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Hillsboro is located at (39.665586, -89.817069). According to the 2010 census, Hillsboro has a total area of , all land. The city lies on high ground above the north bank of the Kaskaskia River in west-central Illinois and is surrounded by agricultural fields and low hills that are part of a larger region known as "Little Egypt". Hillsboro was founded in 1825 near Fort Clark (now defunct), which had been constructed two years earlier under orders from General Anthony Wayne during his campaign against Native Americans who were resisting American expansion into their territory following victory over Great Britain in the War for Independence. The town's original name was Clarksville but it changed to honor John Hill, an early settler who donated land for its first church building and became one of its leading citizens until he died suddenly while still quite young; his wife Mary then took charge as postmistress until her death several decades later when she was succeeded by her son William Henry Hill Jr.