Before Disney: Kissimmee, 1883

opera house - kissimmee
Opera House, Kissimmee. Via Florida Memory

A Place of Great Expectations Found Among the Florida Wilderness

Florida Correspondence.

Kissimmee forms a little break in this wilderness, and may be characterized as a place of great expectations. We found it to consist of three hotels, with a fourth going up; three large stores, carrying a general stock of merchandise, and perhaps a score of houses, many of them of the most primitive kind. There is, it is said, but one plastered house in the city.

before disney. there is but one plastered house in the city

Last night a shower came up, and I had the pleasure of listening to the patter of the rain upon the roof. Once in the night I was disturbed by the grunting of hogs beneath my floor, and discovered in it, in the morning, cracks sufficiently large to have suggested to a nervous man the possibility of the ingress of rattlesnake or moccasin. Nevertheless, it had just been incorporated a city, the city election having been held on the very day of our arrival.

Some if its street scenes were quite unique. The day being chilly, great fires of logs were burning before most of the “cracker” dwellings, at which throngs of natives gathered, there being no convenience for fires in their homes. The peculiar razor back hog and the omnipresent Southern dog shared these open fires.

before disney. great fires of logs burning before most of the cracker dwellings

Locomotion was performed almost entirely on horse back, and sorry cracker cobs from the back woods were continually ambling up to the stores, some bearing men hirsute booted and spurred; some women, in sun-bonnets and calico, carrying the precious basket of eggs; others loaded with urchins, two or more on a horse, and urging him on with a frolicsomeness quite refreshing.  

Lank long haired native hunters strided through the streets laden with turkey, duck, and sadles of venison, and out in the pine forests which surrounds it a squad of fifteen crackers were opening its first avenue. Their methods of clearing was novel and effective, and consisted in digging a deep trench around the trunks of the pines and then cutting their roots, thus removing stump and tree by the same operation.


marsanneMarsanne Petty conducts historical research about 18th century southern United States and environmental history. To get more great updates and original history, sign up at The Southern Sage. To get her to help you with your own research project, email mapetty[at]


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