The first settlers in Boyne City (population 3,500), John and Harriet Miller, arrived on November 14, 1856. While exploring the shoreline of Pine Lake (now called Lake Charlevoix) John and his two sons discovered the Boyne River, which reminded them of the River Boyne in Leinster, Ireland.
The village of Boyne was platted in 1877 by George F. Beardsley, a land speculator from Grand Rapids, MI. He expanded the village over the next 12 years and invested heavily in the community. Beardsley donated land for churches and a park, invested in a lumber mill and a hotel as well as in general construction, and bought bonds for the village's water system. The river was used to transport logs to Boyne's lumber mills, and lumbering remained the major industry until the 1920s.
Through the 20th century, manufacturing, especially of chemicals, bricks, and leather, came to replace lumbering as the dominant industry. Manufacturing in Boyne City shifted from large factories on the lakeshore to inland locations connected to the state highway, including an industrial park created in 1986.
In the late 1980s the Boyne City Historical Society was busily acquiring and cataloguing various artifacts of the city's history. Stored in attics and garages of Society members, the material was inaccessible to the public, until in 1988 the city approved steps to create a suitable home for the collection. The Boyne City Historic Museum was created, and is housed in an addition built onto City Hall.
In 1993, the City Commission appointed a Historical Study Committee to gather the information necessary to create a Historic District in downtown Boyne City. The Historic District on Pearl Street was approved and established in 2002.
Boyne City's nationally accredited Main Street Program recently developed a walking tour of the city's historic downtown, highlighting the locations of historic properties and their former and present uses. The group also administers an ongoing façade improvement program, offering grants to encourage business owners to restore their buildings in a historically accurate manner. The city government is also renovating the historic "Old City Park," where a retained gazebo is the site of weekly concerts throughout the summer.
Designated a Preserve America Community in February 2010.