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New Orleans Steamboat


Information comes from Thrills of the Historic Ohio River by Frank Y Grayson;
published in the Cincinnati Times-Star 1929


It was on the afternoon of a glorious autumn day, October 27, 1811.  The forested hills of Kentucky and Ohio were aflame with color. A horseman, whose black steed was panting and all a-lather, galloped over the sun baked dirt of Congress Street in Cincinnati; shouting almost unbelievable news.

"Hear ye!" yelled the courier. "Down the river proceeds a steamboat. She's a-rounding the bend."  The startling news emptied dwelling after dwelling, store after store on both sides of the river.  Women forsook their household cares and seizing their children by the hands, ran down to the riverbank. Dignified businessmen, merchant princes, manufacturers and artisans leaped from their chairs. All eyes were turned up the river to rest upon a spot on the horizon where a plume of gray smoke was spiraling heavenward.

Around the bend where the Kentucky shore juts out into the streams, which is just eat of the present Torrence Road pumping station, a strange looking craft pushed her blunt nose, with white water breaking about her bow.  She was said to be almost a duplicate of the Clermont, Fulton's steamer that had made navigation history on the Hudson.  A single lofty stack surmounted her, set well forward.  There was a little pilothouse in front.  She was a sidewheeler, and her paddles were exposed.  She sat rather low in the water and her lines were somewhat rakish.  The boat was much larger than the awkward barges and keelboats she and her kind were fated to supplant.  The boat that visited Cincinnati and Newport bore the name of New Orleans and was in command of Nicholas J Roosevelt, a grand-uncle of Theodore Roosevelt, later President of the United States. Nicholas Roosevelt built the steamboat New Orleans in Pittsburgh in 1810 and 1811, in association with Robert Fulton. Nicholas and his wife Lydia Latrobe, daughter of architect Benjamin Latrobe, then steamed down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans in 1811 and 1812.

Schedule of the New Orleans while in New Orleans, Louisiana 1811-1812

The consternation caused by the passage of the New Orleans down the river was graphically described by the late P S Bush of Covington, Kentucky, as follows:

"In the fall of the year 1811, my father was residing on the Ohio River opposite General Harrison's farm at North Bend.  The family was much surprised one day by seeing the young Mr. Weldons running down the riverbank, much alarmed and shouting. 'The Britist are coming down the river.'  There had, of course, been a current rumor of war with that power.  All the family immediately ran to the bank.  We saw something, I knew not what but supposed it was a sawmill from the working of the level beam, making a slow but solemn progress with the current.  We were shortly afterward informed that it was a steamboat."

As she neared the bank where the entire population of the towns was massed, the watchers could hear the hissing of the elastic vapor and a great clatter of rude engines, two in number, arranged on the port and larboard sides.  To the accompaniment of tremendous cheering for the onlookers, the New Orleans rounded to in midstream and cast anchor.  The spectators marveled with they were informed that only two days had been required to make the trip from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati.

Liberty Hall was the newspaper of that period.  In the following blunt words, that newspaper treated the coming of the first steamboat thusly.  "The steamboat lately built at Pittsburg passed this town at five o'clock in fine style, going at the rate of ten to twelve miles an hour."

On her return trip, on which she definitely settled the moot question whether she would stem the current under steam power, she was received with even greater enthusiasm that the outburst which marked her descent.  There was a comet visible when she returned from Louisville and the hissing sounds of the engines were believed to have been caused by the comet falling into the river.  While she was on her journey there were several earthquakes, and the tremors were ascribed to the disturbance of the waters caused by the passage of the New Orleans.

The New Orleans performed thirteen trips a year and her revenues for a single trip were $2400, which made her annual earnings $31,200.  Her expenses were twelve hands at thirty dollars a month; captain's salary $1000; seventy cords of wood at $1.75 a cord; and other incidentals, bringing the boat's total expenses of operation to $6,900.


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