and public building in Marion County.

Fort King, which became a national historical site in 2004, symbolizes America’s expansion into Florida and the settlement of its 27th state. But it also stands as a reminder of the cost borne by the Seminoles.

Despite what some might think or wish, we simply cannot judge our ancestors by our own standards. But places like Fort King, as Steinbeck wrote, help us to “know it’s us” — all of us, warts and all — and shape our future by illustrating our past.