The Secret Shame of the Beulah Boys’ Home, Boyne City
Boyne City sits in Charlevoix County at the east end of Lake Charlevoix.
It was here that the Tourist Home Hotel was built in 1884, with the hopes of it bringing more vacationers and tourists to the area. Well, the vacationers and tourists DID come...but not enough to sustain the hotel. Without enough customers, the building was sold over and over again until it finally was taken over by Herman Swift.
In 1904, Swift turned the former hotel into a home for boys. The majority of boys shared the same problems: being orphaned, juvenile delinquency, and no father figure. Some boys were taken to the home because their families were too large and the “spillover” kids needed a place to live.
As you'll see in the gallery below, the home was impressive: a big square building with plenty of room...enough to house 100+ boys. Swift named his place the Beulah Home, and soon he became a local hero, known for helping these less-than-fortunate boys. It wasn't a prison and the kids were not locked inside...so inevitably, some of them would occasionally go into town and cause trouble.
The book Lost Boys: The Beulah Home Tragedy states that in 1909, Swift's institution began to crumble. Locals were complaining about the handful of boys that came through town causing problems. Swift even pleaded with the townspeople to forgive, overlook, and try to understand what his boys went through in the past.
But unknown to the Boyne City residents, the boys had been put through something else.
Some of the boys had come forward and spilled the beans about Swift: they claimed he had been molesting quite a number of them. Swift was arrested for child abuse and the case went on until 1913.
Thanks to parents not wanting to be publicly embarrassed by the whole thing, some of the accusing kids dropped their cases....that is, except one eleven-year-old boy: Merrill Griffin. He and his father stayed with it and kept the charge against Swift the entire time.
Herman Swift passed away in 1914, with speculation that the stress of his shame hastened his death. He is buried in Eaton Rapids.
In the 1920s the building was demolished with the scraps and leftover lumber being shipped and used elsewhere.
Take a look below at some vintage photos of the now-extinct home.
Beulah Boys Home, Boyne City
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