One Town’s Origins: The History of Kissimmee
Before European settlers set foot in Florida, the Kissimmee Valley region of Central Florida was inhabited by a Native American tribe called the Jororo. The name Kissimmee can be traced back to the language of the Jororo people and means “long water.” There were approximately 350,000 people living in Florida when the Spanish arrived in 1513. In the centuries to follow, war, disease, oppression, and slavery reduced the Native Floridian population to virtually nothing.
At that time, Central Florida’s terrain was very different from the drained, arable pastures and farmlands that dot the region today. Before the drainage project of the late-19th century, Central Florida was swampland, scattered with pinewood and palmetto flat land prairies. The headwaters of the Florida Everglades expanded as far north as Lake Tohopekaliga. It was here that the Creeks and other Native peoples of the South-Central United States fled in the mid- to late-18th century. The Seminole Indians, a conglomeration of Native American peoples and escaped slaves, settled in the Kissimmee River Valley and in the swamplands of Central and South Florida because of their tactically defendable positions.