The first steamboat to descend the Ohio was the Orleans in 1811. As early as 1809, Nicholas Roosevelt, an associate of Fulton, had floated down the Ohio on a flatboat making measurements of the channels, water levels and noting coal deposits. After eighteen months of construction, at a cost of $38,000. the Orleans, with Captain Roosevelt and his family and crew left Pittsburgh on October 20, 1811. The boat first passed Cincinnati on its four day journey to Louisville. Because of low water at the falls of Louisville, the Orleans had to wait one month for higher water. During this time it steamed 141 miles back up the Ohio to Cincinnati.
Two years before, Mr. Roosevelt had said he would return in a steamboat, but no one had believed him. When the 116 foot long, bright blue steamboat laid anchor at Cincinnati, it seemed as if all the twenty-six hundred inhabitants gathered on the riverbank to watch.
No one who lived on the Ohio at that time will ever forget the amazing year 1811. On September 17, on a bright and cloudless day, the sun was eclipsed by the moon. In the fall, The Great Comet of 1811, with a head larger than the sun, blazed across the night heavens for months. Millions of squirrels began migrating south and died in the Ohio River. In December the strongest earthquake ever recorded in North America caused changes in the course of the Mississippi and other rivers. Even more amazing, in terms of the settlement of our ancestors, was the two thousand mile voyage of this first steamboat, the Orleans, from Pittsburgh, finally arriving in New Orleans on January 12, 1812.