Black v. Jackson
177 U.S. 349 (1900)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Black v. Jackson, 177 U.S. 349 (1900)

Black v. Jackson=

No. 107

Submitted February 1, 1900

Decided March 26, 1900

177 U.S. 349

Syllabus

By a petition filed by Jackson against Black in the District Court of Kay County, Oklahoma Territory, the following case was made: on the 17th day of November, 1896, Jackson made a homestead entry upon the S.W. 1/2, sec. 26, T. 28, R. 2 east, I.M. The same land, prior to that, date had been embraced in a homestead entry made by Black, but that entry was finally held for cancellation by the Secretary of the Interior, who by a decision rendered October 26, 1896, denied Black's motion for review and allowed Jackson to make entry of the land. After that decision, Black continued to remain in possession of the west eighty acres of the tract, and refused and neglected to vacate the same, although requested to do so. He had upon the land a barbed wire fence and other improvements attached to the realty. It was alleged that he was financially unable to respond in damages for any injury he was causing the plaintiff by trespassing upon the land, and that plaintiff had no adequate remedy other than by this suit. The relief asked was a mandatory injunction to restrain the defendant from entering upon or in any manner trespassing

Page 177 U. S. 350

upon or using any portion of the land embraced in the plaintiff's homestead entry, from removing or in any manner destroying the fence or other improvements on the lands that were permanently attached thereto, and for such other and further relief as the court deemed just and right. The defendant filed an answer, but it was withdrawn that he might file a demurrer. He demurred to the application for an injunction upon the grounds, among others, that it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action and the court was without jurisdiction of the subject matter of the action. The demurrer was overruled, and the defendant, after excepting to that ruling, filed an amended answer. In this answer, he set up title in himself as a homestead settler, set forth the manner in which it had been acquired, alleged that the value of the property was $6,000, and prayed judgment. In his original answer, he claimed that he was entitled to a trial by jury, and in his amended answer he insisted that his rights could not be disposed of in equity before the court, only. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the answer, and, the defendant declining to further answer, judgment was rendered for the plaintiff as prayed for in the application for a mandatory injunction, the defendant being enjoined from in any manner entering upon the premises in question or exercising any control or possession over them except for the purpose of removing therefrom his improvements, including buildings and fences for which thirty days' time was given, which judgment was sustained by the Supreme Court of the Territory.

Held:

(1) That this Court has jurisdiction as the amount involved is beyond the jurisdictional amount.

(2) That the case made out by the plaintiff was not such as to entitle him to a mandatory injunction, and that the court of original jurisdiction erred in determining the cause without a jury.

By a petition filed by Jackson against Black in the District Court of Kay County, Oklahoma Territory, the following case was made:

On the 17th day of November, 1896, Jackson made a homestead entry upon the S.W. 1/4 sec. 26, T. 28, R. 2 east, I.M. The same land, prior to that date, had been embraced in a homestead entry made by Black, but that entry was finally held for cancellation by the Secretary of the Interior, who, by a decision rendered October 26, 1896, denied Black's motion for review and allowed Jackson to make entry of the land. After that decision, Black continued to remain in possession of the west eighty acres of the tract, and refused and neglected to vacate the same, although requested to do so. He had upon the land a barbed-wire fence and other improvements attached

Page 177 U. S. 351

to the realty. It was alleged that he was financially unable to respond in damages for any injury he was causing the plaintiff by trespassing upon the land, and that plaintiff had no adequate remedy other than by this suit.

The relief asked was a mandatory injunction to restrain the defendant from entering upon or in any manner trespassing upon or using any portion of the land embraced in the plaintiff's homestead entry; from removing or in any manner destroying the fence or other improvements on the lands that were permanently attached thereto, and for such other and further relief as the court deemed just and right.

The defendant filed an answer, but it was withdrawn that he might file a demurrer. He demurred to the application for an injunction upon the grounds, among others, that it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action and the court was without jurisdiction of the subject matter of the action. The demurrer was overruled, and the defendant, after excepting to that ruling, filed an amended answer.

In the first paragraph of the amended answer, the defendant alleged that he had resided upon the land in question since about the 16th day of September, 1893, claiming a right thereto under the laws of the United States; that at the time of settlement thereon, and thereafter, he was a legally qualified homestead claimant; that he had done no act of any kind or nature since the 16th day of September, 1893, disqualifying him to hold the land as a homestead; that, on the 31st day of October, 1895, he filed a homestead entry upon the land, and afterwards the plaintiff filed a contest against such entry upon the ground that his settlement as a homestead claimant was prior to that of defendant and prior to the filing of defendant's homestead entry; that it had been finally determined and decided by the Land Department of the United States that defendant's settlement upon and entry of the land was subsequent to that of plaintiff, and defendant's homestead entry was cancelled, and plaintiff allowed to make homestead entry upon the sole ground that plaintiff's settlement was prior to the settlement and homestead entry of the defendant; that, during the time he had resided upon the land, defendant had

Page 177 U. S. 352

placed thereon lasting and valuable improvements, worth about $500, claiming to be entitled to the benefit of the laws of the United States and of the Territory of Oklahoma relating to occupying claimants, and that his rights "cannot be disposed of in a case in equity before the court only."

The second paragraph of the answer alleged that, on the 16th day of September, 1893, and thereafter, the defendant was a native-born citizen of the United States, in all respects qualified to make homestead entry upon the land in question; that, on that day, after 12 o'clock, central standard time (a signal for starting from the outer line of the Cherokee outlet being given), he ran from the 100-foot strip along the south line of the State of Kansas that had been measured, staked off, and reserved as a gathering place for those desiring to "run" for lands in the Cherokee outlet, and made all possible haste to secure and settle upon a suitable piece of land as a homestead; that there were many thousands of people along that line, more than could secure homes in the outlet, allowing 160 acres to each qualified entryman; that the plaintiff, not observing the law, the proclamation of the President, and the rules governing the opening of those lands to settlement, and for the purpose of gaining an unlawful and undue advantage of defendant and others seeking a home in the outlet, crossed the 100-foot reserve around the outer boundary of the lands prior to 12 o'clock noon, central standard time, September 16, 1893, and unlawfully and wrongfully entered upon the lands embraced within the outlet and within the 100-foot reservation known as the Chilocco reservation, and at the hour of noon, when the outlet was opened to settlement, started on the race for a home from the south line of that reservation and about 3 1/2 miles south of the 100-foot reservation along the northern boundary of the Cherokee outlet, and thereby wrongfully, unlawfully, and unjustly started in the race for a home three and a half miles in advance of the defendant and others who observed the law of Congress opening the lands to settlement and the President's proclamation pursuant thereto; that plaintiff's prior settlement was wholly by reason of said advantage; that plaintiff filed in the United States land office at Perry, Oklahoma Territory, a contest

Page 177 U. S. 353

against defendant's homestead entry made upon the land described in the petition on the 31st day of October, 1893, and as grounds for the contest alleged and claimed that he, plaintiff, settled upon the land in question, claiming it as his homestead prior to the settlement and homestead entry of defendant; that, upon the trial of such contest, it was conclusively proved and admitted by plaintiff that he had started upon the race from the south line of the Chilocco reservation as stated; that, upon such trial, the register and receiver of the land office at Perry, Oklahoma Territory, found from the evidence that plaintiff had started upon the race from the point and in the manner mentioned, and also that his settlement upon and claim of the land was prior to that of defendant, and the qualification of the plaintiff to acquire a homestead on account of his having entered upon the land in violation of the act of Congress opening the same to settlement and the President's proclamation pursuant thereto was directly in issue between plaintiff and defendant in the contest case; but that the register and receiver, although finding from the evidence and admissions of plaintiff that he had so entered upon said land, misunderstood and wrongfully interpreted and misapplied the law in relation to the qualification of plaintiff to take and hold the land as a homestead, and expressly found as a matter of law that plaintiff was not disqualified as "a sooner" by reason of having entered upon the land in the manner aforesaid.

The answer also alleged that the defendant duly appealed from the decision of the register and receiver to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, presenting to that officer the same question with reference to the disqualification of plaintiff to acquire title to the land as a homestead, but that the Commissioner misapplied the law and wrongfully and unlawfully sustained the conclusion of the register and receiver in that regard; that the defendant then appealed to the Secretary of the Interior, to whom the same legal question was submitted, and the Secretary also misapplied the law in relation to the qualification of plaintiff and wrongfully and unlawfully sustained the findings of the Commissioner; that the defendant duly filed his motion for review in the case, in which the question as to the qualification

Page 177 U. S. 354

of plaintiff was presented, and urged a reconsideration and reversal, but the Secretary, still misunderstanding and misapplying the law, wrongfully and unlawfully refused a review, and wrongfully and contrary to law cancelled the homestead entry of defendant and permitted plaintiff to make homestead entry of the land, although plaintiff was at the time, and still is, wholly disqualified to acquire title to it based upon a prior settlement by reason of his having entered upon the Cherokee outlet in violation of law; that, by reason of such disqualification, the plaintiff could never acquire the title to the land, nor a greater estate therein than a trust estate for the sole benefit of the defendant; that defendant was lawfully entitled to reside upon the land as a homestead and acquire the title thereto by compliance with the laws of the United States and the rules of the Land Department, and that plaintiff, being disqualified to acquire title, should not be heard in this action to demand that defendant be ejected from the land and his home and improvements thereon.

The answer further alleged that, if the defendant were ejected from the land and his home and improvements thereon the plaintiff would relinquish to the government of the United States for a valuable consideration all his claim to and interest in the land, and the same would

"be entered as a homestead by some other person qualified to enter and hold the same and a stranger to the disqualification and wrongful acts of the plaintiff herein; that said land, with the improvements thereon by this defendant, could be transferred in the manner aforesaid for the sum of $6,000; that he has been by temporary order of this Court restrained from exercising the right of possession and control over all of said land, with the exception of about five acres occupied by his dwelling and improvements immediately surrounding the same, and that he is ready and willing to execute to the plaintiff a good and sufficient bond to compensate him for all loss of every kind or nature occasioned by defendant's occupancy and detention of said five acres and improvements, provided defendant is allowed to retain his possession thereof and so remain in position to assert his rights to all of said land as soon as he can possibly do so in accordance with law. "

Page 177 U. S. 355

The defendant prayed first that the plaintiff be not allowed to further maintain his action for the possession of the land or any part thereof. Second, hat in the event that prayer was not granted, the plaintiff be denied the right to maintain his action to the extent of wholly ejecting the defendant from the five acres and his dwelling and improvements situated thereon until such time as the plaintiff acquired a patent to the land and the defendant was in a position to commence suit for the purpose of having plaintiff's title so acquired declared to be held in trust for him.

The trial court sustained a demurrer to the answer, and, the defendant declining to further answer, judgment was rendered for the plaintiff as prayed for in the application for a mandatory injunction, the defendant being enjoined from in any manner entering upon the premises in question or exercising any control or possession over them except for the purpose of removing therefrom his improvements, including buildings and fences, for which thirty days' time was given.

This judgment was affirmed in the supreme court of the territory. That court, in its opinion, held (using the words of the syllabus prepared by the court) that

"where adverse claimants are residing upon a tract of land, and each claiming the same as a homestead by virtue of priority of settlement, and the Land Department makes a final award thereof, the losing party cannot properly claim the right to continue his residence upon the land for the purpose of bringing a suit in equity to declare a trust against his successful adversary when he has already resided upon the land a sufficient length of time, under the law, to enable him to make final proof for the land."

6 Okl. 751.

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