Hamilton Disston was born on August 23, 1844, in Philadelphia. He worked in his father's saw manufacturing plant until he signed up to join the troops fighting in the Civil War. Twice during the early years of fighting, he enlisted, only to be hauled home after his father paid the bounty for another soldier to take his son's place. He eventually accepted his son's wishes and supplied Hamilton and 100 other workers from the saw plant with equipment to form the Disston Volunteers. Hamilton served as a private in the Union Army until the end of the war.
Hamilton Disston purchased four million acres of marshland shortly after the Civil War. Included in his purchase was the small trading post of Allendale, which was eventually renamed Kissimmee. Disston wished to drain the area surrounding Kissimmee and deepen the Kissimmee River, so products could be shipped into the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Many steamboats passed through the area with cargoes of cypress lumber and sugar cane.
Disston committed suicide on April 30, 1896, after a disastrous freeze led many families to relocate further south. Disston's land company stopped payment on bonds and returned to Philadelphia.