Washington & Idaho R. Co. v. Coeur d'Alene Ry.
160 U.S. 77 (1895)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Washington & Idaho R. Co. v. Coeur d'Alene Ry., 160 U.S. 77 (1895)

Washington and Idaho Railroad Company v.

Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company

No. 585

Argued November 13-14, 1895

Decided December 2, 1895

160 U.S. 77

Syllabus

An action commenced May 27, 1889, in the District Court of the Territory of Idaho, before the admission of Idaho as a state, by a corporation organized under the laws of Washington Territory, against a corporation organized under the laws of Montana Territory and against a railroad company organized under the laws of the United States, upon which latter company service had been made and filed, was, after the admission of Idaho as a state, removable to the circuit court of the United States for that circuit both upon the ground of diversity of citizenship of the territorial corporations, and upon the ground that the railroad company was incorporated under a law of the United States, and, so far as the latter ground of removal is concerned, it is not affected by the fact that the railroad company afterwards ceased to take an active part in the case, as the jurisdictional question must be determined by the record at the time of the transfer.

The provision in the Act of March 3, 1875, c. 152, 18 Stat. 482, granting the

Page 160 U. S. 78

right of way through the public lands of the United States to any railroad duly organized under the laws of any state or territory which shall have filed with the Secretary of the Interior a copy of its articles of incorporation and due proofs of its organization under the same, plainly means that no corporation can acquire a right of way upon a line not described in its charter or articles of incorporation.

When a court of law is construing an instrument, whether a public law or a private contract, it is legitimate, if two constructions are fairly possible, to adopt that one which equity would favor.

On May 15, 1889, the Washington & Idaho Railroad Company, describing itself as a corporation duly organized under the laws of Washington Territory, brought an action of ejectment in the District Court of the First Judicial District of the Territory of Idaho against the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company, as a corporation duly organized under the laws of Montana Territory, and the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, as a corporation duly organized under the laws of the United States. The complainant alleged that on the 10th day of July, 1887, the plaintiff was lawfully possessed, as owner in fee simple, of a certain tract of land situated in Shoshone County, Idaho Territory, being the right of way of plaintiff's railroad, consisting of a strip of land two hundred feet in width and about four thousand feet in length; that the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company, on the 1st day of August, 1887, entered into possession of the demanded premises, and ousted and ejected the plaintiff therefrom; that the defendant the Northern Pacific Railroad Company claimed to be in possession of said premises as a tenant of the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company, and was actually in the possession of said premises at the time of the institution of the suit; that the value of the rents, issues, and profits of the said premises while the plaintiff was excluded therefrom is five thousand dollars; that the plaintiff was still the owner in fee simple, and entitled to the possession of said premises, and plaintiff demanded judgment against the said defendants for the possession of the demanded premises, and for the sum of six thousand dollars as damages.

A writ of summons against the defendants was sued out,

Page 160 U. S. 79

and on the 27th day of May, 1889, was returned as served on the said defendants by the delivery of a copy thereof to their authorized agent. On May 31, 1889, the separate answer of the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company was filed, denying the plaintiff's title and claiming that defendant had, in good faith and without any knowledge that the plaintiff claimed any interest therein, entered into possession of the described land, and, in the belief that it was the owner thereof, had constructed thereon its railroad and its depot at an expense exceeding seven thousand dollars; that the plaintiff knew that the defendant was constructing its railroad and depot as aforesaid, and permitted the same to be done without making any claim to said premises, wherefore defendant claimed judgment that the plaintiff should take nothing by the action, that the plaintiff should be declared to be estopped from claiming title to said premises, and that the defendant should have such other and further relief as should be just and equitable.

On the 3d day of July, 1890, by virtue of an act of Congress of that date, the said Territory of Idaho became a state, and on August 27, 1890, the defendants filed a petition in the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho praying for the removal of said case to the Circuit Court of the United States, Ninth Circuit, in and for the District of Idaho, and the case was so proceeded in that, on December 6, 1892, a final judgment was entered, adjudging that the plaintiff, the Washington and Idaho Railroad Company, should take nothing by the action, and that the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company should have judgment against the said plaintiff for its costs.

The trial in the circuit court was by the court, a jury having been waived by both parties. The court made the following findings of fact:

"First. That on the 6th day of July, 1886, the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company filed its articles of incorporation in the office of the Secretary of the Territory (now State) of Montana, and also filed in the office of the County Clerk and Recorder of the County of Lewis

Page 160 U. S. 80

and Clarke, in said territory, a certified copy of its said articles of incorporation, which articles of incorporation are in words and figures following, to-wit:"

"Territory of Montana"

" ss:"

"County of Lewis and Clarke"

" We, Daniel C. Corbin, Samuel T. Hauser, Anton H. Holter, of the City of Helena, in the County of Lewis and Clarke, Territory of Montana; Stephen S. Glidden, of Spokane Falls, Washington Territory; James F. Wardener, of Wardener, in the Territory of Idaho; James Monaghan, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho territory, and Alfred M. Esler, of said Helena, Montana, do by these presents, pursuant to and in conformity with article 3 of chapter 15 of the Revised Statutes of Montana, entitled 'Railroad Corporations,' and all acts supplemental thereto or amendatory thereof, associate ourselves together and form a corporation for the purpose of locating, constructing, maintaining, and operating railroads in the territories of Montana and Idaho, and to that end we do hereby certify as follows:"

" First. The name of such corporation by which it shall be known shall be 'The Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company.'"

" Second. The termini of said railroad are to be located in the County of Missoula, Territory of Montana, and in the Counties of Kootenai and Shoshone, in the Territory of Idaho, and, if said corporation shall so determine, termini may also be located in the County of Nez Perces, in said Territory of Idaho. Said railroad shall pass through said Counties of Missoula, Kootenai, and Shoshone, and, if said corporation shall so determine, then said railroad shall also pass through said County of Nez Perces, and the general route of said railroad shall be as follows: commencing at or near the Town of Thompson's Falls, in said County of Missoula, or at some convenient point between said Thompson's Falls and the western boundary line of said Territory of Montana; thence running westerly or southwesterly to that certain tributary of Coeur d'Alene River known as the 'South Fork;' thence down the South Fork and Coeur d'Alene River to Old Mission, connecting with steamboats or other watercraft, to be owned and

Page 160 U. S. 81

operated by said corporation, said steamboats or other craft to ply between said Old Mission and the Town of Coeur d'Alene; and, if said corporation shall so determine, then said railroad shall again commence at said Town of Coeur d'Alene, and run northwesterly to Rathdrum, in said County of Kootenai, or such point on the line of the Northern Pacific Railroad between Rathdrum and the western boundary of Idaho Territory as said corporation may hereafter determine, with the right and privilege, if said corporation shall see proper, to run a branch or extension of said road in a southerly direction from said Shoshone County to the said County of Nez Perces, said steamboats or other water craft between the points in that behalf above specified to be used in connection with and as constituting a part of said railroad."

" Third. The amount of capital stock necessary to construct such roads, including said connections, is five hundred thousand dollars, divided into five thousand shares of one hundred dollars each."

" Fourth. The principal place of business of said corporation in the Territory of Montana shall be at Helena, in the County of Lewis and Clarke, and principal place of business of said corporation in the Territory of Idaho shall, until otherwise fixed by the board of directors of said corporation, be at Coeur d'Alene, in the said County of Kootenai."

"Second. That the line of route of the railroad of the said Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company, as described in said article of incorporation, passes over and includes the ground in controversy in this action."

"Third. That on the 20th day of July, 1886, the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company filed in the office of the Secretary of the Interior at Washington, D.C., a certified copy of its said articles of incorporation, and proofs of its organization under the laws of the Territory (now State) of Montana, which certified copy of articles of incorporation and proofs of organization were duly approved on that day by the honorable Secretary of the Interior."

"Fourth. That in the summer and fall of 1886, the defendant

Page 160 U. S. 82

the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company constructed its railroad over said line of route as described in said articles of incorporation from the said Old Mission up the main Coeur d'Alene River to the Town of Kingston, and thence up the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River to the Town of Wardener Junction, a distance of about fourteen miles, and that in the month of October, 1886, the said defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company, for the purpose of extending its line of railroad, caused a survey to be made for its said line of railroad from said Wardener Junction up the said fork of the Coeur d'Alene River, over the line described in its said articles of incorporation, through the Towns of Wallace and Mullen, and marked the center line of said road upon the ground by planting stakes at each station at one hundred feet, and at such other points as there were angles in the line, so that the line of route of said road could be readily traced upon the ground, and that the said surveying and marking of said line was completed on the 31st day of October, 1886. That in making said survey, the engineers of said Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company ran three lines through said Town of Wallace, called lines A, B, and C, said lines A and B both being on the south side of the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River, and the said line C being on the north side of said river, and being the line upon which the railroad of the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company was afterwards constructed, and upon the ground now in controversy in this action. That in the month of October, 1886, and about one week after the commencement of the said survey by the engineers of the said Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company, W. H. Burrage, an engineer, with a party of assistants claiming to be acting for the plaintiff, commenced surveying a line of route for a railroad from near the Town of Wardener, up the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River, to the said Town of Mullen, and that in making said survey, the said Burrage and the party assisting him were several days and several miles behind the engineers surveying for the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company, and that, in surveying their

Page 160 U. S. 83

line through the Town of Wallace, said Burrage surveyed the same on the north side of said river, and over the ground in controversy, and that said Burrage and party also marked their line in a similar manner to what the engineers of the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company had done, and that said Burrage and party completed their survey on the 5th day of November, 1886, and that said portion of said line run by said Burrage over the ground in controversy was run on the 28th day of October, 1886, and that said line C run by the engineers of the said Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company over the land in controversy was run on the 29th day of October, 1886, and that all of the parts of the line of the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company except said line C was run and marked prior to the line run by the said Burrage, said line C being run by the engineers of the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company as an amendment after they had completed the survey to the Town of Mullen."

"Fifth. That in the summer and fall of 1887, the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company extended its road from the Town of Wardener Junction over its line of survey, a point about one mile east of the Town of Wallace, and over said line C, the ground in controversy in this action, through the Town of Wallace, and at all times thereafter, up to and at the time of the commencement of this action, occupied and used the same as a railroad and for railroad purposes, and at the time of the commencement of this action had its roadbed and track, and side tracks and depot thereon, and was using the same exclusively for railroad purposes."

"Sixth. That at all the times above mentioned, the lands in controversy, and all other lands along the line of said railroad of the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company, as described in its articles of incorporation, were unsurveyed public lands of the United States."

"Seventh. That on the 7th day of July, 1886, the articles of incorporation of the plaintiff, the Washington and Idaho Railroad Company, were filed in the office of the Secretary of the Territory (now State) of Washington; that by said articles

Page 160 U. S. 84

of incorporation so filed, the plaintiff was authorized to construct a railroad from the Town of Farmington, in Washington Territory, by the most practical route, in general northerly direction, to a point at or near the Town of Spokane Falls (now Spokane), in said Washington Territory, together with the following branch lines tributary thereto: from a junction with the said main line at the forks of Hangman Creek, near Lone Pine, in said Washington Territory, in a general northeastern direction, across the Coeur d'Alene Indian reservation, to a point near the mouth of St. Joseph's River on Coeur d'Alene Lake; thence in a northerly direction along the east side of Coeur d'Alene Lake to the Coeur d'Alene River; thence in a general easterly direction to Coeur d'Alene River; thence in a general easterly direction to Coeur d'Alene Mission; thence in a southeasterly direction, by the valley of the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River to Wardener, in Idaho Territory. Second. From a junction with said main line at or near the Town of Spangle, in Washington Territory, in a generally northeasterly direction, to a point on Coeur d'Alene Lake, about five miles north of the mouth of the Coeur d'Alene River, in said Idaho Territory. And to maintain and operate such railroads and telegraph lines and branches thereof, carry freight and passengers thereon, and receive tolls therefor."

"Eighth. That the said line of railroad, as described in the said articles of incorporation of the plaintiff, nor any of the branches thereof, did not cover or include the ground in controversy, or any part thereof, or of the valley of the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River adjacent thereto; that the eastern terminus of the said branch of railroad running in the direction of the Town of Wallace, as described in said articles, was at the Town of Wardener, a distance of about fifteen miles westerly from the Town of Wallace and from the land in controversy herein."

"Ninth. That afterwards, to-wit, on the 10th day of November, 1886, and after the completion of said survey by said Burrage and the said survey by the engineers of the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company over the premises in controversy herein, the plaintiff filed in

Page 160 U. S. 85

the office of the Secretary of the Territory (now State) of Washington supplemental articles of incorporation, which supplemental articles of incorporation provided for a branch line of its railroad from the Town of Milo (which is near Wardener), in Shoshone County, Idaho, following the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River to the Town of Mullen, in said territory, a distance of about twenty miles, which extension would pass over the premises in controversy."

"Tenth. That on the 22d day of December, 1886, the plaintiff filed in the office of the Secretary of the Interior at Washington, D.C., a copy of its said articles of incorporation and a copy of the statute of the Territory of Washington under which the plaintiff's incorporation was made, and proof of its organization."

"Eleventh. That from the time of the making of the said survey by said Burrage over the land in controversy, on the 28th day of October, 1886 until long after the completion of the railroad, side tracks, and depot of the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company upon the ground in controversy, neither the said Burrage nor the plaintiff, nor any person for them or either of them, ever made any other survey or did any other act upon the premises in controversy or took any possession thereof, and that the first act done by said Burrage or the plaintiff upon said premises thereafter was the survey made thereon in the year 1888 by the plaintiff, and that at that time the railroad and the side track and depot of the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company was fully constructed thereon, and had been so constructed thereon since the fall of 1887, and the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company was in full and complete operation and possession thereof and of the grounds in controversy herein."

"Twelfth. That the public surveys of the government were not extended over the land through which said surveys were made until in the month of July, 1891."

"Thirteenth. That on the 9th day of November, 1886, the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company filed in the United States land office at Coeur d'Alene,

Page 160 U. S. 86

Idaho, a map or profile of that portion of its railroad running through the Town of Wallace, which was approved by the Secretary of the Interior December 3, 1886, and that upon said map or profile, said line B, through said Town of Wallace, was platted as the line of route of said road; that line C was in fact and intended to be a definite line of location thereof, but that said line B was so platted by a mistake, and that said mistake was not discovered until after the completion of said railroad and side track and depot upon and over the ground in controversy herein, and that the filing of said plat, showing said road to run over said line B, was not done for the purpose of in any manner deceiving the plaintiff or anyone else, but was done by a mistake, as aforesaid, and that the plaintiff was not in any manner misled or prejudiced by the filing of said plat or by said mistake."

The case was taken by a writ of error to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where the judgment of the circuit court was, on February 12, 1894, affirmed. 60 F. 981. On February 4, 1895, by a writ of error of that date, the case was brought to this Court.

Page 160 U. S. 90

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