Lives and Legends of the Christmas Tree Ships brings the maritime heritage of the Great Lakes to life, using the tragic story of the schooner Rouse Simmons as a window into the robust but oft-forgotten communities that thrived along Lake Michigan from the Civil War to World War I.
Memorialized in songs, poems, fiction, and even a musical, the famous ship that went down in a Thanksgiving storm while delivering Christmas trees to Chicago has long been shrouded in myth and legend. As a result, the larger story of the captain, crew, and affected communities has often been overlooked. Fred Neuschel delves into this everyday life of camaraderie, drudgery, ambition, and adventure—with tales of the Midwest's burgeoning immigrant groups and rapid industrialization—to create a true story that is even more fascinating than the celebrated legends.
Cover art by Charles Vickery courtesy of The Clipper Ship Gallery
Fred Neuschel was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and lives with his wife in Crystal Lake, Illinois. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School and has worked for thirty years in mental health chaplaincy and counseling. His previous historical work has been published in Inland Seas, Voyageur, Chicago History, and Wisconsin Magazine of History.