Kissimmee is a city in Osceola County, Florida. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 59,682. It is the county seat of Osceola County. Kissimmee is a Principal City of the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had a 2010 population of 2,134,411.
Founded in the mid-19th century as valldale, it was renamed Kissimmee when incorporated as a city in 1883. The name, Kissimmee, came from 'Cacema', a native American name meaning 'long water'. Its growth can be credited to Hamilton Disston of Philadelphia, who based his two-million acre (8,000 km2) drainage operation out of the small town. Disston had contracted with the financially wobbly state of Florida to drain its southern lands, for which he would own half of all he successfully drained. This deal made Disston the largest single landowner in the United States.
Disston's dredging and land speculation required a small steamboat industry to transport people and goods along the new waterway. The Kissimmee shipyard was responsible for building most of these large steamships, which were just one jump ahead of civilization—with Kissimmee as the jumping off point. Concurrently, the South Florida Railroad was growing and extended the end of its line from Sanford down to Kissimmee, making the town on Lake Tohopekaliga a transportation hub for Central Florida. On February 12, 1885, the Florida Legislature incorporated the Kissimmee City Street Railway.
But the heyday of Kissimmee was short-lived. Expanding railroads began to challenge the steamships for carrying freight and passengers. By 1884, the South Florida Railroad, now part of the Plant System, had extended its tracks to Tampa. The Panic of 1893 was the worst depression the U.S. had experienced up to that time, crushing land speculation and unsound debt. Hamilton Disston closed his Kissimmee land operation. Consecutive freezes in 1894 and 1895 wiped out the citrus industry. The freezes, combined with South Florida's growth and the relocation of steamship operations to Lake Okeechobee, left Kissimmee dependent on cattle raising.
Kissimmee had a population of 4,310 in 1950. At that point there was some citrus packing as well as the ranching.
Ranching remained an important part of the local economy until the opening of nearby Walt Disney World in 1971. After that, tourism and development supplanted cattle ranching to a large measure; however, cattle ranches still operate nearby, particularly in the southern part of Osceola County.
On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley passed through Kissimmee with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour, damaging homes and buildings, toppling trees and cutting electrical power to the entire city. Kissimmee Utility Authority restored power to 54 percent of the residents in the first 72 hours; 85 percent were restored within one week. Service was restored to all customers on August 28. Three weeks after Hurricane Charley, the area was struck by Hurricane Frances, followed by Hurricane Jeanne three weeks after Frances.