Flatboats were used by many who settled Southwest Ohio. A boat of many names; “Immigrant Boat”, “Kentucky Broadhorn”, “Ark” these wooden rectangle vessels were made in varying sizes based on their use for freight or family. Ohio River cities such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Wheeling, West Virginia were major disembarkation points for settlers heading into the Ohio Valley. Because of this, flatboat building businesses were common there. Lacking a keel, these boats were steered by a large “sweep” in the stern that was between 30-50- long and or more small “gougers” in the bow. These boats were made from local hardwoods and were often disassembled once their destination was reached to serve as the settler’s first home. By 1810, as many as 3,000 flatboats a year descended the Ohio River to Southwest Ohio and other places further West.
Heritage Village Museum has recreated the flatboat style most commonly used by settlers descending the Ohio River. Size and amenities, such as a cabin, often varied by the financial capabilities of the family purchasing the boat. Personal belongings and supplies were often kept in the bow, cabin area, and roof while the stern was reserved for livestock. The construction of this flatboat was made possible by W. E. Smith Family Charitable Trust, Thrivent Financial, Carson’s Lumbermill, Nupak Oakum, and Heritage Village Museum volunteers.