Gamache v. Piquognot
57 U.S. 451 (1853)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Gamache v. Piquognot, 57 U.S. 16 How. 451 451 (1853)

Gamache v. Piquognot

57 U.S. (16 How.) 451

Syllabus

In 1812, Congress passed an act (2 Stat. 748) entitled "An act making further provision for settling the claims to land in the Territory of Missouri." It confirmed the titles to town or village lots, outlots &c., in several towns and villages, and amongst them the Town of Carondelet, where they had been inhabited, cultivated, or possessed, prior to the twentieth day of December, 1803.

In 1824, Congress passed another act, 4 Stat. 65, supplementary to the above, the first section of which made it the duty of the individual owners or claimants whose lots were confirmed by the act of 1812 to proceed within 18 months to designate their lots by proving cultivation, boundaries &c., before the recorder of land titles. The third section made it the duty of this officer to issue a certificate of confirmation for each claim confirmed and furnish the Surveyor General with a list of the lots so confirmed.

This list was furnished in 1827.

Page 57 U. S. 452

Afterwards, in 1839, another recorder gave a certificate of confirmation, an extract from the registry showing that this second recorder entered the certificate in 1839, and an extract from the additional list of claims, which addition was that of a single claim, being the same as above.

These three papers were not admissible as evidence in an ejectment brought by the owners of this claim. The time had elapsed within which the recorder could confirm a claim.

This was an action in the nature of an ejectment brought by the plaintiffs in error, for the recovery of a tract of land described in the declaration as survey No. 120 of the outlots and common field lots of the Village of Carondelet.

The substance of the two acts of Congress of 1812 and 1824 is given in the caption of this report, and need not be repeated.

Upon the trial, the plaintiff offered the three following pieces of evidence, all of which were rejected by the court. There was much other evidence offered both by the plaintiffs and defendants, but as the opinion of this Court turned chiefly upon the propriety of this rejection, the other pieces of evidence, and instructions of the court founded thereon, will be omitted. It will be perceived that each one of the three purports to derive its efficacy from the certificate of Mr. Conway, in 1839.

The plaintiffs then offered in evidence the following certificate of confirmation of the recorder of land titles of Missouri, as follows, to-wit: endorsed on the outside "Jno. Bte. Gamache, sen., 6 by 40 arpens, field of Carondelet. Fees $1, paid." John Baptiste De Gamache, sen., or his legal representatives, claims an outlot, adjoining the village of Carondelet, containing six arpens in front by forty in depth, bounded, northerly, by the common fields; eastwardly, by the Mississippi River (leaving a tow between it and the river); south, by an outlot claimed by the legal representatives of Gabriel Constant (lalmond), sen., an[d] west by the land formerly the property of Antoine Riehl.

"John Baptiste Maurice Chatillon, being duly sworn, says he knows the land claimed, and that he is about sixty-six years of age, and that he was born in Kaskaskia, and A.D. seventeen hundred and eighty-eight he removed from Ste. Genevieve to Carondelet, where he has resided ever since; that A.D. seventeen hundred and ninety-seven or ninety-eight he was employed by John Baptiste Gamache, sen., to fence in a field which said Gamache had been clearing, and working for about two years within this field lot, and he, this respondent, says, he did fence in about three arpens of this land, and did build a cabin on the same at this time; and this deponent further says that Gamache did cultivate this same field for five or six years until his death,

Page 57 U. S. 453

and this deponent further says he always understood this land was owned by said John Baptiste Gamache."

his

"JOHN BAPTISTE MAURICE X CHATILLON"

mark

"Sworn to before me, July 6, 1825"

"THEODORE HUNT, Recorder L.T."

"Translated to witness. J. V. GARNIER"

"RECORDER'S OFFICE"

"ST. LOUIS, Missouri, 22d January, 1839"

"I certify the foregoing within to be truly copied from book No. 2, page 46, of the minutes of the proceedings of the Recorder of Land Titles in the State of Missouri under the Act of Congress of 26 May, 1824, entitled 'An act supplementary of an act passed on the 13th day of June, 1812,' entitled 'An act making further provisions for settling the claims to land in the Territory of Missouri,' all of record in this office, and confirmed by the act of 13 June, 1812, above cited."

"F. R. CONWAY"

"U.S. Recorder of Land Titles in the State of Missouri"

"TO DANIEL DUNKLIN, Esq.,"

"U.S. Surveyor of Public Lands, St. Louis, Mo."

Together with a certified extract from the registry of certificates from the office of the recorder of land titles as follows, to-wit:

Registry of Certificates of confirmation on town lots, outlots, and

common field lots, issued by the Recorder of Land Titles

===========================================================================

In whose name

issued Date Situation Remarks Quantity

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The following claim

was omitted by Mr.

Hunt, late recorder, in

furnishing the list of

claims proven up before

him, to-wit:

John Baptiste de 6th July, Carondelet Bounded north by

Gamache 1825 fields the common fields,

eastwardly by the

Mississippi (leaving

a tow [path] between

it and the river,)

south by an outlot

claimed by the legal

representatives of

Gabriel Constant,

(lalmond,) sen.,

and westwardly by

the land formerly

the property of

Antoine Rheil

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Page 57 U. S. 454

The above claim entered by me in the book, 12th March, 1839, having this day furnished the Surveyor General with a description thereof.

F. R. CONWAY, Recorder

RECORDER'S OFFICE

ST. LOUIS, January 23d, 1851

The above is correctly copied from the registry on file in this office.

ADOLPH RENARD

U.S. Recorder of Land Titles in the State of Missouri

And also a certified extract from the list of claims proved before the recorder of land titles, under the Act of 26 of May, 1824, in which is contained the Gamache claim to which particular reference was made at this stage of the case, transmitted by the recorder of land titles to the Surveyor General of the United States in Illinois and Missouri, certified from the office of the Surveyor General as follows, to-wit:

"(This was a list of cases transmitted by Mr. Hunt to the Surveyor General, as a supplemental report. The cases bear various dates, the last being 12th April, 1830. They were 16 in number. Then came the following, transmitted by Mr. Conway, accompanied by a certificate by him, dated 12 March, 1839, stating that it had been omitted to be furnished by his predecessor, Mr. Hunt.)"

"No. 17 -- Not in list"

"John Baptiste de Gamache, senior, or his legal representatives, claim an outlot adjoining the Village of Carondelet, containing six arpens in front by forty in depth, bounded northerly by the common, eastwardly by the Mississippi, leaving a tow between it and the river, south by an outlot claimed by the legal representatives of Gabriel Constant, Lalamand senior, and west by the land formerly the property of Antoine Rheil."

"John Baptiste Maurice Chatillon, being duly sworn, says he knows the land claimed, and that he is about sixty-six years of age, and that he was born in Kaskaskia, and A.D. 1788, he removed from St. Genevieve to Carondelet, where he has resided ever since; that A.D. seventeen hundred ninety-seven or ninety-eight he was employed by John Baptiste Gamache, senior, to fence in a field -- which said Gamache had been clearing and working in for about two years within this field lot -- and he, this deponent, says he did fence about three arpens of this land, and build a cabin on the same, at this time. And this deponent further says that Gamache did cultivate this same field for five or six years until his death. And this deponent

Page 57 U. S. 455

further says he always understood this land was owned by said John Baptiste Gamache."

"his"

"[Signed] JOHN BAPTISTE MAURICE X CHATILLON"

"mark"

"Sworn to before me, July 6, 1825."

"[Signed] THEODORE HUNT, Rec'r L.T."

"Translated to witness by J. V. Garnier."

The plaintiff also offered in evidence a certified extract from Hunt's minutes containing the entry of Gamache's claim, with a description of the lot, and also the evidence therein recorded, but the court refused to receive it; and also testimony to prove the inhabitation and cultivation of the lot prior to December, 1803, and until his death in 1805. There was also much other evidence which need not be stated in this report.

The defendants offered evidence

1. To show a title under the act of Congress, of 1812, as commons of Carondelet.

2. An adverse possession for twenty years.

3. Rebutting evidence.

After the evidence was closed, various instructions were asked for both by the counsel for plaintiff and defendant, some of each of which were given and some refused by the court, as the verdict was for the defendants, and the case was brought up by the plaintiffs, only those instructions and refusals to which they excepted will be here stated.

Instructions for plaintiffs refused.

"3. The jury are instructed that, as against such a claim and cultivation, or possession, as that mentioned in said second instructions, no adverse user as commons as a ground of title, under the Act of Congress of 13th June, 1812, can prevail unless such user existed in fact by an actual occupation and use as commons of the same ground, visible and continued, notorious, hostile, and exclusive, [and then] only to the extent that such actual occupation and use as commons existed in fact, and to the exclusion of such claim and cultivation, or possession, by Gamache, of the same land as an outlot, or cultivated field lot, of the village, prior to the 20th day of December, 1803; provided the jury also believe, from the evidence, that the tract of land in the declaration described was claimed and inhabited, cultivated or possessed, by John B. Gamache, senior, prior to the 20th day of December, 1803, as an outlot or cultivated field lot of said village, with such a cultivation or possession as that mentioned in the said second instructions for the plaintiffs."

"4. If the jury believe from the evidence that the claim of the Village of Carondelet to commons, prior to the 20th day of December,

Page 57 U. S. 456

1803, was bounded north in part [by] the cultivated lands of the village, and that, prior to said date, the lot of land in said declaration described as having been claimed by Gamache was one of the cultivated lands of the village, then there is no conflict of title in this case, and the defendants have shown no title to the land in controversy."

"5. The jury are instructed that on the evidence given in this case, the statute of limitations is no bar to this action unless they shall believe, from the evidence, that the town of Carondelet, or those holding under said town, have had an adverse possession in fact of the land in controversy in this case by an actual occupation on the ground, visible and continued, notorious, hostile, and exclusive, for at least twenty years next preceding the commencement of this suit."

"7. The jury are instructed that the survey No. 120, and the plats and field notes thereof given in evidence by the plaintiffs, are evidence of the true location, extent, and boundary of the outlot of the Village of Carondelet, claimed under John B. Gamache, senior, by his legal representatives."

"8. The certified extract from the minutes of Recorder Hunt, taken under the Act of Congress of 26 May, 1824, [is] evidence that the tract of land therein mentioned and described was claimed and inhabited, cultivated or possessed, by John B. Gamache, senior, prior to the 20th day of December, 1803, and evidence that the same was confirmed to John B. Gamache, senior, or his legal representatives, by the Act of Congress of 13 June, 1812."

"9. The certified extract from [the] registry of certificates from the recorder's office, offered in evidence [by the plaintiffs, is evidence] that the outlot therein mentioned was confirmed to John B. Gamache, senior, or his legal representatives, by the act of 13th June, 1812."

"10. The certified extract from the list of claims transmitted by the recorder of land titles to the Surveyor General, and certified from the office of the Surveyor General, relating to the claims of the legal representatives of John B. Gamache, senior, is evidence of said claim and the extent and boundary thereof, and that the same was confirmed by the Act of Congress of 13 June, 1812."

"11. The certificate of confirmation of the recorder of land titles in Missouri, given in evidence by the plaintiffs, shows a prima facie title from the United States in the legal representatives of John B. Gamache, senior, to the land therein described,"

To which decision of the court, refusing said instructions, the plaintiffs by their counsel excepted.

Page 57 U. S. 457

The defendants then asked the following instructions, which were given by the court, as follows, to-wit:

Instructions given to defendants.

"5. If the jury find that the land spoken of by the witnesses as actually cultivated and possessed by Gamache did not embrace the land now in dispute, they ought to find for the defendants."

"17. The survey No. 120, read by the plaintiffs, is no evidence of title, nor of the extent and boundaries of Gamache's claim."

"18. The testimony taken before Hunt, and read in evidence by the plaintiff, is not to be regarded by the jury in the present case, the defendant insisting that the claim had been abandoned."

To the giving of which instructions the [plaintiffs] by their counsel excepted.

The verdict being for the defendants, the case was carried by the plaintiffs to the Supreme Court of Missouri, where the judgment of the court below was affirmed. It was then brought to this Court by the plaintiffs by a writ of error issued under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary act.

Page 57 U. S. 464

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