Applegate v. Lexington & Carter County Mining Co.
117 U.S. 255 (1886)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Applegate v. Lexington & Carter County Mining Co., 117 U.S. 255 (1886)

Applegate v. Lexington & Carter County Mining Company

Argued March 4, 1886

Decided March 15, 1886

117 U.S. 255

Syllabus

When an ancient deed forms part of the original papers in a suit in a court of record to determine the title to land to which the deed relates, the record of the case is admissible against persons who are not parties or privies to the suit in order to prove the antiquity of the deed and to account for its custody.

Page 117 U. S. 256

An ancient, uncontradicted, and apparently genuine certificate of a recorder that a deed was recorded in a specified year long gone by, endorsed upon the original deed, is competent and sufficient evidence that the deed was put on record in the year named. Stebbins v. Duncan,108 U. S. 32, affirmed.

When it appears that a deed is at least thirty pears old and that it is found in proper custody, and possession under it is shown or other equivalent corroborative proof of authenticity, the deed may be admitted in evidence.

The Act of the Legislature of Kentucky of December 19, 1795, "to establish district courts in this commonwealth" conferred upon such a court jurisdiction over suits to foreclose mortgages upon real estate situated within its territorial jurisdiction.

When a court of general jurisdiction, empowered by statute to acquire by constructive notice jurisdiction over rights of nonresident defendants in property within its jurisdiction, takes jurisdiction of a cause involving such rights after ordering service of notice upon an absent defendant in the manner required by the statute and after the lapse of the requisite time for service, and adjudges the case, it will be presumed that every step necessary to obtain jurisdiction has been taken, unless the statute requires evidence of it to appear in the record.

This suit was in the nature of an action of ejectment to recover possession of a tract of land formerly in Mason County, but now in Greenup, Carter, and Boyd Counties, in Kentucky. The plaintiffs in error were the plaintiffs in the circuit court. They alleged in their petition that they were the lineal heirs of Carey L. Clark, who died seized of a tract of eight thousand three hundred and thirty-four acres, part of a tract of eighteen thousand acres, granted by patent from the Virginia, dated April 21, 1792, to Charles Fleeting, from whom their ancestor, Carey L. Clark, derived title by a regular chain of conveyances, that the plaintiffs were the owners, and entitled to the possession of the land sued for, and that the defendants had unlawfully entered upon and unlawfully withheld possession of the same.

The defendants, by their answers, denied these allegations and averred that they were seized of the premises by paramount title. The answers were traversed by the plaintiffs' reply.

There was a jury trial. The plaintiffs, to sustain the issue on their part, offered in evidence the following documents as links in their chain of title:

Page 117 U. S. 257

1. A copy, duly certified, from the land office of the State of Kentucky, of the patent from the State of Virginia to Charles Fleming, for the tract of land of which the land in controversy was originally a part.

2. A copy of the will of Charles Fleming, devising a moiety of said tract of land to William Fleming, John Bernard, Jr., and Richard Bernard, as trustees.

3. A copy of a deed from Samuel Sackett and wife to Joseph Conkling and others, dated August 29, 1795, for the particular land in controversy in this case, together with certain other tracts that had been patented by the State of Virginia to Charles Fleming.

4. A copy of a mortgage from Joseph Conkling and others, the grantees above named, to Samuel Sackett, the grantor above named, conveying the same lands as above, and dated August 29, 1795.

5. A copy of a deed from William Fleming and the Bernards, trustees as above under the will of Charles Fleming, to John Bryan, conveying to Bryan the lands devised to them by the will of Fleming, and dated December 31, 1796.

6. The original of the deed last named.

7. A copy of a deed from John Bryan and wife to Samuel Sackett, dated January 28, 1797, conveying the same land conveyed to Bryan by deed last above named.

8. The original of the deed last above named.

9. The original of a deed from Charles Fleming, dated August 8, 1784, to John and William Bryan, conveying to them 13,300 acres of the land that had been patented to said Charles Fleming, and being part of the 18,000 acre tract, of which tract the land in controversy is also a part.

10. A certified copy from the Mason County Circuit Court of the record in the case of Carey L. Clark v. Joseph Conkling and others, in which Clark, as the assignee of the above-mentioned mortgage of Joseph Conkling and others to Samuel Sackett, brought suit to foreclose the same.

It was shown that a short time before the trial in circuit court, deeds 6, 8 and 9 were discovered in the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Greenup County, Kentucky,

Page 117 U. S. 258

among the original papers in a suit brought there in 1816 to quiet title to part of the land conveyed by the deed of William Fleming and the Bernards to John Bryan. The deeds were produced by the court in obedience to a subpoena duces tecum.

The court admitted in evidence the first four of the documents above mentioned. All the others were rejected -- namely the original and a copy of the deed from William Fleming and the Bernards to John Bryan, the original and the copy of the deed from Bryan to Sackett, the original of the deed from Charles Fleming to John and William Bryan, and the copy of the record from the Mason County Circuit Court in the case of Clark v. Conkling and others.

The court having excluded these documents, the plaintiffs were unable to trace title to themselves for the premises in controversy. Thereupon the jury, under the instruction of the court, returned a verdict for the defendants, upon which the court rendered judgment, and the plaintiffs sued out this writ of error.

Page 117 U. S. 260

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