100 Years ago next week, the Rouse Simmons ship, affectionately called the Christmas Tree Schooner, sunk to the bottom of Lake Michigan. It still sits off the coast of Two Rivers, WI, and wasn't discovered until 1971.
Last night, the author of a book about the ship and the event spoke to a small group at North Point Lighthouse, here in Milwaukee. Her name is Rochelle Pennington and she has been passionate about finding the story by traveling the coast of Lake Michigan. The ship itself had been built in Milwaukee, but it was used to bring Christmas trees from the upper coast of Michigan to Chicago each year. The family had been doing this for 60 years passing from one generation to the next. You can read a short story of the ship's history at the schooner link above, or look for Pennington's two books, "The Christmas Tree Ship: The Story of Captain Santa" and "The Historic Christmas Tree Ship: A True Story of Faith, Hope and Love," which detail the life of Captain Schuenemann and the history of the Rouse Simmons through historical records amassed over years of work. You can tell she is passionate about her work. Although I'm looking forward to finding the books, I was more intrigued by a project being promoted along Lake Michigan, called "Wisconsin Schooner Coast".
This is a 60 mile drive starting in Manitowoc and ending in Sturgeon Bay. You can stop along the way to enjoy the coast, see lighthouses, read about wrecks, and enjoy a little fresh air. I have been to most of the places it talks about, but I'm glad they are promoting it as a package deal. You can even download a guide at the website link above that includes tips and coupons for lodging. There are 2 great maritime museums included too. I also stumbled upon a website that has an archives for shipwrecks that is kind of fun and educational at http://www.wisconsinshipwrecks.org/. And if you're looking for an alternative to Black Friday shopping, head up to Two Rivers Rogers Street Fishing Village where they will reenact the sinking of the Christmas Tree Ship. Hmmm...what little boy wouldn't enjoy the drama of that? Thinking we'll try that with Omar.