Ramsey v. Tacoma Land Co.
196 U.S. 360 (1905)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ramsey v. Tacoma Land Co., 196 U.S. 360 (1905)

Ramsey v. Tacoma Land Company

No. 138

Submitted January 17, 1905

Decided January 30, 1905

196 U.S. 360

Syllabus

In a remedial statute such as § 5, Act of March 3, 1887, 24 Stat. 557, enabling bona fide purchasers from railroad companies to perfect their titles by purchase from the government in case the land purchased was not included in the grant the term "citizens," in the absence of anything to indicate the contrary, includes state corporations.

Whether a bona fide purchaser from a railroad company acts with reasonable promptness in availing of the provisions of the Act of March 3, 1887, is a question primarily for the Land Department, and one attempting to enter the land is charged with knowledge of the act, the railroad's title, and, if the deeds have been properly recorded, of the claims of the railroad's grantee and subsequent assigns, and, under the circumstances of this case, this Court will not set aside the decision of the Land Department allowing a bona fide purchaser to avail of the privilege of the act within ten months after the lands had been stricken from the company's list as the result of a decision affecting that and other lands rendered ten years after the purchase from the railroad company, and during which period all parties had considered the full equitable title to be in the railroad company and its grantees.

Page 196 U. S. 361

This was suit commenced in the Superior Court of Pierce County, Washington, by the plaintiff in error, praying that she be decreed to be the owner of the S.W. 1/4 of the N.W. 1/4 of Section 3, Township 20 North, Range 2 East, in said county, and that the defendants be adjudged to hold the legal title in trust for her. A decree of the trial court in her favor was reversed by the supreme court of the state, and the cause dismissed. 31 Wash. 351.

The essential facts, which are not disputed, are stated in the opinion of the supreme court. The land was within the primary limits of the grant to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company by joint resolution of Congress, of May 31, 1870. 16 Stat. 378. The company filed its map of general route on August 13, 1870, and its map of definite location on May 14, 1874. The Land Department thereupon withdrew from sale and entry this with other tracts. On May 19, 1869, one W. C. Kincade made a preemption filing on the land, but had abandoned the filing and the land prior to the act of 1870. Subsequently to the filing of the map of definite location. the tract was held by the company and considered by the Land Department to have passed to the company until the departmental decision of July 13, 1896, in Corlis v. Railroad Company, 23 L.D. 265, on review, 26 L.D. 652, which held that lands situated as this were excepted from the grant. In 1874, the railroad company, for value and in good faith, sold and conveyed the land to the Tacoma Land Company, a corporation created under the laws of Pennsylvania. Thereafter that company, for value, and in good faith, sold to the other defendants, who also acted in good faith. The several deeds representing these transactions were placed on record in the county where the tract is situated. On October 13, 1896, the Commissioner of the General Land Office cancelled the railroad company's list of the tract in question on the basis of the decision in Corlis v. Railroad Company. On February 24, 1897, the plaintiff filed in the local land office her application to enter the land as a homestead, which filing was accepted by

Page 196 U. S. 362

the local officers, and in May of that year she went upon the land, and has there since remained, making improvements to the value of $1,200. In August, 1897, the land company filed its application to purchase the tract, under section 5 of the act of Congress of March 3, 1887, 24 Stat. 556. A contest between the plaintiff and the land company was had in the Department which resulted in a decision in its favor, and to it a patent was issued.

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