St. Louis v. Knapp Company
104 U.S. 658 (1881)

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U.S. Supreme Court

St. Louis v. Knapp Company, 104 U.S. 658 (1881)

St. Louis v. Knapp Company

104 U.S. 658

Syllabus

Where the City of St. Louis filed its bill to enjoin the defendant from completing on his premises within the city a work then in the course of construction whereby the Mississippi River would be divided from its natural course and a deposit created rendering it impossible for boats and vessels to land at the city's wharf north or south of the premises, held that it is not necessary that the bill should relate all the minute circumstances which may be proved to establish its general allegations, and that the defendant should be required to answer it.

The City of St. Louis commenced this suit by petition filed in a state court. The suit, upon the application of the defendant, the Knapp, Stout, & Co. Company, a corporation created by the laws of Wisconsin, was removed into the Circuit Court of the United states. The defendant, treating the petition as a bill in equity, filed a demurrer, which was sustained. The bill was dismissed, and the city appealed. The record, therefore, presents the question, whether the city, upon the showing made, is entitled to the relief asked.

The case, as made by the bill, is this:

Since the year 1822 the city has been, as it still is, a municipal corporation. It has for its eastern boundary the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi River, and is the proprietor of the bed of that river within the city limits. By its charter, it is authorized to construct all needful improvements in the harbor; control, guide, or deflect the current of the river; erect, repair, and regulate public wharves and docks; regulate the stationing, anchoring, and mooring of vessels and wharf boats within the city; charge and collect wharfage, and set aside and lease portions of the improved wharf. By an ordinance to establish and open the wharf from Biddle Street to the northern and from Hazel Street to the southern boundary of the city, the lines of the wharf were laid down and established upon a certain piece of real estate fronting the river, and the southern boundary of which is about 320 feet north of the north line of Bremen Avenue, produced to the river. The defendant is

Page 104 U. S. 659

engaged in the business of manufacturing and selling lumber, and is erecting a saw mill upon the premises just described.

For the purpose of hauling saw logs from the river, the defendant is constructing a runway extending from the mill into the river, a distance of about one hundred fees eastwardly from its western bank. It is also driving piles in the bed of the river east of the eastern boundary of its premises, and east of the eastern line of the wharf, as established by the city. Portions of the wharf, established by the ordinance, to the north and to the south of defendant's premises, and improved and completed by the city, are used for landing boats and vessels engaged in navigation.

After averring, in substance, these facts, the bill proceeds:

"That the effect of driving the piles in the bed of the river and constructing the runway as aforesaid, as proposed and intended by defendant, will be to divert the navigable water of the Mississippi River from its natural course and throw it east of its natural location, and from along the river bank north and south of said runway and piling, and create, in front of and upon plaintiff's improved wharf as aforesaid, a deposit of mud and sediment, so that it will be impossible for boats and vessels engaged in navigating the Mississippi River to approach or land at the improved wharf north and south of defendant's premises."

The formal allegation is then made that the act of defendant, in building the proposed runway and driving piles east of the western water's edge and in the bed of the river, is a legal wrong for which no adequate remedy can be afforded by an action for damages, and will be a substantial impairment of, and obstruction to, the navigation of the river.

The prayer of the complaint is that the defendant, its agents and servants, be forever enjoined from driving piles and constructing its runways east of the western water's edge in front of its premises; that it be required to remove the piles already driven, and the runway so far as constructed; and that the city have such other and further relief in the premises as may be proper.

Page 104 U. S. 660

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