Q: 1811 is noted for:
1) largest slave revolt in U.S. history
2) historic steamboat voyage
3) huge earthquake
4) mass squirrel migration
5) comet sights
7) all of the above
200 years ago, the steamboat New Orleans travelled down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. The first steamboat on the waters west of the Allegheny Mountains, it would pass the Chickasaw Bluffs (later to become Memphis) and signal the commerce that would draw settlers westward along the rivers and create a national economy.
A bicentennial exhibit, on loan from The Rivers Institute at Hanover College, covers the incredibly eventful four month journey, and on Sat., Feb. 18th at 7pm Thomas D. Schiffer will speak on the steamboat adventure (free).
Nicholas Roosevelt (great uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt) with Robert Fulton built the steamboat New Orleans in Pittsburgh in 1810 and 1811, and in 1811 – 1812 made the journey down river with his wife Lydia Latrobe, daughter of architect Benjamin Latrobe. What a strange and eventful trip it was! Not only was the New Orleans the first steamboat to operate on the Western rivers, but, during most of the trip, the Great Comet of 1811, was in full view. A baby was born onboard, and migrating squirrels swimming in the Ohio River competed with the ship for right of way. As the New Orleans entered the Mississippi River, the first of the New Madrid earthquakes occurred, causing the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a time. Native Americans, believing that the steamboat was the comet come to earth and the cause of the earthquakes, attacked the steamboat in war canoes. As the ship passed through Louisiana, the territory was covered in a rare snowfall.