Around the turn of the century, two brothers (Herman and August Schuenamann)
sailed a three-masted schooner, the Rouse-Simmons, each year and delivered
thousands of trees to the Clark Street bridge in Chicago. They would sail 300
miles north across Lake Michigan where they would spend three weeks cutting and
loading the trees. The ship was just bursting with trees which were stacked
high on the deck as well as in the hold. The passage across the lake was very
dangerous and in separate incidents both brothers were lost with their ships in
After Herman died, his wife and daughters continued this tradition for
years and had the trees brought by rail instead of ship. They would lease a ship
to hold the trees and park at the bridge though as always. The income from
Herman's yearly trip had for the most part been their total income for the
year and the loss of his ship left the family in dire straits.
So, it was quite an accomplishment for them to find a way to continue the business.
Today, the Coast Guard cutter Mackinac continues the tradition by delivering trees to the needy.
Rochelle Pennington, author of The Christmas Tree Ship - (Story of Captain Santa) narrates part of a special which usually airs each year on public televison during the holidays.