Historical Information

Some of Boyne City’s earliest settlers were led to the area by a dream. Harriet Miller, a New York spiritualist and wife of an Irish Immigrant, dreamed of a cabin on a bear-shaped lake. The Millers’ hunt for the cabin led them west to Michigan and Lake Charlevoix. John Miller named the river leading to the lake for one in Ireland – the Boyne River. Boyne was first settled in 1856 and given a post office in 1869. Its first inn was established in 1879. The name was changed to Boyne City in 1904 and incorporated as a city in 1907. Boyne City is at the southeast end of the east arm of Lake Charlevoix, where the Boyne River enters the lake. It is at the corners of four townships, though it is politically independent.
The industrial revolution arrived in Boyne City in the early twentieth century. One of the community’s industrialists was W.H. White, owner of White Lumber Company. Knowing that bark from hemlock lumber could be used in tanning leather, White convinced Canadian tanner W.S. Shaw to open a tannery. By 1907, Shaw’s tannery produced six million pounds of shoe sole leather annually. Shaw also helped found Boyne City Clay Products, which made bricks used in several buildings still standing in Boyne City including the Wolverine-Dilworth Inn. Railroads were instrumental in the growth of the area’s lumber industry. Products were shipped to customers throughout the Midwest. At its peak, there were ninety miles of track into the logging camps, thirteen locomotives, and several hundred logging cars.
History of First Presbyterian Church – Boyne City
The Reverend John Redpath, (1842-1926) a Scotch Presbyterian and native of Burnside, Scotland, first came to the Boyne area in about 1875. He moved from Calm Lake (Cadillac) to the Bear River (Petoskey) area, then to Big Rapids and returning to Boyne Falls in 1881. His primary home was first in Boyne Falls and from there he traveled extensively throughout the area by foot, horse and wagon, then as the area opened up by stage and railroad. Rev. Redpath was open to developing ecumenical relationships and worked hand in hand with other area denominations. His working with the Boyne Presbyterian Church left a legacy of ecumenical cooperation that remains today.
In 1881 George F. Beardsley donated a lot at the corner of Park and Ray Streets to the Presbyterian Church and in two years (1883) the first meeting was held in the new church. On August 27, 1883 the Presbyterian Church was incorporated as First Presbyterian Church of Boyne City (FPBC). The church was utilized by many area groups as a meeting hall. It even housed the Boyne/Charlevoix County Court for a period of time after the Court House, located across the corner from the church, burned to the ground.
The church remained at its original location until 1905 when Mr. and Mrs. Rey donated a lot from the area known as the John Shepard properties for a new church building location. In 1906 the existing church property was approved for sale and various committees were assigned to fulfill the needs of construction of a new church. In 1907 the new Presbyterian Church located at 401 S. Park St. was formally dedicated.
An unexpected connection with Malawi emerged when investigating the history of FPBC. Opening and Closing with Prayer: The First Century of the First Presbyterian Church of Boyne City, Michigan (1883-1983) reveals an interesting detail of Rev. Redpath’s history.
Upon graduation, he intended to follow in the footsteps of the famous David Livingstone. Unfortunately, the very last boat headed for Africa that season had already sailed. Having no wish to delay his career, he followed a faculty suggestion to cast his lot with the Redman and Pioneers of Northern Michigan. John and his bride, Sara Upjohn Redpath, found much spiritual need in this North Country and spent their lives doing something about it in many locations, one of which was Boyne City.