There is an African proverb that says "a people without knowledge of its past is like a tree without roots." In order to truly understand who we are as a people, we need to delve deep into the past and learn from both the mistakes and accomplishments in order to build our community for a better future. The past of Kissimmee and Osceola County is traced in no small part here at the Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum, an effort many years in the making with the foremost proponents being the Osceola County Historical Society. The Welcome Center and History Museum was built inside a former Roadhouse Grill restaurant building after after the county spent about $2.25 million in renovations. The Welcome Center and History Museum opened in November 2012 and is free to the public.

Osceola County once was a part of "Mosquito County" after the name the Spanish had given the entire coast, "Los Mosquitos." Mosquito County was renamed Orange County in 1845 when Florida became a state and later on Orange County was carved out into present day Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake, and Volusia County. Osceola County was named for the Indian leader Osceola, whose name means "Black Drink Cry [Asi Yaholo]." The Center has more than 8,000 square feet of interactive exhibits and combines early cultural history with available eco-tourism adventures nearby at the Shingle Creek Regional Park. At Shingle Creek Regional Park, visitors can hike down the numerous trails and also take a canoe or kayak down the historic creek. Shingle Creek is known as the headwaters of the Everglades watershed, deriving its name from the historic shingle mill created by early settlers who made shingles from the cypress trees here in the 1800s. Here you can see in the background a wooden Seminole Indian canoe carved out of a cypress tree dating from the 1750s, and found at the bottom of one of the rivers in the area. The center contains the 4 different habitats that you will encounter in Osceola County including swamplands, pine flatwoods, oak hammock, and lakefront showcasing how nature and history are tied together.

A Florida bobcat catches his prey in the wildlife habitat exhibit

Wood-cutting the old school way 

We really enjoyed the exhibits that highlighted the local wildlife and ecosystems such as marshes and hammocks. We have such a diverse natural history just waiting to be explored, for example, did you know that Osceola County is home to the largest number of bald eagles in the contiguous 48 states? There is even a fun photo opportunity for the whole family where you can pretend to be part of an eagle's nest! Early Florida's three largest industries included citrus, turpentine, and cattle during the late 1800s, and Osceola County played no small part in all of this great business, becoming a "boom town" in the Florida frontier.

A replica of a home during the frontier ages in Osceola County

This chair was a "blacks only" chair used at local shops during the age of segregation and a remnant of our country's complicated racial past. Osceola County experienced a relatively smooth transition into desegregation with no incidents reported. Here, guests have the chance to even dress up in frontier clothes like overall jeans and denim dresses.

Don and June model the latest fashions from the early 1900s

Overall, this was such a great experience and visit to learn about the past of Osceola County and Kissimmee, and also to learn about the lives of the people who have made the area what is it today.

Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum 4155 W. Vine St. Kissimmee, FL 34741 9am-5pm 7 days a week