Christmas Tree Ship

During the Late 1800’s, Chicago anxiously awaited the arrival of the “Christmas Tree Ship” that brought fresh cut trees from the northern Great Lakes Region into Chicago. Today, Chicagoans still wait, and many of those waiting would not be able to have a tree if it were not because of the Christmas Tree Ship because they could not afford one.  During the 1800’s and into the early 1900’s two brothers controlled this industry, making nearly 855 of their yearly pay on trees in addition to donating them to the poor. The business was very dangerous however, Captain Schuenemann of the Rouse Simmons, The Original Christmas Tree Ship, had already lost his brother on one voyage. For the final time, on Nov. 22, 1912, the Rouse Simmons left port with 5,000 Christmas trees aboard. Terribly top heavy and coated in ice a storm sank the Rouse Simmons.

 Today, Captain Schuenemann’s vision still lives. Every year on the first Friday of December, the Christmas Tree ship arrives in Chicago loaded with over 1500 Christmas Trees for the poor. This year, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Alder served as the Christmas Tree Ship. When the Alder powers into Navy Pier with a wreath attached to the bridge and loaded with evergreen trees Captain Schuenemann’s memory lives on.  On the Saturday over 250 caroling Scouts carry the 1500 6’ fir trees form the decks of the Alder to the recipients and agencies. This year Sea Scouts Ships, Venture Crews, Boys Scout Troops, Girl Scout Troops, and Mariner Units unloaded the trees. Participation Units and listed below.  Scouts spent the night aboard a boat on Lake Michigan, offloaded the trees in the morning, and had a banquet lunch to celebrate the off loading.

Sea Scout Ship 5111 (IL)

Sea Scout Ship 5870

Sea Scout Ship 5926

Sea Scout Ship 2008

Sea Scout Ship 5212

Sea Scout Ship 5111 (IN)

Venture Crew 1

Venture Crew 2550

Venture Crew 675

Venture Crew 449

Venture Crew 37

Venture Crew 402

Venture Crew 88

Venture Crew 871

Venture Crew 1121

Troop 72

Troop 618

Troop 333

Girl Scout Troop 1953

Girl Scout Troop 2082

Mariner Ship 361

Chicago Young Marines

US Naval Sea Cadet Corps – JFK Division

            Next year will mark the 100th Anniversary of Sea Scouting and the 100th Anniversary of the Rouse Simmons final Voyage. To volunteer next year, visit to volunteer. For more information please visit

Happy Holidays,

Peter Schmidt

Central Region Boatswain


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