In 1983, three ships were built in Govan, Scotland by Misener Transportation, a Canadian shipping company. One was the Selkirk Settler, later to be the Federal St. Louis, Federal Fraser, Fraser and in 2007, the Spruceglen. The second ship was built as the Canada Marquis, then the Federal Richelieu, Federal Mackenzie, Mackenzie, and in 2002, the Birchglen. The third, the Saskatchewan Pioneer, became the Lady Hamilton, then the Voyageur Pioneer, and in 2008, the Kaministiqua.
Misener wanted ships that could work all year round and not sit out the long, cold winters in Canada when Great Lakes shipping closes down. These would be heartier vessels made to navigate the many locks, rivers and ports within the Great Lakes, but could also venture out onto the world’s oceans where they would need to operate as salt water ships on the oceans of the world, enduring storms often fiercer than ever seen in the exciting, but still calmer waters of the Great Lakes.
At one time, Canadian companies were not allowed to buy a ship built in a country that is not a commonwealth country. Most salties that come to Duluth have been built in countries that were not part of the English Commonwealth. Many are built in Japan, China, Argentina, Holland, and Poland, meaning none of them could be purchased by Canadian companies. These three sisters were built in Govan, Scotland, in 1983, and thus were legal.
That is why they were built in Scotland; how they were named is even more interesting. Parts of Western Canada were settled by immigrants from Scotland who were brought over with the help of Lord Selkirk. He founded a settlement that eventually became Winnipeg. His followers were called Selkirk Settlers. By the time they got to western Canada, they had become Saskatchewan Pioneers. The pioneers endured many hardships, and had repeated failures trying to grow crops, particularly wheat. They needed faster-maturing wheat because of the shorter growing season. After many futile attempts, a variety of wheat was developed that worked great. That wheat was called Canada Marquis.
I was not around when these ships visited Duluth under their original names. By 1996, when I arrived, they had all been purchased by FedNav, a Canadian shipping company in Montreal.
Around 2001, Fednav was looking to part ways with these ships. To begin with, the name ‘Federal’ was removed. In 2001, the Federal Fraser became the Fraser and the Federal MacKenzie became the MacKenzie. That was the first step to getting FedNav entirely out of 2/3rd’s of the family. In 2002, FedNav sold the Fraser and Mackenzie to the Canada Steamship Company of Toronto. The Fraser became the Spruceglen and the MacKenzie became the Birchglen.