The population in 1860 was less than 3,000; by 1960, it was 19,029.
Most citizens resided in the small incorporated cities of Kissimmee and St.
Cloud, unincorporated small settlements or on ranches or citrus farms.
The road network was established when Dixie Highway was constructed in 1917 and
automobiles began to replace horses, boats and trains. The Atlantic Coast Rail
line provided a direct connection to the outside world. Steamboats were a common
means of transportation at the turn of the century.
Original industries like turpentine production, timber milling, boat production,
commercial fishing, and cattle were later accompanied by citrus crops and sugar
production. After multiple freezes, many citrus operators relocated south.
By the end cattle ranching prevailed as the economic mainstay.
Osceola County was rich with wetlands; some of which were filled for crops and
development. Flooding beginning in the 1950s prompted the Corps of Engineers to
divert 103 miles of the river into a 56-mile long canal. Thousands of acres of
wetlands were destroyed and migratory birds began to disappear.