In this holiday season we often see or hear the story of “The Christmas tree Ship.” Indeed, it was popularized in Dwight Boyer’s book “Great Stories of the Great Lakes” in 1966. Yet in repeated versions of the story there are some important facts that are rarely, if ever mentioned.
The part of the story that you rarely, if ever are told is that Captain Herman Schuenemann, was not the only skipper of a Christmas tree ship, there were in fact may others. Interestingly, Captain Herman Schuenemann was not the only one in his family business hauling green joy down the lake… he had a brother, who was also lost when his tree-hauling schooner was swallowed by Lake Michigan. August Schuenemann was engaged in the Christmas tree trade before his brother Herman became a vessel master. He too was not in it for the purpose of bringing holiday joy to the masses in Chicago, but to instead round out the sailing season with a profit. In November of 1898 August Schuenemann was the master of the schooner S. THAL. The boat had taken aboard a full load of trees at Sturgeon Bay and headed to Chicago. Built in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1867 the THAL was just 75 feet long, 20 feet wide and 4 and ½ feet in depth. No doubt she was loaded to the gunnels as the Schuenemann family was determined to get every penny out of this trip.