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This past weekend, U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw docked at Chicago’s Navy Pier this weekend, carrying a very special gift from Northern Michigan for families in need: 1,200 Christmas trees to be exact.


According to a Great Lakes legend – the Rouse Simmons or most know her as “The Christmas Tree Ship” – which sank back in November of 1912 off the coast of Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Though, the three-masted ship did not start carrying Christmas trees like most believe…

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The ship was built in 1868 in Wisconsin – becoming apart of a Muskegon lumber baron Charles Hackley’s fleet. She spent much of her early years moving wood from his mills to other ports. And at one point, according to U.S. Customs records, it showed she was making nearly weekly runs from Grand Haven to Chicago, according to the National Archives.

Years and years later, she continued to get older and older, like most schooners do. She then changed both hands and cargo.

A captain named Herman Schuenemann owned a small interest in her by 1910 and for years, his family had been among the two dozen schooner crews doing late-season Christmas tree runs, according to mLive. They would bring evergreens from northern Michigan as well as Wisconsin to Chicago’s docks.

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The ships would be decked out with lights, and families could come aboard, pick out an inexpensive tree. It also didn’t hurt that the captains – by cutting out the middleman – could get decent money from a lot.

And thanks to our Coast Guard, we can give back that same joy to those who are in need this holiday season.

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