Most long-time Boyne Falls residents have been asked this question at least once, and we decided it would be the topic of a History Speaker Series event.

More than 100 people turned out to hear Bill Aten answer this question, and share other interesting stories about the history of Boyne Falls at his presentation on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 7:00 pm at the Boyne District Library, 201 E Main St in Boyne City.

Mr. Aten began teaching at Boyne Falls School in 1982, and retired in 2006 after spending his last six years as the town’s K-12 principal. He now works as a consultant for CharEm ISD in the area of mathematics and data collection and reporting. He and his wife moved to Boyne Falls in 1984 from Boyne City, and live in a historic farmhouse on Old Mackinaw Trail just south of the village limits. For the past sixteen years, they have offered a summer concerts series in their barn, which they have renovated into a 180-seat music theater, Aten Place.

Aten began collecting historical documents, pictures, and video interviews with older residents of Boyne Falls in 1990 as part of a multi-media classroom project. His students’ goal was to capture the history of Boyne Falls for future generations.

The needs of small schools change from year to year, and the class was never offered again.  A project to compile and organize the material was left undone. One of Aten’s retirement goals is to finish the project, preserving Boyne Valley history and highlighting the role Boyne Falls has played in the development of this region.

In his talk, Mr. Aten recounted the origins of the Boyne Falls settlement dating back to 1857 when John Miller explored the river and falls, naming them after the river in his native Ireland that flowed into the Irish Sea. The falls soon saw the establishment of a dam, millpond, and sawmill.

The photos and videos screened for the audience gave life to the history of Boyne Falls and Boyne Valley, depicting the ever-evolving community and its economy. Early industries included lumbering, farming, brick making, rail transportation, and milling. By 1908 Boyne Falls had a population of 450 and had 4 churches, a bank, 3 hotels, 9 businesses, 2 physicians, and a brick manufactory.

Boyne Falls seems to have been a hotbed of education; the first three public schools and St. Augustine’s Catholic School were destroyed by fire.  School number four opened in 1947 with a bond issue of $85,000. Soon after, Boyne Mountain opened, forever changing the local economy. Another mainstay, Boyne Falls Log Homes, built its first structure in 1946. The annual Polish Festival began with a centennial observance in 1975.

The numerous photos that accompanied Mr. Aten’s narration drew excited responses from numerous audience members whose childhood memories were stoked or who recognized ancestors or friends from the past. These efforts in documenting, preserving, and publishing aspects of the history of Boyne falls and Boyne Valley serve as a reminder of how easily history can be lost and how interesting, important, and rewarding the work of historical preservation can be.

And what about the falls?  They were where the Boyne River passes under M-75 near US-131 South.