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GLIN==> "Christmas Tree Ship" Listed on National Register of Historic Places



May 9, 2007


For More Information:    

Keith Meverden, Marine Archaeologist, Wisconsin Historical Society, (608) 221-5909

John Broihahn, State Archaeologist, Wisconsin Historical Society, (608) 264-6496

John Karl, Science Writer, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, (608) 263-8621


Editors Note:

High-resolution underwater and historic images are available at


Videos and more photos are available at



“Christmas Tree Ship” Listed on National Register of Historic Places


Madison, Wis. (May 9, 2007) – One of the most storied wooden sailing ships in Wisconsin history has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

      The “Christmas Tree Ship,” a three-masted schooner built in Milwaukee in 1868 and formally named the Rouse Simmons, carried Christmas trees from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the docks of Chicago. Captain Herman Schuenemann and his family sold the trees directly from the ship’s deck to holiday-minded Chicagoans.  On a blustery November day in 1912, the ship and a crew of 16 were hauling a full load of fresh-cut Christmas trees along Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shore when a storm overpowered them.  The ship sank and all 16 crew members perished, including Captain Schuenemann.

      The Christmas tree ship now rests 165 feet below the surface of Lake Michigan, 12 miles northeast of Two Rivers. The vessel lies upright, her hold still filled with the needleless skeletons of more than 5,000 pine trees.

      The Rouse Simmons has become the stuff of myth and legend on the Great Lakes, inspiring songs, plays, paintings, and countless stories. Today, she is also a favorite destination for advanced scuba divers.

      Marine archaeologists at the Wisconsin Historical Society led a team of volunteer divers in surveying the wreck site in 2006. The resulting documentation bolstered its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

      Such work by Wisconsin Historical Society archaeologists and other volunteer divers has resulted in 27 shipwreck sites being listed on the National Register – more than any other state.

      Recognition on the National Register helps protect these important artifacts of Wisconsin's maritime heritage, according to underwater archaeologist Keith Meverden.        

      The survey was supported by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.

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Conceived in 1966, Sea Grant is a national network of 30 university-based programs of research, outreach, and education for enhancing the practical use and conservation of coastal, ocean and Great Lakes resources to create a sustainable economy and environment. The National Sea Grant Network is a partnership of participating coastal states, private industry, and the National Sea Grant College Program, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.