The Christmas Tree Ships

an oldie but a goodie for #TBT!


Above is a portrait of Elsie Schuenemann at the wheel of the Christmas Ship, near the Clark Street Bridge on the Chicago River in the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois. The boat carried Christmas trees to Chicago from Michigan. Her father, Captain H. Schuenemann, died when the Rouse Simmons, a ship carrying Christmas trees, sank in 1912.

The trees behind her likely came from the woods of Escanaba. Though the story of Barbara Schuenemann and her three daughters carrying on the tradition of the Christmas Tree Ships has perhaps been a little over-romanticized, there can be little doubt that the Schuenemann family and the many others who participated in the difficult trade of hauling Christmas trees south as the storms of winter closed in were heroes cut from a cloth that isn’t found too often today.

If you’d like to read more about all the Christmas tree ships (there were many more than just the famous Rouse Simmons) I recommend Christmas Tree Ships from Fred Neuschel. He has also written a book called Lives and Legends of the Christmas Tree Ships (available from UM Press). The National Archive also has The Christmas Tree Ship: Captain Herman E. Schuenemann and the Schooner Rouse Simmons that details the Schuenemann’s story.

You can also see Rich Evenhouse’s cool video of diving the Rouse Simmons.

We’ve got you covered


DSC02766_tonemapped, photo by ansonredford.

I thought I’d feature a photo from our Michigan Cover Photos Group. You can add pics to it if you want to have them featured on our Michigan in Pictures Facebook and also the Absolute Michigan Facebook.

Recently we featured Donald’s photo of one of the sculptures on the Wayne County Courthouse. This is one of four that depict Law, Commerce, Agriculture, and Mechanics. They were executed by sculptor J. Massey Rhind.

Check it out background bigtacular and see some more including an amazing HDR of the courrthouse in Donald’s slideshow.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Sunset

Reflecting Light – Eagle Harbor Lighthouse (Eagle Harbor, MI), photo by Aaron C. Jors.

Our tour of the lighthouses of the Keweenaw Peninsula with Aaron Jors continues with the light at Eagle Harbor.

The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse from Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light tells of the first light built in 1850 at the western point of Eagle Harbor built in 1850 and the rubble stone keeper’s dwelling with a square white-painted wooden tower integrated into one end of the roof. As with many lights built during the penny-pinching Pleasonton administration, the light was judged to be “laid together in the rudest manner” and targeted for replacement.

Rather than creating a unique set of plans for the new station, Eleventh District Engineer Brevet Brigadier General Orlando M. Poe resurrected a plan which had been previously used on Chambers Island in 1867 and at Eagle Bluff in 1868. After blasting out a hole for the cellar, the masons crafted a two-story dwelling red brick dwelling, 29-foot by 25-foot in plan, with an integrated 44-foot tall tower oriented diagonally into its northeastern corner. The exterior of the first and second stories of the tower were approximately ten feet square with buttressed corners, while the tower’s upper portion consisted of a ten-foot octagon. The tower was double-walled, with a circular inner wall approximately four inches thick and eight feet in diameter. This cylindrical inner wall supported a cast iron spiral staircase which wound from the oil storage room in the cellar to a hatch in the lantern floor. Since these spiral stairs also served as the only means of moving between floors in the dwelling, steel doors provided access to landings on both the first and second floors to prevent the spread of any fire in either the dwelling or tower.

Read on for much more and get information of visiting the lighthouse from the Keweenaw Historical Society.

Check this out bigger and in Aaron’s Lighthouses slideshow.

Many (many) more Michigan Lighthouses from Michigan in Pictures.

Signs of Spring in Michigan: Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer)

Spring Peeper Pseudacris crucifer

Untitled, photo by Tim Mayo.

The Michigan DNR’s page on Northern Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) says:

The tinkling of bells is a popular description of the spring peeper’s spring mating call. Spring peepers are one of the earliest callers among the dozen frog species found in Michigan. During the first warm evenings of spring in late March or early April through May, their distinctive single note, high pitched “peep” is considered a harbinger of spring. The intensity of calling increases and can become a deafening chorus during humid evenings or just after a warm spring rain when many males congregate.

Only the male frogs call. They establish territories near the edge of permanent or ephemeral wetlands. They may call from elevated perches of submerged grass or shrubs near the water. The faster and louder a male sings, the more likely he is to attract a mate.

The female will lay between 750-1,200 eggs. The strings or clumps are attached to twigs and aquatic vegetation. Depending on the temperatures, eggs may hatch within four days or may take up to two weeks during cooler periods. After another two to three months, young tadpoles are fully transformed into young frogs and leave the pond.
They resemble their parents with the most distinctive mark being a dark brown “X” (may be irregular or incomplete on some) on their lighter brown or tan back. They begin feeding on small food items like spiders, mites, ticks, pill bugs, ants, and caterpillars. By the end of the summer, they have reached the adult size of about 1 – 1 1/2 inches. As the days cool, the peepers dig into the soft mud near ponds for the winter. Still, during warm spells into the fall they can be confused and emerge to give their spring mating call.

The spring peeper is the most abundant of Michigan’s singing frogs and is common statewide. They prefer damp woodlands, swamps, and marshes. However, they still need protection – local populations around small ponds and wetlands can be highly susceptible to surface water runoff. These waters can carry chemicals, pesticides, or silt that can kill adults, eggs, or tadpoles. Good soil erosion practices and the careful application of pesticides and fertilizers are good for spring peepers.

The most distinctive thing about peepers is their call, which can become deafening in springtime. The Pseudacris crucifer (Spring Peeper) section from UM Animal Diversity Web has a short peeper call from Livingston County, and you can see a peeper peeping in this video.

Some more peeper particulars: Wikipedia’s Spring Peeper entry notes that their calls can be heard from as far as 1 – 2.5 miles depending on the number of peepers in a pond, that peepers generally like to breed when it is closer to dusk and throughout the evening and early morning hours, and that peepers can live up to 3 years in the wild. At Portage Lake in Washtenaw County, Michigan in the 1950s, surveys in March, April, and May found that spring peepers were the most abundant animals. The page on peepers from notes that spring peepers produce glucose (sugar) in their livers that acts as an anti-freeze and is pumped to vital organs including the heart and lungs to allow them to freeze and thaw without developing ice crystals. Our Peeper-pedia on Absolute Michigan has a few more links and a cool video of a Michigan peeper in action.

Check Tim’s photo out bigger and in his PJ Hoffmaster State Park slideshow.

More frogs on Michigan in Pictures.

Mystery Monday: Who Was R.S. Chamberlin?


Mystery!, photo by I am Jacques Strappe.

Yesterday Marjorie went hiking on a mountain near Marquette where she came across this carving that reads R.S. Chamberlin 10 20 1872. She writes:

Near the highest point of the mountain was a small outcrop of rock. This was carved into it — though it had been hidden by grass and pine needles until one in our party found it by chance and cleared it all away.

Check it out bigger, see more photos from the day in her slideshow and if you have ideas as to the identity of R.S. Chamberlin, post them here!

PS: Lots more (including a great profile) from Marjorie on Michigan in Pictures!

The Guru Of The Green and our science fiction moment

Guru Of The Green  -  Flint, Michigan

Guru Of The Green – Flint, Michigan, photo by J.M.Barclay.

“It’s almost like science fiction at this point.”
~Weather Underground weather historian, Christopher C. Burt

Dr. Jeff Masters flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990 and co-founded Ann Arbor-based The Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He’s Wunderground’s Senior Meteorologist and has been writing some insightful and frankly scary articles about what he calls “Summer in March” which has seen up to a week straight of record high temperatures. Yesterday he wrote:

Since record keeping began in the late 1800s, there have never been so many temperature records broken for spring warmth in a one-week period–and the margins by which some of the records were broken yesterday were truly astonishing. Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, commented to me yesterday, “it’s almost like science fiction at this point.” A few of the more remarkable records from yesterday:

Pellston, Michigan in the Northern Lower Peninsula is called “Michigan’s Icebox”, since it frequently records the coldest temperatures in the state, and in the entire nation. But the past five days, Pellston has set five consecutive records for hottest March day. Yesterday’s 85° reading broke the previous record for the date (53° in 2007) by a ridiculous 32°, and was an absurd 48°F above average.

The low temperature at Marquette, Michigan was 52° yesterday, which was 3° warmer than the previous record high for the date!

Also don’t miss this article where Jeff looks at how extraordinarily rare for climate locations with 100+ year long periods of records to break records day after day after day.

James snapped this amazing capture of the Guru frozen above some green water left over from St Patrick’s Day at Flint’s Riverbank Park. Check it out bigger and in his free run sun slideshow with some Free Running / Parkour action. He also has a show starting Saturday – details on his Facebook.

Morel Season in Michigan in March??

A real pretty White Morel

A real pretty White Morel, photo by rickrjw.

“We are seeing the unusual becoming the norm.”
~Nate Fuller, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Michigan’s strange “Summer Spring” has seen magnolias, cherries, trillium, daffodils and all manner of plants blooming more or less at once under the pressure cooker of a week of 70 and 80 degree days. For some reason the news that morel mushrooms are being found already in Southwest Michigan has been the most shocking to me of all the action of so far. Hunters from further north in Manistee & Traverse City reported finding tiny ones as well at

You can usually set your clock to morels in late April to early May, but it appears we have to revise our The general wisdom appears to be that although it is very early and pretty dry out there, forecast rain over the next few days could bring these delicious woodland treasures out.

Rick found this beauty last year around Boyne City. Check it out background bigilicious and see more in his mushroom slideshow.

Much more Michigan morel info on Michigan in Pictures.

March is the new May


Beach, photo by Second Glance Photos Kevin Ryan.

What a crazy weekend, with sunny & 70s recorded all over Michigan on St Patrick’s Day weekend and record temps set in many places yesterday including 82 degrees in my home of Traverse City.

82. In March. Add to that mosquitos biting, forsythia blooming and even spring peepers peeping and it’s clear that March IS the new May!!

Kevin shot this on Saturday in 75 degree weather at the beach in Grand Haven. Check this out bigger and in his pier/sunset slideshow.

Corktown, the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day in Michigan

Saint Patrick's Day Parade

Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, photo by *Alysa*.

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.
~Irish Blessing

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Detroit had their parade last weekend but there are events on tap today and tomorrow in Bay City, Clare, Flint, Kalamazoo, Grand Ledge,  Saugatuck, Traverse City and Muskegon.

Ground zero for the Irish in Michigan is Corktown. Wikipedia notes that it is Detroit’s oldest neighborhood explaining:

The roots of Corktown lie in the Great Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s. The Irish immigrated to the United States in droves, and by the middle of the 19th century, they were the largest ethnic group settling in Detroit. Many of these newcomers settled on the west side of the city; they were primarily from County Cork, and thus the neighborhood came to be known as Corktown. By the early 1850’s, half of the population of the 8th Ward (which contained Corktown) were of Irish descent

The Corktown Historical Society has a cool slideshow of historic photos and brochure images and you might want to check out the Corktown Explorer blog.

The Irish in Michigan from Seeking Michigan has some information about Corktown but adds that:

Irish immigrants to Michigan certainly did not limit themselves to settling in the urban hub of Detroit, with many of them making their way up north. In the 1830s, Irish immigrants settled in fishing camps on Mackinac and Beaver Islands. Today, a large portion of Beaver Island’s year-round residents are of Irish descent. Wexford, Clare, Emmet and Antrim counties in the northern Lower Peninsula are all named after counties in Ireland. Irish immigrants were also instrumental to the copper mining boom in the Upper Peninsula. Nearly one-third of the area’s foreign-born population was from Ireland in 1870, though the Irish population would decline by 1920. Many small Irish communities could also be found scattered throughout the Lower Peninsula in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Wherever you are and whoever your ancestors were, here’s hoping you have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day holiday!

Check this out bigger and in Ann Lysa’s slideshow.

Into the Maelstrom: Winter Surfing in Frankfort

Frankfort Winter Surfing

Frankfort Winter Surfing, photo by lomeranger.

Sure, you’re crazy. But are you crazy enough for 17′ waves and 40 degree water?

See this photo from Frankfort bigger and purchase if you want at Jason’s Zenfolio.

More Michigan surfing on Michigan in Pictures!