McMichael v. Murphy
197 U.S. 304 (1905)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McMichael v. Murphy, 197 U.S. 304 (1905)

McMichael v. Murphy

No. 166

Submitted March 7, 1905

Decided April 3, 1905

197 U.S. 304

Syllabus

A settlement or entry on public land already covered of record by another entry, valid upon its face, does not give a second entryman any right in the land, notwithstanding the first entry may subsequently be relinquished or ascertained to be invalid by reason of facts dehors the record of such entry, and one first entering after the relinquishment or cancellation has priority over one attempting to enter prior to such relinquishment or cancellation.

It is the duty of this Court, in the absence of cogent reasons therefor, not to overrule the construction of a statute upon which the Land Department has uniformly proceeded in its administration of the public lands.

On April 23, April 24, and May 1, 1889, White, Blanchard, and Cook, respectively and in the order named, applied at the United States land office in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, to make a homestead entry on certain lands, being part of the southwest 1/4 of section 27, township 12, north of range 3 west. The applications of Blanchard and Cook were each rejected as being in conflict with White's entry. On April the 27, 1889, Blanchard filed his affidavit of contest, charging that White entered the territory prior to 12 o'clock noon of April the 22, 1889, in violation of the act of Congress approved March 2, 1889, 25 Stat. 980, 1004, c. 412, and the President's proclamation issued under that act. 26 Stat. 1544. On May 1, 1889, Cook also filed an affidavit of contest against White, alleging the latter's disqualification, as above stated, to enter the land, and also that Blanchard was also disqualified upon the same grounds as those alleged in reference to White.

The contest having been tried before the local land office, each party charging that the other two had entered the territory

Page 197 U. S. 305

prior to noon of April 22, 1889, the register and receiver recommended the cancellation of White's entry and dismissed the contest of both Blanchard and Cook. From this decision, all parties appealed to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and on March 7, 1890, the decision of the local office was affirmed. An appeal was then taken to the Secretary of the Interior. While the case was pending before that officer, namely, on November 29, 1890, White relinquished of record his entry, and Murphy, the defendant, on the same day, entered the land. The Secretary of the Interior, July 21, 1891, affirmed the decision of the Commissioner of the General Land Office. Blanchard v. White, 13 L.D. 66.

On or about June 3, 1889, White's homestead entry being still intact of record, McMichael entered upon the land with a view of establishing his residence thereon and initiating a homestead right to it, and on July 21, 1889, he made application to the local office to enter the land, tendering the required fees; but his application was rejected by the local office as being in conflict with White's entry. From that order no appeal was taken.

On August 31, 1889, McMichael again tendered his application to the local office, with the required fees. That application was received, but it was suspended pending the contest of White, Blanchard and Cook. On the day last named, McMichael filed a contest or protest, alleging that he had made settlement on the land on June 3, 1889, had lived there in a tent with his family until August 2, 1889, when, at the instance of White, he was forcibly removed therefrom by the military authorities; that his rights were superior to those of White, Blanchard, and Cook, all of whom, he alleged, were disqualified by reason of having entered the territory during the period prohibited by law; that his application of June 3 was rejected because it conflicted with White's interests, although he was the only qualified settler on the tract entitled to make entry. The case, as between McMichael and Murphy, having been heard on February 15, 1892, a decision was rendered in favor

Page 197 U. S. 306

of the latter. Thereupon McMichael appealed to the General Land Office, which, on January 18, 1893, affirmed the decision of the local office. He then appealed to the Secretary of the Interior, and that officer, on February 25, 1895, affirmed the decision of the Land Office. McMichael v. Murphy, 20 L.D. 147.

A patent was issued to Murphy for the land, whereupon the present action was brought in the District Court of Oklahoma County by McMichael against Murphy and his grantees, the relief asked being a decree declaring the legal title to be held in trust for the use and benefit of McMichael. Murphy demurred on the ground that the petition did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, McMichael's claim being that the Secretary of the Interior had misconstrued and misapplied the law. The demurrer was sustained, and, the plaintiff having elected to stand on his petition, the court dismissed the case. From that decree the plaintiff brings the case here for review.

After the cause was entered in the supreme court of the territory, McMichael died, and the cause was revived in the name of his heirs.

Page 197 U. S. 310

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