In 1923, a young couple, William “Skipper” Beals and Cora Mautz Beals, established a summer camp for boys on 50 acres at the mouth of the Crystal River in Glen Arbor Township, Leelanau County, Michigan and named it Camp Leelanau. Both were from the faculty of The Principia, a Christian Science School, in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Beals were soon approached by campers requesting permission to live with them during the winter and to be tutored. As the number of winter boarders began to grow, the Beals decided to build a modest building to house the boys. Fifteen boys arrived in September 1929, paying a tuition of $1,100, and were joined by a staff of four. They lived in summer quarters until they were able to move into The Homestead Lodge on November 8, 1929. The Homestead was designed by Cora Beals and built at a cost of $12,000.
Originally the school went through the tenth grade. Despite the Great Depression, the school grew each year, became a four-year high school in September 1931, and graduated its first class in the spring of 1932. In 1933, the school was accredited by the University of Michigan.
With a shortage of overnight facilities in the area for visiting parents, the Beals would invite visitors to stay in available dorm rooms and eat their meals in the camp or in the school dining room.
As the 1930s came to an end, repeated requests for girls to have the same opportunities as boys were resolved with the enrollment of eight girls in 1940 and the establishment of Pinebrook for Girls.
The remodeled Earlybird Cottage south of the mouth of the Crystal River became Riveredge, the girls’ dormitory. Shanty Town remained the home of Leelanau for Boys.
When Skipper Beals passed on in November 1942, the school faced a serious crisis with its future in doubt. Despite advice from many sources about the financial risks, Arthur and Helen Huey formed a limited partnership and purchased the property. “Major” Huey had been associated with the camps since 1929, served as house father during 1931-32, and joined the Leelanau staff permanently following his 1935 graduation from Amherst College and his marriage to Helen Mautz, sister of Cora Mautz Beals.
Cora Beals remained as Business Manager, providing stability and continuity and served in that post until 1967. She continued to serve the school first as a Trustee and then as a Life Trustee until she passed on in 1996. “Major” Huey assumed the position of Headmaster of the School, Director of the Camp, and Manager of The Homestead. As leadership responsibilities grew, Major Huey assumed the title of President and delegated responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the school to a Headmaster, Charles “Charlie” Shinn.