The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw and the Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee partnered to reenact a Chicago tradition dating back to the late 1800s, on December 1 and 2, at Navy Pier.
The Mackinaw, serving as the Chicago Christmas Tree Ship, arrived on December 1 with more than 1,200 Christmas trees from northern Michigan purchased by the committee through private donations. They were offloaded on December 2 and distributed to organizations identified by the committee for needy families.
The original Christmas Tree Ship, the Rouse Simmons, delivered fresh evergreens and wreaths for the holiday season from Michigan to Chicago for more than 30 years during the late 1800s and early 1900’s. On November 23, 1912, Captain Herman Schuenemann and his crew of 16 were lost in a storm between Kewaunee and Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
During the transit to Chicago, the crew of the Mackinaw held a solemn tribute and dropped a wreath into the waters near the resting place of the Rouse Simmons, which was located in 1971.
Chicago’s boating community has been re-enacting the days of the Rouse Simmons landing in Chicago for the past 18 years. The Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee is comprised of and supported by all facets of the Chicago’s boating community, which includes: the International Shipmasters’ Association; Chicago Marine Heritage Society; the Navy League of the United States; Chicago yacht clubs; Friends of the Marine Community; the Chicago Yachting Association, the Cruise Ship Mystic Blue and others.