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What does "laid claim to earlier" mean?

" He found it near Little Pigeon Creek on a plot of land he had claim to earlier"

For learning: English
Base language: English
Category: Language

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    The phrase "laid claim to" means that he had previously claimed the ground as his own. The US government allowed settlers to "stake their claim" on land that had no previous official ownership.

    (How this affected the native American peoples that were already living on these lands is for another discussion.)

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