Kissimmee

Learn about the history of the city where the Disney™ parks and resorts are located.

Kissimmee

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Local historians have offered many variations on the origin of the city name. Most agree that Kissimmee is a modern spelling of a tribal word. The book, Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe, by Jerald T. Milanich, links "Kissimmee" to a village of Jororo, one of Florida's least known tribes.

Historian John Hann researched Spanish documents on missions established to convert Jororo and other groups to Christianity in the late 17th century. Spanish records indicate that a mission was built near the tribe's main village, also called Jororo.

Another mission was called Atissimi. Milanich writes: "Hann suggests that the name Atissimi, sometimes given as Jizimi and Tisimi, may be the source of the modern name of the place Kissimmee. A Spanish map from 1752 used the name "Cacema", which evolved into Kissimmee's current spelling.

1700s

The 1700s brought new people to Florida and saw their old tribes plunge into history. Creeks from the Southeast joined forces with Africans fleeing slavery. European rule - first by the Spanish, followed by the British and then by the Americans - wiped out the last villages of Florida's natives.

The new tribes, which would later include the young "chief" Osceola, went to the interior of Florida in search of refuge. The land of pine trees, cypresses and palmettos between the St. John and Kissimmee rivers provided a safe haven. This paradise for mosquitoes remained as the remote homeland of the Seminoles during the 18th century.

  • 1728 - Spain ended slavery in Florida after African soldiers joined the Spanish to drive out the British
  • 1763 - The British take control of Florida
  • 1776 - Thirteen of the American colonies rebelled against the British crown, declaring its independence in July 1776. However, the colony of Florida remained loyal to the British, who protected the border.
  • 1779 - One year after joining France in declaring war on Britain in 1779, Spain captured Pensacola and took control of West Florida.
  • 1783 - Spain took possession of Florida and Louisiana territory at the end of the Revolutionary War

1800s

The town of Kissimmee was originally a small trading post on the north bank of Lake Tohopekaliga, known as the Allendale community. After the Civil War, this area was included in the purchase of four million acres of wetlands and plains by Hamilton Disston, owner of the Disston Saw Company in Philadelphia. The land sale price totaled $1 million, at 25 cents an acre!

The $1 million infusion to the state of Florida allegedly rescued the state from a financial disaster. In January 1881, Disston contracted to drain the area and deepen the Kissimmee River so that the products could be shipped to the Gulf of Mexico and other points. Many steamboat captains sailed the chain of lakes from Kissimmee to the Gulf with loads of cypress wood and sugar cane.

  • 1845 - Florida is granted the condition of state
  • 1873 - Kissimmee's first post office is established near Shingle Creek. The first postmaster was Clement R. Tyner
  • 1882 - Florida, the first newspaper in Kissimmee was published. A one-room school opened on Main Street and the First United Methodist Church opened its doors
  • 1883 - Thirty-three of 36 registered voters voted to incorporate Allendale as the city of Kissimmee. The first mayor elected was T.A. Bass
  • 1884 - W.B. Makinson, Mr. opens Makinson Hardware in downtown Kissimmee, which is still the oldest hardware store in Florida
  • 1895 - A disastrous freeze led many families to move south. Hamilton Disston's land company stops bonus payments and returns to Philadelphia

1900s

In 1920, Kissimmee's population increased to over 2,700 as a result of Florida's real estate boom. In the 1930s, the cattle industry began to flourish in the area. However, citrus and other crops remained the predominant industry. Construction of Kissimmee Airport in the 1940s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in preparation for U.S. involvement in World War II increased the population of Kissimmee by 38 percent to 3,700 residents.

City leaders wanting to continue Kissimmee's thriving history, encouraged growth by attracting retirees to the area during the 1950s. This effort stimulated growth by nearly 60%. The next period of growth came in the 1970s with the development of Walt Disney World and other tourist attractions. Since Walt Disney World's debut in 1971, the city's population doubled from 7,500 to 15,000 in 1980. The population doubled again in the 1980s to 30,000.

  • 1900 - Electricity reaches Kissimmee. The initial rates were 3 cents per night or US$ 7.50 per month
  • 1908 - A July 4th celebration was planned to welcome the residents of the new city of St. Cloud. The owner of a new flight school in Kissimmee planned his first flight to highlight the occasion. Upon take-off, the plane crashed into a cow and was destroyed, resulting in the drafting of an airlift decree.
  • 1915 - Osceola High School plays its first soccer game, beating Orlando High School 6-0
  • 1924 - The Kissimmee Chamber of Commerce is licensed
  • 1934 - The Association of Waste Pickers is established in Kissimmee
  • 1943 - Construction of the Monument of the States completed
  • 1944 - The first Silver Spurs Rodeo is held on July 4. The admission is the purchase of a war bonus.
  • 1956 - Record rainfall brings flooding and $2 million in damage to Kissimmee

Source: Kissimmee City Hall.