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Christmas Tree Ship Arrives In Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A US Coast Guard ship arrived Saturday at Navy Pier with 1,200 Christmas trees for needy families.

It's a reenactment of a Chicago tradition from the late 1800's.

The Coast Guard Cutter the Mackinaw Christmas tree ship sailed from the upper peninsula following the route the original Christmas tree ship the Rouse Simmons sailed when it went down in a storm in 1912.

"Just like in 1912, we encountered one of those infamous gales of November," said Commander John Stone, who added that they sailed directly over the spot where the ship went down.

"And we conducted a solemn ceremony."

Captain Dave Truitt of the Chicago Christmas Tree Committee says the Captain of the Rouse Simmons, Herman Schuenemann, was a larger-than-life character, whose arrival in Chicago was always cause for celebration.

"Everyone loved him," says Truitt. "He was German. He drank beer."

The wooden ship sits on the bottom of Lake Michigan off Two Rivers Wisconsin.

The skeletons of Christmas trees are still in the hold.

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