The Rouse Simmons sank during a winter gale on Nov. 23, 1912.
For 30 years, the schooner brought Christmas trees from northern Michigan and Wisconsin to Chicago. “The Little Blue Book” notes that it would arrive at Chicago’s docks in early December, decorated with Christmas lights. The public boarded the ship, purchasing balsam, pine trees, garland and wreaths. It was dubbed the “Christmas Tree Ship” and the ship’s captain, Herman Schuenemann, gave trees to poorer residents and was dubbed — Captain Santa. Following the sinking of Rouse Simmons and its cargo of 5,000 trees, the tradition continued.
Today, trees grown in northern Michigan are purchased by the Christmas Ship Committee of Chicago. In early December, they navigate Lake Michigan with the assistance of the United States Coast Guard. Fastcast: COLD!