The Windows on Main Street: Elias Disney
Welcome to a new series of articles here on WDW Central called The Windows on Main Street. During our time together, I’ll do my best to go behind the past of the names on the windows along Main Street, U.S.A., in Walt Disney World. Many people believe that the windows are sort of like the credits for the show that is Disney World and everyone essential to its production are mentioned. Having said that, let’s get started!
The first window we find holds the title:
Now I’m fairly certain you know how Elias Disney was instrumental in the creation of Disney World: he was Walter Elias Disney’s father. However, you might not know much about Elias’ past-that’s what I’m here for.
He was born on February 6, 1859 in Bluevale, Ontario, Canada to Irish-born immigrants Kepple Disney and Mary Richardson. When he was 19 years old, Elias and Kepple moved to California in search of gold. When that didn’t pan out, Kepple bought some land and established a farm. Elias worked on the farm until he was 25 and went off in search of work. His first job was working in a railroad machine shop until he joined on a crew that was sent to build the Union Pacific rail line through Colorado. Once his contract was up with Union Pacific, Elias became a professional fiddler in Denver. However, this didn’t generate enough money to live on so Disney eventually went to live with his parents and work on their farm (I couldn’t figure out exactly where they were living at this time). Once back home, he met his soulmate in the form of Flora Call-the daughter of his parent’s neighbors.
Elias and Flora were married on New Year’s Day of 1888 in Kismet, Florida and spent their early newlywed years in Acron, Florida. During their time in Florida, they had Herbert Arthur Disney (12/8/1888). In 1890, Elias and Flora decided to move to Chicago, where Elias’ brother Robert lived. Robert helped support his brother financially as the Disney family grew to include another child, Raymond Arnold Disney (12/30/1890). The family stayed in Chicago for the next 16 years. While in Chicago, Elias made a living as a carpenter and builder, eventually working on the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Also in that year, Roy O. Disney (6/24/2008) was born. In 1895, Elias founded a contracting company, but that too failed and he continued working odd jobs.
After moving to the Windy City, Elias and Flora befriended Walter Parr, preacher at St. Paul Congregational Church. In 1901, Elias and Flora named their fourth son after their best friend. Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901 (Trivia Question: What did Walter Parr name his next son?). Just two years later, Elias and Flora welcomed their first daughter, Ruth Flora Disney. (12/6/1903), into the world. By 1906, the crime rate had risen dramatically in Chicago. When two boys in the Disney’s neighborhood were arrested for killing a policeman, Flora and Elias decided to move their family away from the big city. Once more, it was Robert to the rescue.
Robert offered his 45-acre farm in Marceline, Missouri, to his brother and his large family. After three years, the stress of farm life and a big family caused the Disneys to sell the farm and rent a house in Marceline. Two years after that, the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and their kids flourished from there.
Join us next time for The Windows on Main Street: Walt’s Children