History of the American Girl
Built 1922 in Bay City MI, the American Girl was built at Devoe Shipyard. She has kept her original name to date. Throughout the American Girl’s life she has gone through several engine changes starting with the original 75 HP Kahlenburg 3 cylinder engine.
She was built to haul fruit, potatoes and supplies from Benton Harbor, Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the 1940s, the Andersons from Washington Island, WI bought her to haul freight and fuel from Green Bay to Washington Island. At that time she was powered with a D13,000 150HP Caterpillar engine.
In 1971, the American Girl was bought by Jewel Gillespie from Beaver Island, Michigan. She was used to haul fuel and freight to and from the Island. In 1980, a new D336, 220HP Caterpillar engine was installed
In the 1990’s, Jewell’s son, John Gillespie bought the tug and upgraded her engine in 2000 to a 3406, 420HP Caterpillar. In 2002, John retired and his brother Robert, with the St. James Marine Company, bought the American Girl and rebuilt her engine once more, which increased her speed to 12 knots.
She is one of the oldest, working tugboats on the Great Lakes and in the US. Her look is iconic and her steady efforts have been appreciated by the hands in which she has been passed through.
She still carries out her patriotic duties as she lights fireworks every Forth of July from her barge. The American Girl is a symbol of American history, and though she withstood many changes, she is still sturdy and true.