Oregon & California R. Co. v. United States No. 3
190 U.S. 186 (1903)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Oregon & California R. Co. v. United States No. 3, 190 U.S. 186 (1903)

Oregon and California Railroad Company v. United States

No. 188

Argued March 4, 1903

Decided May 4, 1903

190 U.S. 186

Syllabus

While a railway grant does not attach to lands which, at the time of the definite location of the line, have been sold, preempted, reserved or otherwise disposed of by the United States, this rule does not apply to a claim which has been cancelled or abandoned before the attachment of the railroad grant, either by the definite location of the line or by the selection of the lands as lieu lands within the indemnity limits. Where, therefore, a notification had been filed under the Oregon Donation Acts of September 27, 1850, and February 14, 1863, to land within the indemnity limits of a railroad land grant, but the person filing the same did not comply with the conditions of the statutes, the land continued to be the property of the United States to which the railroad grant subsequently attached, and the grant was not defeated by the fact that the donation notification remained of record in the office of the surveyor general.

If any presumption was created by the existence of the donation certificate to the effect that the land was reserved, the railroad may defeat the presumption by showing the actual facts in the same manner as an individual might who desired to enter the land on his own account. Oregon & Cal. R. Co. v. United States, No. 1,189 U. S. 103, and Same v. Same, No. 2,189 U. S. 116, distinguished.

This was a bill in equity filed by the United States in the Circuit Court for the District of Oregon to compel a reconveyance

Page 190 U. S. 187

by the railroad company, as the successor and assignee of the Oregon Central Railroad Company of certain lands within the indemnity limits of the land grant to such company of July 25, 1866, 14 Stat. 239, for which land one John W. Hines, on November 22, 1853, seventeen years before the definite location of the line of the road, had filed a donation notification under the Oregon Donation Act of September 27, 1850, 9 Stat. 496, and the act of February 14, 1853, 10 Stat. 158, amendatory thereto. These lands the President of the United States, on July 12, 1871, patented to the railroad company by an alleged mistake and without the knowledge of the adverse claim of Hines. By reason of this prior donation, the patent was averred to be void and its cancellation was prayed under the Act of March 3, 1887, 24 Stat. 556, authorizing the Attorney General to institute necessary proceedings to cancel patents erroneously issued to railroad companies.

The defendant, in its plea, averred an approval of its map of definite location January 29, 1870, a selection of the lands prior to July 12, 1871, and the further fact that Hines abandoned the land without having paid for it, or residing thereon four years; nor was he residing thereon at the time the defendant selected the same.

The circuit court decreed the cancellation of the patent, and the court of appeals affirmed the decree.

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