The Swaney Family on the Old Mission Peninsula, mid-1950s
The Swaney Family on the Old Mission Peninsula, mid-1950s | Swaney Photo

I’ve had a nice email exchange with Patty Swaney this week, whose husband Bill Swaney recently passed away.

Bill’s father, James Charles Swaney, went to school at the Old Mission schoolhouse (north of the Old Mission General Store), and was part of the Swaney family that lived in the house on Swaney Road near Center Road, where Debbie Bee has lived for many years (she has the barn and a couple of horses, Stormy and Skipper, there).

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The Swaneys owned the house and farm there, along with Swaney Lake (the lake on Swaney Road), as well as a cottage near Haserot Beach.

James married Irene Kulhavy in 1942. They lived in Ann Arbor and had six kids: James Jr., Steven, William, Brian, Barbara and Mary.

James’ siblings were Laurence, Charlotte, Jean and Beth.

Patty said that James would drive Irene and their six kids up to the OMP cottage for the summer, but would then go back to Ann Arbor where he worked (a common occurrence, I believe, for families who lived downstate most of the year).

Also, I believe the Swaneys may have taken in Ted Ayers when he was a child, after his family passed away from the flu during the outbreak that took place around 1918-1920. I could be wrong on that, though – let me know in the comments below.

Below is a picture of the Swaney family that Patty sent along. She said the photo was probably taken in 1954 or 1955, as her husband, Bill, looks to be about five or six in the photo.

In the photo, the folks include:

Back row: Charlotte Swaney and Mike Richter, Betty Swaney in the light blue dress, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, Grandma Swaney, Irene and James Swaney.

Five of the six Swaney children are in the photo:

Front row: William (Bill) Swaney, second from left in plaid overalls; James (Jim) Swaney in red shirt, last boy on the right.

Second row: Steve Swaney, first boy on the left, in plaid overalls; Barbara Swaney (oldest child) is holding the youngest child, Brian.

Jim and Irene had another daughter, Mary, a year or two later.

The Swaney Family on the Old Mission Peninsula, mid-1950s
The Swaney Family on the Old Mission Peninsula, mid-1950s | Swaney Photo

Patty also noted that besides Bill, siblings Barbara, Jim and Mary have all passed away.

Did you know the Swaneys? Share stories or memories in the comments section below.

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A lifelong resident of the Old Mission Peninsula, Jane grew up on a cherry farm (Johnson Farms), married the boy next door (Tim Boursaw), and raised two kids there (Will and Marissa). Her 35-year career as a photojournalist includes bylines with the New York Times and Ladies' Home Journal, and interviews with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. But she loves writing about the OMP most of all.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for a very well put together little story about the Swaaney’s.
    I also shed a tear with the Rocko Fouch story. Bill and I were able to vacation in Florida before his death and we were disappointed that there were no Orange Orchards or even stands with Oranges anymore. The farmers family’s couldn’t continue to farm and they instead sold off their land to developers. Sad state of affairs!

  2. Wow! Very interesting. I was good friends with Brian. We went to school together and were very good freinds for many years. There are a lot of us freinds from that era who wonder what ever happened to Brian and where he is today? With social media no one seems to be able to make contact with him. Contact me with any information.
    My name is Karl Karr @ [email protected]

  3. I believe Brian is still living in the Swaney family cottage. I think it is on Swaney Road. I remember going up there as a child and having horrible indoor plumbing where the toilets had to be flushed with a pail of water and drinking water had to be hand pumped. I am certain sanitation has been much improved since many southern Michiganders call Traverse City and Old Mission their vacation homes.

  4. I have come up to OMP to remember Bill and all the lovely memories we made together on this 2nd anniversary of Bills passing. It was touching that he died on Earth day since he was an avid lover of nature and birding in particular. I have tried to contact Brian since I am up here and want to hang out at Haserot Beach for a while today around noon. His cottage is a couple houses North of Haserot.
    I will be walking my little dog around the area so if anyone gets this message today, your welcome to come and chat. Also, brother Steve just died last year. Brian is the only child left and I wish he would stay in touch but it must be hard for him to do. I’m glad the Old Mission Gazette can bring folks together, thank you Jane for all the work you do.

    • Hello Patty My name is Karl Karr. I was freinds with Brian way back in the early 70’s. I have been to that cottage way back when. I and many of his other freinds from that era Always wondered what ever happened to Brian? So if you do bump into him tell him Karl Karr says hello. And maybe if he’d like to call? Give home my number. Karl @734-637-7680

  5. Karl, I could only leave phone messages to Brian and even went to the cottage but no answer, even though his car was there. I am going to send him a card with your message and phone#. and Cathy Kohn’s message also. Perhaps you could write him. The address there is
    18971 Eastern Rd.
    Traverse City, MI 49686.

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