Galt v. Galloway - 29 U.S. 332 (1830)
U.S. Supreme Court
Galt v. Galloway, 29 U.S. 4 Pet. 332 332 (1830)
Galt v. Galloway
29 U.S. (4 Pet.) 332
The possession of a warrant has always been considered at the land office in Ohio sufficient authority to make locations under it. Letters of attorney were seldom, if ever, given to locators, because they were deemed unnecessary.
An entry could only be made in the name of the person to whom the warrant was issued or assigned, so that the locator could acquire no title in his own name except by a regular assignment.
When an entry is surveyed, its boundaries are designated, and nothing can be more reasonable and just than that these shall limit the claim of the locator. To permit him to vary his lines so as to affect injuriously the rights of others subsequently acquired would be manifestly in opposition to every principle of justice.
Since locations were made in the Virginia Military District in Ohio, it has been the practice of locators, at pleasure, to withdraw their warrants, both before and after surveys were executed. This practice is shown by the records of the land office, and is known to all who are conversant with these titles.
The withdrawal is always entered on the margin of the original entry as a notice to subsequent locators, and no reason is necessary to be alleged as a justification of the act. If the first entry be defective in its calls, or if a more advantageous location can be made, the entry is generally withdrawn. This change cannot be made to the injury of the rights of others, and the public interest is not affected by it. The land from which the warrant is withdrawn is left vacant for subsequent locators, and the warrant is laid elsewhere on the same number of unimproved lands.
As the records of the land office are of great importance to the country and are kept under the official sanction of the government, their contents must always be considered, and they are always received in courts of justice as evidence of the facts stated.
Under the peculiar system of the Virginia land law as it has been settled in Kentucky and in the Virginia Military District in Ohio by usages adapted to the circumstances of the country, many principles have been established which are unknown to the common law. A long course of adjudications has fixed these principles, and they are considered as the settled rules by which these military titles are to be governed.
An entry or the withdrawal of an entry is in fact made by the principal surveyor at the instance of the person who controls the warrant. It is not to be presumed that this officer would place upon his records any statement which affected the rights of others at the instance of an individual who had no authority to act in the case. The facts, therefore, proved by the records must be received as prima facie evidence of the right of the person at whose instance they were recorded and as conclusive in regard to such things as the law requires to be recorded.
No principle is better settled than that the powers of an agent cease on the death of his principal.
A location made in the name of a deceased person is void, as every other act done in the name of a deceased person must be considered.
The withdrawal of an entry is liable to objection, subject to the rights which others may have acquired subsequent to its withdrawal's having been entered in the land office. This is required by principles of justice as well as of law.
James Galt, as heir to his brother Patrick Galt, the ancestor of the complainants, on 6 August, 1787, made an entry for military lands in the Virginia reservation in the following words:
"No. 610, James Galt (heir) enters 1,000 acres on part of a military warrant, No. 194, on the Miami River, beginning at the upper corner of Francis Wheeling's entry, No. 438, running up the river five hundred poles when reduced to a straight line; thence at right angles with the general course of the river, and with Wheeling's line for quantity."
The bill of the appellants stated that this entry was valid on 15 November, 1796, and that a survey under the same was made thereon agreeably to its calls; that James Galt died intestate prior to 2 March, 1807, and that posterior thereto Elias Langham, without any authority from James Galt or from the complainants, caused an entry of the withdrawal of 400 acres to be made in the books of the surveyor, the effect of which was to render the residue of the entry of such a shape as that it could not be legally surveyed, the law requiring that the breadth of a survey shall be one-third of its length. Subsequent to this withdrawal, the 400 acres which Langham attempted to have left vacant thereby were located by Galloway by entries of 300 acres in his own name and 100 acres in that of Ladd, both of which were included in one survey made on 18 June, 1808; but afterwards, on 20 July, 1809, Galloway having caused the word "error" to be entered on the face of the plats of the survey of 1808, had separate surveys executed in his own name and in that of Ladd, and also caused a survey to be made for himself of 600 acres of James Galt's entry of August 1787 of
1,000 acres, the part of the same, to withdraw which no attempt had been made by Elias Langham. A patent for the 400 acres was obtained by Galloway; and he afterwards conveyed the land included in the same to different persons, who are made parties to the bill. The bill also stated that Thomas Baker resides on part of the 1,000 acres, claiming title under Joshua Collet. That Collet claims title to part; that William Patterson is in possession of, claiming title to the residue; and that Galloway refuses to withdraw the 400 acres. The complainants say they cannot procure a patent for the 600 acres, without jeopardizing their title not only to the 400 acres, but also to the 600 acres, and pray for particular and general relief.
The answer of James Galloway, Jr., states that Langham withdrew the 400 acres of Galt's entry of 1,000 acres and that he believes the withdrawal was authorized, but knows not by whom, and that since the bill was filed, he has heard the same was authorized by Westfall. The survey on the 600 acres, the residue of Galt's entry, he says, he executed and returned, and that he was at the time he made the same a regular deputy under Anderson. He obtained a patent for 300 acres of the land included in the patent, and sold the same.
Joshua Collet and William Patterson, in their answers, claim to hold title under Westfall, the same having been sold as his property for his debts or responsibilities. Patterson represents that he believes Westfall made a contract with Galt for the whole of warrant No. 194, on a part of which his claim is founded, and that Westfall obtained patents in his own name for other entries on the warrant and sold them for his own benefit.
Elias Langham answers that at the request of Westfall, he withdrew the 400 acres as charged. He believed Westfall purchased the warrant No. 194 from Galt, in his lifetime. He considered himself in possession of the whole as agent of Westfall, except 1,000 acres transferred to Mallow from 1797, and never heard of complainants' claim
until after the death of Westfall. By order of Westfall, he laid off the Town of Westfall in Pickaway County, and sold several small tracts of land, part of warrant No. 194, and that he contracted with Westfall to withdraw and reenter other lands, which entitled him to 600 acres.
Evidence was exhibited intended to show that an impression prevailed generally that Westfall was entitled to half of Galt's military land warrant. That Galt's warrant was put into Westfall's hands to locate land. The opinion of the court states such parts of the testimony and other facts of the case, as were considered made out by proof.
The circuit Court of Ohio gave a decree against the complainants, and they appealed to this Court.