Hedrick v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. Co.
167 U.S. 673 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hedrick v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. Co., 167 U.S. 673 (1897)

Hedrick v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company

No. 154

Argued January 14, 1897

Decided May 24, 1897

167 U.S. 673

Syllabus

F. located a bounty land warrant on the west half of range 14, with which he was acquainted. The land office, knowing his purpose and intending to comply with it, by mistake and oversight entered the location as of the half of range 17 instead of range 14. F., being ignorant of the mistake, entered upon the half of range 14 which he had thus located, took possession of it, paid taxes on it, and sold it. His grantees and their successors paid taxes on it, occupied it, and exercised acts of ownership over it. H., by his agent W., who knew all these facts, applied to enter the tract in range 14 so intended to be located by F. and received a patent therefor. In an action instituted by H. to recover possession of a portion of the land, held that the plaintiff was not entitled to recover, and that he held the legal title, evidenced by his patent, as trustee for those holding under F.

Page 167 U. S. 674

Robert G. Hedrick filed his petition in the Circuit Court of Adair County, Missouri, on October 14, 1890, against the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company, seeking to recover possession of the portion of the defendant company's right of way, which extended through the west half of the southeast quarter of section 28, township 61, range 14, in said county. The defendant company answered, as did also James G. Wilson and John G. Sanders, who, upon their own application, were made parties defendant. The plaintiff subsequently filed replications, and on May 5, 1891, the said court entered the following decree:

"Now at this day, this cause coming on to be heard, the parties appear, by their respective attorneys, and answer, 'ready for trial;' and, a jury being waived, the cause is submitted to the court."

"And the court, having seen and heard the allegations and proofs of the parties, and being fully informed in the premises, doth find that this is an action of ejectment for the premises described in plaintiff's petition, brought by the plaintiff against the defendant the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company, and that the defendants Wilson and Sanders have on their own motion been made parties defendant. That the said defendant railroad company is the lessee of the Chicago, Santa Fe and California Railway Company of Iowa, which company is the grantee of the defendants Wilson and Sanders by general warranty deeds for the land in controversy. That the defendant Sanders is the grantee of said Wilson for a part of the said premises. That said Wilson is the grantee, by mesne conveyances of warranty, of one William E. Parcells, who is the grantee of one William A. Lane by general warranty deed of date April 15, 1875. That said Lane is the grantee of one Cavil M. Freeman by general warranty deed of date the _____ day of January, 1860."

"That on July 25, 1860, said Freeman, at the district land office at Milan, Missouri, where said land was subject to entry, located military county land warrant No. 8,470 (Act of Congress of March 3, 1855) upon the west half of the southeast quarter of section 28, township 61 north, range

Page 167 U. S. 675

14 west of the fifth principal meridian (which includes the land in question), and thereupon received a certificate of entry for said west half from the register of said land office, which entry was duly and properly posted on the books and records of said land office by proper notations and entries in the tract books, the plat book, and the monthly abstract book, but by mistake and oversight, said land was described in the application as being in range 17 instead of range 14."

"That said Freeman sold said land as aforesaid, and paid taxes thereon, and his grantees have ever since paid taxes thereon, and exercised acts of ownership over said land, and since April, 1875, have been in the actual, constant, continuous, and uninterrupted occupancy of said premises; making lasting and valuable and permanent improvements thereon, such as fencing, dwellings, and barns, and building a railroad thereon. That the plat book in the office of the County Clerk of Adair County, certified by the register of the land office in 1866, shows that said west half in range 14 had been entered and located by said Freeman, and the books in said land office continued to show said entry of said Freeman until some time subsequent to 1874, when first alterations and additions began to be made. And the court finds that said Freeman intended to and did enter said west half in range 14, and the land officers in the land office at Milan, Missouri, knew said intention of said Freeman, and that he intended to enter said tract, and they intended him to enter said tract, and that thereby he became and was vested and possessed of the equitable right and estate in and to said tract, and became and was entitled to a patent to said land from the government."

"That on September 1, 1885, while defendants Wilson and Sanders were in the actual occupancy and possession of said premises, plaintiff, taking advantage of the mistake made in said application, by his agent, A.C. Widdicombe, who was also his son-in-law, and an expert lawyer, who had full knowledge of the original entries and notations in said books and records of the land office, as well as of the additions, alterations, erasures, and defacements of said books and records then and new existing, made application to enter said tract of land

Page 167 U. S. 676

and did thereafter, on the 20th day of July, 1886, secure a patent for said land."

"And the court further finds that the plaintiff is not a purchaser of said land in good faith, without notice of the defendants' estate therein, but he is chargeable with full knowledge of all the rights, equities, and estate of defendants in and to the said premises, and holds the legal title, evidenced by said patent, as trustee for the defendant railroad company's lessor, the Chicago, Santa Fe and California Railway Company, and that plaintiff is not entitled to recover in this action."

"Wherefore it is by the court considered, ordered, adjudged, and decreed that plaintiff be, and he is hereby, divested of all right, title, interest, and estate in and to the premises described in the petition as follows, to-wit: a strip of land 100 feet wide on the north and west of the Santa Fe survey, and 50 feet wide on the south and east of said survey through the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 28 in township 61 of range 14, and also a tract of land 100 feet wide on each side of, and along the center line of, said railway company's survey from where it enters the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 28, township 61, of range 14 at station No. 7,078-39, for a distance of 111 feet, to station No. 7,079-50; thence a tract of land 50 feet in width on the north and west side of said survey for a distance of 450 feet, to station No. 7,084; thence 100 feet on north and west side of said survey, and 50 feet on south and east side of said survey, for a distance of 1,310 feet, to station No. 7,097-10, to where said survey leaves said last-described 40 acres, and as the same is located over and across the said southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 28, township 61, range 14; all the said described premises being the same land claimed and occupied by said railway company, situate in the west half of the southeast quarter of section 28, township 61, range 14, in the County of Adair and State of Missouri. And that all the said right, title, interest, and estate accruing to plaintiff by reason of said patent be, and the same is hereby, vested in the said Chicago, Santa Fe and California Railway Company

Page 167 U. S. 677

as fully and completely as plaintiff might or could do so by regular warranty deed, duly executed according to law."

The plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri, and, upon the affirmance by that court of the said decree, he sued out a writ of error from this Court.

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