The Great Lakes Christmas Tree Ship

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By Cameron Davis

On November 22, the Rouse Simmons listed badly, caked in ice from water and snow during one of storms for which the Great Lakes are known this time of year. Its cargo: more than 5,000 Christmas trees bound from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Chicago.

Hermann Schuenemann had been part owner and captain of the Simmons for years. And he came from a sailing family. So it was still a surprise when the schooner went down off the coast of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, that fateful day, one hundred years ago.

Rallying, Herman’s wife Barbara and two daughters continued the business in Herman’s wake, bringing trees into the Chicago River for sale.

The tale is now legend in the Midwest, not only for the fate of Herman and his ship, but the tenacity of his wife and daughters. But today, the “Legend of the Christmas Tree Ship,” is more than an enthralling true story. It lives on in exhibits at the Rogers Street Fishing Village in Two Rivers.  It lives on through plays.  And it lives on through the U.S. Coast Guard’s cutter, Mackinac.

But most of all, it lives on through an appreciation of all the Great Lakes continue to deliver to us: water, jobs, recreation and an unparalleled quality of life.

Find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts at, or follow me on Twitter (@CameronDavisEPA). If you missed out on Great Lakes Week and still have questions, feel free to ask them in the comment box or send me a tweet.

About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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