People sailed anything that would float down the Ohio River. Settlers would build a barge - commonly called a flatboat - large enough to hold their belongings and livestock. They'd float it to their homestead site, then use the wood from the flatboat to build a house. Farmers would sail a flatboat full of cargo all the way to New Orleans. They'd sell the cargo and then sell the flatboat for its wood, purchasing horses for the ride back home.
Return trips on the river were nearly impossible until someone invented the keelboat.