Midway Co. v. Eaton - 183 U.S. 602 (1902)


U.S. Supreme Court

Midway Co. v. Eaton, 183 U.S. 602 (1902)

Midway Company v. Eaton

No. 80

Argued December 4-5, 1901

Decided January 13, 1902

183 U.S. 602

Syllabus

Under the Act of July 17, 1854, c. 83, 10 Stat. 304, Sioux half-breed certificates were issued to Orillie Stram, a female half-breed, authorizing her to select and take one hundred and sixty acres of the public lands of the United States of the classes mentioned in said act. In June, 1883, she, through Eaton, her attorney in fact applied at the local land office to locate the same on public lands of the United States in that district, then unsurveyed, and filed a diagram of the desired lands sufficient to designate them. Those lands were not reserved by the government. Subsequently they were surveyed, and the scrip was located upon them, and the locations were allowed, and certificates of entry were issued. In 1886, Orillie Stram and her husband conveyed seven ninths of the land to Eaton, the defendant in error. In 1889, an opposing claim to the land having been set up, the Secretary of the Interior held, for reasons stated in the opinion of this Court in this case, that the opposing claimants had no valid claim to the lands; that the improvements made upon the land when it was unsurveyed, not having been made under the personal supervision of Orillie Stram, she had not had the personal contact with the land required by law; that the power given to Eaton to locate the land, and the power given to sell it, as they operated as an assignment of the scrip, were in violation of the Act of July 17, 1864, and that it followed that the entry of the lands was not for the benefit of Orillie Stram; that the location and adjustment of the scrip to the lands were ineffectual; that Orillie Stram had no power to alienate or contract for the alienation of the lands before location of the scrip, and that the lands were still public lands and open to entry. This was an action to quiet the title, the plaintiff in error claiming adversely to Eaton. The scrip locations

were adjudged by the district court and by the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota to be valid. This Court sustains that judgment.

This is an action to quiet title, and was brought in the District Court in the Eleventh Judicial District, County of St. Louis, State of Minnesota.

The plaintiff in error claims title under a United States patent issued to its grantor, one Frank Hicks, upon a homestead settlement. The defendants in error claim under locations of what is commonly known as "Sioux half-breed scrip," issued under

Page 183 U. S. 603

the Act of July 17, 1854. 10 Stat. 304, c. 83. These locations, it is alleged, were prior in time and right to the claim of Hicks, and therefore the patent was illegally issued to Hicks. It was prayed that the title represented by the patent be adjudged to be held in trust for the defendants in error, and that the plaintiff in error be required to convey such title to them in proportion to their interests set forth in their cross bill.

The controversy turns upon the validity of the scrip locations. Their validity was adjudged by the district court and by the supreme court of the state. 79 Minn. 442. This writ of error was then sued out.

The facts as found by the court are that, under the Act of July 17, 1854, and in pursuance of said act, there were issued to Orillie Moreau certificates commonly known as Sioux half-breed scrip numbered 19E and 19D, which entitled her to select and take 160 acres of the public lands of the United States of the classes mentioned in said act;

"that thereafter, and on the 16th day of June, A.D. 1883, the said Orillie Moreau, then Orillie Stram, never having theretofore made use of the said certificates of scrip, and the same never having been in any manner extinguished or satisfied, through the defendant Frank W. Eaton, who had theretofore been by her duly empowered as her attorney in fact for that purpose, presented said scrip at the local land office in Duluth, Minnesota, and then and there made application to locate the same on certain then unsurveyed lands of the United States in said district in which said land office was located, and did then and there enter and file upon by virtue of said scrip the lands for which said application was made as aforesaid, and filed therewith a diagram or plat of said land embracing a sufficient description thereof to properly designate the same, which lands were in said application described by metes and bounds,"

and that the same were "lands not reserved by the government of the United States for any purpose whatsoever," and also that,

"prior to the location of said scrip upon said land as above found, improvements had been made thereon, consisting of a house 14 by 16 feet, by and under the authority of the said Frank W. Eaton."

On the 20th of July, 1885, the lands having been duly surveyed,

Page 183 U. S. 604

a plat and survey of the township in which the lands were situated were

"duly filed in the local land office at the City of Duluth, Minnesota, and thereupon, and on the 21st day of July, 1885, upon application of the said Orillie Stram, acting by and through her said attorney in fact, said certificate of Sioux half-breed scrip number 19D was adjusted to and upon the lands in controversy"

(they were specifically described), and the scrip was then and there duly located upon said lands as surveyed lands, and the locations were allowed by the officers of the local land office at Duluth, there not being at that time, nor at the time the scrip was located upon the lands when unsurveyed, nor at any other time, any valid adverse claim to said lands, and on the 21st of July, 1885, receiver's final receipts and certificates of entry were duly and regularly issued to said Orillie Stram, and duly and regularly recorded in the counties of Lake and St. Louis, Minnesota, within a few days thereafter.

The "rights and interests" of Orillie Stram, by sundry mesne conveyances, were conveyed to the defendants in the proportions respectively as follows:

"Frank W. Eaton, the undivided 13-36, Merrill M. Clark, the undivided 9-36, Margaretha Lonstorf, the undivided 8-36, and Richard H. Fagan, the undivided 6-36, and the said defendants are still the owners of the said lands in said proportions."

That, on the 20th of July, 1885, one Thomas Hyde and one Angus McDonald respectively made application to make preemption filings on portions of the lands in controversy, which applications were denied both on the ground of the prior locations of the scrip and that the applications were not made in good faith, but in fraud and in violation of the preemption laws. And it was determined by the local land office and sustained by the Commissioner of the General Land Office and by the Secretary of the Interior that neither Hyde nor McDonald ever had or obtained any rights whatsoever by reason of their application or any subsequent proceedings, but, notwithstanding, said Hyde and said McDonald

"made an attack upon the said decisions of the Land Department sometime in November, 1885, and upon the location of the said certificates

Page 183 U. S. 605

of scrip and the entry of lands thereunder."

A hearing was had on the 6th of April, 1886, and the local land officers sustained the scrip locations. An appeal was taken to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and he held "adversely to the scrip locations." An appeal was then taken to the Secretary of the Interior. A hearing was had before the Secretary February 18, 1889, and he held and determined that neither Hyde nor McDonald had any interest or valid claim to the lands, but notwithstanding, also held that the scrip locations were illegal and invalid, and that neither Orillie Stram nor those claiming under her were entitled to the lands for the following reasons: (1) that the improvements made upon the land when it was unsurveyed were not made under the personal supervision of Orillie Stram, and that she had not had personal contact with the land; (2) that the power of attorney to Eaton to locate the scrip, and the power of attorney executed at the same time to Leonidas Merritt to sell the lands which should be located, operated as an assignment of the scrip, and were in violation of the Act of July 17, 1854, and the entry of the lands therefore was not for the benefit of said Orillie Stram; (3) that the subsequent location and adjustment of the scrip to the lands after the latter were surveyed were ineffectual in view of the previous attempt to locate the scrip, and in view of his (the Secretary's) decision relative to the question of improvements; (4) that Orillie Stram had no power to alienate the lands before location of the scrip, or to contract for the sale of them, or to grant a power of attorney to sell the same for her after they should be located, but held that she had the right to sell immediately after location of the scrip. As a deduction from these conclusions, the Secretary held that the lands were still public lands, and open to entry. The decision of the Secretary was attached to the findings as an exhibit.

That on the 31st day of March, 1886, and prior to the hearing had before the local land office at Duluth, the said Orillie Stram and her husband Roman Stram made and executed a deed for seven ninths of the land in controversy to Frank W. Eaton, with warranty of title. The deed was subsequently recorded in St. Louis and Lake Counties.

Page 183 U. S. 606

The deed recited the location of the scrip in the land office at Duluth, June 16, 1883, by Eaton, as the constituted and appointed attorney in fact of the Strams, and that the title thereby vested in Orillie Stram. It also recited the survey of the lands and the adjustment of the scrip and entry to such lands, and

"thereby the aforesaid scrip and entry were adjusted July 21, A.D. 1885, thereby specifically and perfectly describing the land filed upon for me, the said Orillie Stram, by the said Frank W. Eaton, and intended to be entered on June 15, A.D. 1883, in the name of the said Orillie Stram, by our attorney in fact the said Frank W. Eaton."

It also recited the power of attorney given to Leonidas Merritt, acknowledged it, and ratified and confirmed the conveyance by him to Eaton.

It was further found that, in pursuance of the decision of the Secretary of the Interior, the lands were attempted to be thrown open to public entry, and a patent was subsequently issued to Frank Hicks, and that Frank Hicks and his wife conveyed the same to the Midway Company, the plaintiff in error, "who now holds whatever title thereto inured to the said Frank Hicks." That neither Orillie Stram nor her husband, nor any of the defendants,

"were in any manner parties to the proceedings to the decision of the Secretary of the Interior rendered on the 18th of February, 1889, and that said Hicks had at all times full knowledge of all rights and claims of the defendants."

That the findings of fact of the Secretary of the Interior were fully sustained by the evidence in the cause presented to him,

"except that it is found as a fact by this Court that the improvements caused to be erected by Frank W. Eaton upon the said premises consisted of a house about 14 by 16 feet in size, and it is further found as a fact that from the evidence before the Secretary of the Interior in said cause presented to him by the record upon said appeal, it did not appear that the scrip referred to in the decision of said Secretary had passed through many hands or through any hands before coming into the hands of the said Frank W. Eaton; nor did it appear that the powers of attorney to locate said scrip and to convey the land located therewith had been executed by the said Orillie Stram years before the location thereof by the said Frank W. Eaton, but that,

Page 183 U. S. 607

on the contrary, it appeared from the evidence before the Secretary that said powers of attorney were executed by the said Orillie Stram about one week before the location of the said scrip by the said Frank W. Eaton, and that the said powers did not contain the names of the grantees. It is further found as a fact that it did not appear from the evidence before the said Secretary that the said Orillie Stram never saw the said lands; it did not appear from the evidence before the said Secretary that she had sold the said scrip long prior to the location thereof; it did not appear from the evidence before the said Secretary that, for a long time, she directly and positively repudiated Eaton and Merritt as her attorneys in fact, denying that they acted for her in any capacity whatsoever."



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