Great Northern Railway Co. v. Reed
270 U.S. 539 (1926)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Great Northern Railway Co. v. Reed, 270 U.S. 539 (1926)

Great Northern Railway Company v. Reed

No. 57

Submitted October 15, 1925

Decided April 12, 1926

270 U.S. 539

Syllabus

1. The term "settlement" is used in the Homestead Law as comprehending acts done on the land by way of establishing, or preparing to establish, an actual personal residence -- going thereon and, with reasonable diligence, arranging to occupy it as a home to the exclusion of one elsewhere. P. 270 U. S. 545.

2. One who actually settles on public lands in an honest effort to acquire a home under the Homestead Law should be dealt with leniently, and not subjected to the loss of his toil and efforts through any mistake or neglect of the officers or agents of the government.

3. But this rule does not excuse substantial failures to comply with the requirements respecting the initiation of such a claim or accord

Page 270 U. S. 540

to it a preference over other claims lawfully acquired and prior in time. P. 270 U. S. 546.

4. A selection of unsurveyed land, duly made by a railroad company pursuant to an Act of Congress (Aug. 8, 1892, 27 Stat. 390), giving it a legal right to select such lands "to which no adverse right to claim shall have attaches or have been initiated at the time of making such selection," in lieu of others relinquished to the United States, takes precedence over a later homestead claim. P. 270 U. S. 547.

5. Before the filing of a railroad selection under the Act of Aug. 8, 1892, supra, for part of the tract, a person with the qualifications prescribed by the homestead law, visited, for a few hours, an unsurveyed quarter section of unappropriated public land, blazed a trail around it, and posted notices that he claimed it as a homestead, and visited it again five months later and devoted a day to blazing a trail from an adjacent stream to the nearest corner, and to cutting some poles and laying them in the semblance of a cabin foundation. After the filing of the selection, he visited the land once or twice a year for several years thereafter while on hunting trips, and renewed his notice, and thereafter sold his claim. From the time he first went on the land, and continuously to the time he sold, he was residing with his wife and children at a place a few miles distant, maintaining a home there. His intention throughout was to "hold" the quarter section, expecting some day to go and live upon it. Held that he did not make a bona fide settlement, and that his acts did not amount to the initiation of a claim within the meaning of the Homestead Law or the Act of Aug. 8, 1892, supra.

128 Wash. 312 reversed.

Certiorari to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Washington which affirmed a judgment for the plaintiff, Reed, in a suit to have the railway company declared trustee for him of land patented to it by the United States, and to compel a conveyance in discharge of the trust.

Page 270 U. S. 541

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