Boston & Montana Mining Co. v. Montana Ore Co.
188 U.S. 632 (1903)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Boston & Montana Mining Co. v. Montana Ore Co., 188 U.S. 632 (1903)

Boston and Montana Consolidated Copper and Silver

Mining Co. v. Montana Ore Purchasing Company

No. 103

Argued December 3, 1902

Decided February 23, 1903

188 U.S. 632

Syllabus

To give the Circuit Court jurisdiction under section 1 of the Act of March 3, 1887, as corrected by the Act of August 13, 1888, federal questions must appear necessarily in the statement of the plaintiff's cause of action, and not as mere allegations in the plaintiff's bill of the defense which the defendants intend to set up or which they rely upon. And if it further appear from defendant's answer that no such defense is set up, no jurisdiction exists to try questions not of the kind coming within the statute, and the Circuit Court should dismiss the bill for want of jurisdiction.

In order for a party in possession to maintain a bill of peace for the purpose of quieting his title to land against a single adverse claimant ineffectually seeking to establish a legal title by repeated actions of ejectment, it is necessary for the bill to aver that complainant's title has been established by at least one successful trial at law, and where it appears from the bill that an action at law involving the same questions has been commenced, but has not been tried, it is a fatal defect.

To maintain a bill of peace in the federal courts, there must be an allegation that the complainant is in possession or that both parties are out of possession.

The appellant in this case (being the complainant below) has brought it to this Court by an appeal from the judgment of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Montana dismissing its complaint and ordering judgment for the defendants on the ground that the court had no jurisdiction of the action. A decree having been entered in accordance with the direction of the court dismissing the bill, the circuit court has certified to this Court the question of jurisdiction, and whether or not a federal question is presented in complainant's amended bill and the answer of the defendant corporation.

Page 188 U. S. 633

The cause of action relates to the ownership of a certain quantity of copper ore taken and converted by the defendants from the mining ground alleged to be owned by the complainant. For the purpose of presenting the question of jurisdiction, the court below has certified to this Court the amended bill and the answer of the defendants. The complainant in the bill alleges that it is the owner and entitled to possession of certain property therein described, known as and called the Pennsylvania lode mining claim, lot No. 172, situated in Summit Valley Mining District, County of Silver Bow, Montana. A full description of the land is given in the bill. The complainant's title is next set out with much particularity and detail, from which it appears that the original source of its title is a United States patent covering the claim, dated April 9, 1886, issued to persons named therein, from whom the complainant deraigns title. It is then averred that, on April 1, 1895, defendants wrongfully and unlawfully entered upon complainant's premises, and from that time on extracted from the mine large quantities of valuable ores, of the reasonable value of $500,000, and that they have continued to extract and mine ores from the premises belonging to the complainant, and are now mining and extracting ores therefrom and threatening to continue to do so unless enjoined by the court.

The land which the complainant claims to own is valuable almost exclusively for the copper, silver, and gold ores which are found there in large quantities, and it is these ores that the defendants have extracted and are threatening to continue to extract in the future.

It is averred that the complainant has no means of ascertaining the quantity or value of the ores which the defendants have extracted or may hereafter extract from such premises, and if the defendants are permitted to continue to extract such ores, it will be altogether uncertain and indefinite as to what the amount or the value of such ores may be, and the complainant will be compelled to rely to a great extent on the defendants as to such amount and value; that, unless the defendants are enjoined and restrained from taking the ores, the complainant will be required to bring numerous actions for the determination

Page 188 U. S. 634

of the damages it has from time to time sustained by reason of such trespasses, which are continuing on the part of the defendants. Therefore the complainant brings this suit in order to avoid a multiplicity of suits in the premises, and by reason of the trespasses of the defendants and their threatened continuance the complainant has suffered and will suffer great and irreparable injury and damage unless the defendants are enjoined from further trespass, as prayed for.

This is the complainant's cause of action, as set forth in the bill, regarding the trespass and the injury inflicted and the difficulty of proof thereof and the prevention of a multiplicity of suits.

The complainant then further averred in the bill, for the purpose, as therein stated, of showing the jurisdiction of the court to determine the matters set forth in such bill, that the determination of the controversy between the parties involved the construction of the mining laws of the United States; that the property of the complainant is a mining claim and has been patented as such under the provisions of the Revised Statutes of the United States relating to mines and mineral lands; that the defendants owned a portion of certain properties called the Rarus lode claim, lot No. 179; the Johnstown lode claim, lot No. 173, and the Little Ida lode claim, lot No. 126, which claims lie north of and partially adjoining and near to the Pennsylvania lode claim, owned by the complainant.

It is further stated that the various claims which are and will be made by the defendants as to their rights in complainant's mine by reason of their ownership of the other mines above mentioned are without foundation, yet, nevertheless, they will be urged as a defense to the cause of action set forth in the bill of complaint, and the claims of defendants are denied and disputed, as are also the facts upon which the defendants base their defense, and the law arising from the same, and complainant adds

"that it disputes each and every one of the claims made by the defendants, relative to the construction of said several patents, and it [complainant] claims that all veins whose apexes lie within the Johnstown patent must be governed and regulated in extralateral rights, if any they have, under the

Page 188 U. S. 635

Johnstown patent, and not under or by virtue of the Rarus patent."

The complainant also averred

"that the said defendants contend and claim that the complainant cannot under any circumstances obtain any relief for ores extracted within that portion of the premises owned by it, without first showing that the apices of the veins from which the ores were extracted are within the surface lines of the ground owned and claimed by the complainant, whereas your orator claims that prima facie it is the owner of all ores found within its boundaries extended downward into the earth, until it has been shown that some other person or company has some right thereto by reason of ownership of the apex of the vein within some other claim."

The complainant further stated its right to enjoin defendant from mining ore beneath the ground of complainant, because no vein having its apex in the defendant's claim passes in its strike through the end lines thereof so as to confer extralateral rights.

And finally:

"Wherefore, your orator shows to your honors that there is involved in the matters in controversy, between your orator and the said defendants, the numerous questions aforesaid, involving the construction of the statutes of the United States relative to locating, purchasing, and patenting of mineral lands and the construction of the statutes relative to the right of one claimant to follow veins down to and into the premises of another, under the circumstances and situation of the parties as hereinbefore set out, and also the construction of the said statutes in relation to patenting of claims and whether the vein can be patented to one person and the surface to another, and to the right of the Land Department to segregate the surface from the mineral in the ground, granting one to one person and the other to another, and as to whether said action is authorized under and by virtue of said statutes, and also as to whether, when an apex of a vein is divided upon the surface, part being within the premises granted in one patent and a part within another, as to what, if any, extralateral rights are granted under such circumstances to either party."

The answer of the defendants is also set forth in the certificate of the court below, in which the defendants deny that they

Page 188 U. S. 636

wrongfully or unlawfully entered the premises of the complainant or that they took out any amount of ore belonging to the complainant from that mine, and deny that the defendants ever mined or extracted ores from premises belonging to the complainant, or threatened to do so; also deny the averments as to the value of the ore as set forth in the bill. Defendants also deny that the determination of the controversy between the parties involves a construction of the mining acts of the United States, or the construction of any statute of the United States whatever. They admit that the Rarus and the Johnstown lode claims are mineral claims, located under the laws of the United States, and that the same have been patented under those laws, and that the defendants own a portion of the lode called the Rarus lode claim. The defendants also assert that they are the owners of a certain parcel of ground within the Johnstown lode claim, and also the owners of that portion of the Pennsylvania lode claim thereafter described, and they claim the right to enter upon the premises of the complainant, namely, that portion of the Pennsylvania lode claim described in its amended bill of complaint, by reason of the fact that certain veins owned and claimed by the defendants and in their possession have their dip or apices within the Johnstown lode claim, lot No. 173, and that portion thereof owned by the defendants, and that the defendants assert the right to follow such veins on their downward course or dip, although the same so far depart from a perpendicular as to depart from the said Johnstown lode claim and from that portion thereof claimed by the defendants, and enter the premises owned and claimed by the complainant, namely, that portion of the Pennsylvania lode claim described in its amended bill of complaint. But the defendants deny that they claim the right to enter complainant's premises by reason of the fact that any veins owned or claimed by them or in their possession have their top or apices within the Rarus lode claim or in that portion thereof owned by the defendants, or by reason of the fact that the same have their top or apices within the Little Ida lode claim or any portion thereof, and deny that the defendants assert the right or any right to follow such veins on their downward course or dip, although the same so far depart

Page 188 U. S. 637

from a perpendicular as to depart from said Rarus lode claim, and to enter the premises claimed by the complainant, and deny that they assert or claim the right to enter the premises of the complainant by reason of the fact that any veins owned or claimed by the defendants have their top or apices in said lode claim or any part thereof, but alleges that the defendants claim the right to enter the premises of the claimant by reason of the fact that certain veins have their top or apices within that portion of the Johnstown lode claim owned by the defendant, or that they assert the right to follow such veins on their downward course or dip, although the same so far depart from a perpendicular as to depart from the Johnstown lode claim and from the portions thereof owned by the defendants, and enter the premises of the complainant.

It was further averred in the answer

"that in this action it makes no claim of any right under the Rarus patent to enter upon the veins within the ground claimed or owned by the complainant, but that it asserts its right to do so by reason of its ownership of a portion of the Johnstown lode claim, and the fact that the top or apices of the veins or lode in question are within said portion of the Johnstown lode claim."

It also

"denies that in this action it contends or claims that only the surface ground of the Johnstown claim was patented to the patentees named therein, or that all or any veins lying within the original location lines of the Rarus claim were patented to the claimant under the Rarus claim; . . . but defendant alleges that it contends and claims in this action, and insofar as this controversy between complainant and defendant is concerned, that its extralateral rights to the veins in question should be determined by its ownership of that parcel of ground now included within the Johnstown claim, and not by the Rarus, for the reason that said veins or lodes have their tops or apices within the said parcel of ground owned by defendant."

Various other denials were made, from which it appears that the only claim made by the defendants in this action is by virtue of their ownership of the Johnstown lode claim. The defendants by this answer therefore admit the averments in the bill that their rights must be governed and regulated in this action by reason of their ownership of the Johnstown patent, and not by virtue of the Rarus patent, and as to those rights the complainant claims that the course of the vein cannot be followed because of the nature of the ground.

Page 188 U. S. 638

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