St. Louis v. RutzAnnotate this Case
138 U.S. 226 (1891)
U.S. Supreme Court
St. Louis v. Rutz, 138 U.S. 226 (1891)
St. Louis v. Rutz
Submitted January 5, 1891
Decided February 2, 1891
138 U.S. 226
In this case, certain land formed by accretion on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River in St. Clair County, Illinois, was held to belong to the plaintiff as part of certain surveys in the common fields of Prairie du Pont, in Illinois, and not to belong to the City of St. Louis, Missouri, as an accretion to and part of an island in that city called "Arsenal Island" or "Quarantine Island" on the Missouri side of the river, which island was originally more than a mile higher up the river than said surveys.
By the law of Illinois, the title of the plaintiff extended to the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi River.
It is a rule of property in Illinois that the fee of the riparian owner of lands in that state bordering on the Mississippi River extends to the middle line of the main channel of the river.
The terms of the deed which conveyed title to the plaintiff construed as not limiting him to the line of low water mark on the river.
The sudden and perceptible loss of land on the premises conveyed to then plaintiff, which was visible in its progress, did not deprive the grantor of the plaintiff of his fee in the submerged land, nor change the boundaries of the surveys on the riverfront as they existed when the land commenced to be washed away.
If the bed of a stream changes imperceptibly by the gradual washing away of the banks, the line of the land bordering upon it changes with it, but if the change is by reason of a freshet and occurs suddenly, the line remains as it was originally.
If an island or dry land forms upon that part of the bed of a river which is owned in fee by the riparian proprietor, the same is his property.
The right of accretion to an island in the river cannot be so extended lengthwise of the river as to exclude riparian proprietors above or below such island from access to the river, as such riparian proprietors.
The law of title by accretion can have no application to a movable island, traveling for more than a mile and from one state to another, for its progress is not imperceptible in a legal sense.
Ejectment. The docket title to this case is Benjamin Seeger and the City of St. Louis against Edward Butz. The death of Seeger was suggested by counsel on the 5th of January, 1891, and thereupon, an order being entered that the
case proceed in the name of the surviving plaintiff, the cause was on the same day submitted.
The case, as stated by the Court, was as follows:
This is an action of ejectment, commenced January 29, 1884, by Edward Rutz against Benjamin Seeger in the Circuit Court of the County of St. Clair, in the State of Illinois, to recover the possession of certain land situated in said county, described in the first count of the declaration as follows:
"Commencing the survey thereof at a point on the line between surveys one hundred and forty-eight (148) and one hundred and forty-nine, in the common fields of Prairie du Pont, from which the southernmost corner of said survey number one hundred and forty-eight at the bluffs, bears S., 33 1/2
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