Alviso v. United States - 75 U.S. 337 (1868)


U.S. Supreme Court

Alviso v. United States, 75 U.S. 8 Wall. 337 337 (1868)

Alviso v. United States

75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 337

Syllabus

1. Where a Mexican grant of land in California designates the land granted by a particular name and specifies the quantity, but does not give any boundaries, the grantee is entitled to the quantity specified within the limits of his settlement and possession, if that amount can be obtained without encroachment upon the prior rights of adjoining proprietors.

2. When the evidence upon a boundary line, between two Mexican grants, is conflicting and irreconcilable, this Court will not interfere with the decision of the court below.

3. Parties not claiming under the United States, who are allowed to intervene in proceedings of the district court to correct surveys of Mexican land grants in California, under the Act of June 14, 1860, must claim under cessions of the former Mexican government. The order of the district court, allowing a party thus claiming to intervene, is it determination that he possesses such interest derived from that government as to entitle him to contest the survey, and objection to his intervention, on the ground that he possesses no such interest, cannot be taken for the first time in this Court.

4. The United States cannot object to the correctness of a boundary line in an approved survey if they have not appealed from the decree approving the survey.

This was an appeal from a decree of the District Court of California, approving a survey of a confirmed Mexican land claim. There were two grants issued by the Mexican government to the claimant.

The original grant, issued in September, 1835, described the land ceded as known by the name of Milpitas, and as being one league in length, from north to south, and oneself a league in width, from east to west, and being in extent equal to half a square league, as shown by the accompanying map. The second grant, issued in October following,

Page 75 U. S. 338

added a half league to the original quantity on the west, so as to make the entire tract ceded a square league. The second of these title papers, merely adding to the quantity originally granted, the two are spoken of in the opinion, as constituting one concession or grant.

Neither of the title papers gave any boundaries of the land, or referred to any documents by which the boundaries could be ascertained, except the map mentioned. This map was a rude and imperfect sketch, indicating only the general locality of the land, without fixing, with any precision, its exterior limits.

The decree of the district court upon the claim of the grantee did not give the boundaries of the claim. It adjudged the claim to be valid, to the extent and quantity of one square league, provided that quantity be contained "within the boundaries called for in the grants," and the map to which they referred; and if there were less than that quantity, then the confirmation was to be restricted accordingly. But no boundaries were, in fact, stated in the grants. The decree also declared the tract confirmed to be the land "of which the possession was proved to have been long enjoyed" by the claimant. The proof here mentioned, only showed that the claimant had been, for many years, in possession of some of the land granted to him, without mentioning any boundaries of the land, or indicating that any were established.

Three surveys of the claim were made by different surveyors, and submitted to the district court for examination and approval, and in relation to each of them, testimony was taken and counsel were heard, either upon the intervention of the United States or of the claimant or of adjoining proprietors.

The first two surveys were set aside, and the questions presented arose upon the third survey. One Higuera owned a tract on the north, and it appeared from the evidence that the boundary line between him and Alviso, at one time in dispute, was settled and fixed under the Mexican government. On the west, one White owned a tract, as confirmee

Page 75 U. S. 339

of a grant known as Rincon de los Esteros, and a creek, known as Penetencia Creek, was the boundary between him and Alviso. The questions on this case related to the southern boundary of the tract of the claimant, and upon this the evidence was conflicting and irreconcilable. One Berrysea claimed the land on the south, and he intervened in the proceedings upon the survey in the district court, by leave of the court. In his petition for permission to intervene, he alleged that he was the owner of the rancho on the south of the claim of the claimant, as surveyed under title derived from the Mexican government; that the Creek Milpitas was the boundary between his rancho and the rancho confirmed to the claimant, and that the survey of the claimant's claim included about fifteen or eighteen hundred acres of land belonging to him. There was no other evidence in the record that Berrysea had any grant.

The appeal was by the claimant.



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