Wright v. Roseberry
121 U.S. 488 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wright v. Roseberry, 121 U.S. 488 (1887)

Wright v. Roseberry

Submitted March 21, 1887

Decided May 2, 1887

121 U.S. 488

Syllabus

The grant of swamp and overflowed lands to the several states by Act of September 28, 1850, is one in praesenti, passing title to the lands of the character therein described from its date, and requiring only identification thereof to render such title perfect.

Such identification by the Secretary of the Interior is conclusive against collateral attack as being the judgment of the special tribunal on which such duty was imposed.

On neglect or failure of that officer to make such designation, it is competent for the grantees of the state to identify the lands in any other appropriate mode to prevent their rights from being defeated.

After segregation of the lands by the state and adoption of the segregation surveys by the proper federal officers, the right of the state's grantees to maintain an action for recovery thereof cannot be defeated because such lands have not been certified or patented to the state.

The issue of patents for these lauds to defendants or their grantors under the preemption laws upon claims initiated subsequent to the swamp grant to the state is not conclusive at law as against parties claiming under such grant, and in an action for their possession, evidence is admissible to determine whether or not the lands were in fact swamp and overflowed at the date of the swamp land grant; if proved to have been such, the rights of subsequent claimants under other laws are subordinate thereto.

The provisions contained in § 1 of the Act of July 23, 1866, "to quiet land titles in California," do not relate to the swamp lands granted to the state by the Act of September 8, 1850; the provisions in §§ 4 and 5 relate to swamp lands.

The legislation of Congress respecting swamp lands, the Departmental construction of that legislation, the line of decisions by this Court respecting it, and the decisions of the highest courts of many of the states concerning it stated.

This is an action to recover possession of a tract of land situated in the County of Yolo, in the State of California,

Page 121 U. S. 489

consisting, according to the public surveys, of portions of sections 24, 25, and 36, of township 11 north, range 2 east, in that county, and embracing 560 acres. The land is particularly described as follows: The north half of the southeast quarter, and the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section twenty-four (24), the east half of the northeast quarter and the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of section twenty-five (25), and the northeast quarter of section thirty-six (36), all in township eleven (11) north, range two (2) east, Mount Diablo base and meridian. It is alleged to be swamp and overflowed land, which was granted to the state by the Act of Congress of September 28, 1850, "to enable the State of Arkansas and other states to reclaim the swamp lands within their limits." 9 Stat. 519. The complaint is in the usual form in such actions, alleging the plaintiff's seizing in fee of the land and his right of possession, the unlawful entry thereon of the defendants, and their ousting him therefrom, and their continued withholding of the possession, to his damage of $1,000. It also alleges that the rents and profits of the land are of the value of $560 a year. The prayer is for judgment of restitution of the premises and for the damages, rents, and profits claimed.

Two of the defendants united in their answer, one of them being a tenant of the other; the other defendants answered separately. All denied the allegations of the complaint, and, except in the case of the tenant, asserted ownership in fee of portions of the demanded premises, which they described in their respective answers, and all set up the statute of limitations in bar of the action.

The action was twice tried by the state district court in which it was commenced, and, by stipulation of parties, without a jury. At both trials the plaintiff asserted title to the premises as swamp and overflowed lands by conveyance from parties who had purchased them from the state. The defendants claimed the premises through patents of the United States, issued under the preemption laws to them or to parties from whom they derived their interest. On the first trial, the

Page 121 U. S. 490

court found that 160 acres were swamp and overflowed land on the 28th of September, 1850, within the meaning of the act of Congress of that date, and gave judgment in favor of the plaintiff for their possession, but as to the other portions of the premises, the court failed to find whether or not the plaintiff was the owner thereof or entitled to their possession. For this failure the supreme court of the state, on appeal, reversed the judgment and remanded the cause to the district court with directions to find upon those issues from the evidence already taken and such further evidence as might be adduced, and to render judgment upon the whole case. Upon the second trial thus ordered, further testimony was accordingly taken. The court thereupon set aside its previous findings, found on all the issues in favor of the defendants, and gave judgment in their favor. On appeal to the supreme court, this judgment was affirmed.

Page 121 U. S. 494

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