Disney is located in northeastern Mayes County on the east end of Pensacola Dam on State Highway 28. The mile-long highway across the dam separates the city of Langley from Disney. Both towns have similar histories, beginning with the 1935 construction of the Grand Lake dam.
On November 12, 1939, C. D. Armstrong founded Disney on land he acquired to plan and promote the new town. The city boundaries are the Grand River Dam to the west, Grand Lake to the west and north, the East Spillway bridge to the east, and the Grand River to the south, making the city an island. The land value increased with the large influx of dam construction workers. On May 21, 1938, a U.S. Post Office was established and named for Wesley E. Disney, member of the U.S. Congress. Before the completion of the dam, ferries provided the only transportation between Disney and Langley. In addition, the town offered boat excursions for visitors who wished to view the dam site under construction.
Disney was incorporated March 19, 1959. Within the city limits are five recreation areas of Cherokee State Park. These provide camping, swimming, picnicking, boating, fishing, and skiing. Since the town's founding the permanent population has remained steady at around three hundred citizens. However, the population reaches 1,500 to 2,000 when owners of summer homes return for the hottest season. Disney became a ghost town during World War II as U.S. marshals guarded the dam, making it difficult for tourists to enter or leave. At the end of the twentieth century Disney had a convenience store, two cafés, a bank, a bookstore, an antique shop, several retail stores, and other businesses. In 2000 the population stood at 226.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Historical Highlights of Mayes County (Pryor, Okla.: Mayes County Historical Society, 1977). Paul I. Wellman, "The Man Behind the Dizziness of Disney, Oklahoma," Kansas City (Missouri) Star, 16 July 1939.
Betty Lou Harper Thomas
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