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Biography of the Disney Family in Canada

By Elias Disney

[This essay was published in a 1957 article in an unidentified Huron County, Ontario, newspaper by Leon C. Cantelon, Walt Disney's second cousin on his grandmother Mary Richardson Disney's side. Cantelon says in his article that Walt himself provided a copy of his father's essay. There's no indication in Cantelon's article of when Elias Disney wrote this piece, but Bob Thomas, in his biography of Roy O. Disney, dates it to 1939.]

The name Disney is of French origin and in France was called D'Isigny. Disney and a man by the name of Best were officers in the army under William, Duke of Normandy, when he invaded the British Isles.

Disney and Best participated in the division of part of the land by William, Duke of Normandy, and each received a large estate, lived and reared his children in a good environment, and was classed among the intellectual and well-to-do of that time and age.

Some of the Disneys settled in England and some time ago an article on health appeared in a current publication written by Edward Disney, MD, London, England.

Elias and Flora DisneyA son of one of the Disneys that remained in Ireland, married a Miss Best, and from that union my grandfather was born, and was named Elias. He received a fine education, and had plenty of money to go and come on, servants to care for his wants and all that goes with an abundance of the things of this world.

In due course of time, he took unto him a wife, a Miss Maria Swan, of good people, in the medium condition of life financially, and from this union a son was born, November 2, 1834, named Kepple, after Admiral Kepple, a prominent man of that age in the world.

In the fall of 1836 my grandfather, Elias Disney, and three of his brothers sold their property in Ireland and came to America (New York City). The three brothers went into business in New York, and Elias Disney, my grandfather, moved to Upper Canada and settled near Holmesville, on the Grand Trunk Railway, between Goderich and Clinton. He bought a tract of land close to and along the banks of the Maitland River, and built a saw and grist mill which was patronized by the community for a number of years.

This country was heavily timbered, and there was plenty of wild fruit, grapes, plums, etc., along the banks of the river, and good fishing and wild game of different kinds. Wolves were numerous and a cause of much annoyance to the settlers, with their young stock, and many a time I have sat and listened in amazement to the stories my father and others would tell of personal encounters.

Kepple Disney married Mary Richardson, daughter of one of the early settlers of Holmesville near the town of Goderich, moved to Bluevale, Morris Township, on the Maitland River, bought 100 acres of timber land and started to make a home for his family.

On the 6th day of February, 1858 [sic; 1859 is probably the correct date], the writer, Elias Disney, was born of this union. I am the oldest of 11 children. We received our education in the public school of Bluevale and attended the Wesleyan Methodist Church and Sunday School. Our life and work were such as comes to boys and girls brought up on the farm—a pure and wholesome atmosphere, both physically and morally.

In 1877 my father sold his farm to Abraham Jackson and moved with his family to Ellis, Kansas, and purchased 320 acres of railroad land.

[Posted September 23, 2008]