In the fall of 1778, after their mission to capture Illinois was complete, Lieutenant Colonel Clark's men returned home to Virginia. They told their neighbors and their in-laws of what they had seen, and over the winter some decided to pack up their families and return west. These families would become the first Americans to settle Illinois. The first American settlements consisted of loose concentrations of farms occupied by members of the same extended family, and settlements were separated by several miles. These clusters of family farms often developed informal place names, such as Turkey Hill, Shiloh, Ridge Prairie, or Goshen. The shape, size, and boundaries of these settlements seem to have been based on the size of the families that created them, as well as the topography of the area. The first American settlers in a frontier region chose ground, built homes, and plowed fields on lands that they did not and could not own.
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