St. Louis v. Ferry Company
78 U.S. 423

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

St. Louis v. Ferry Company, 78 U.S. 11 Wall. 423 423 (1870)

St. Louis v. Ferry Company

78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 423

Syllabus

The ferry boats of a corporation incorporated in one state and carrying passengers, &c., forward and back across a river to a city situated in another state are not taxable under a law taxing boats "within the city" in a case where the relation of the boats to the city was simply that of contact, as one of the termini of their voyage, and the place where they were laid up when not in use, and where their pilots and engineers resided, and where the real estate of the corporation including a warehouse was situated, was on the opposite shore and in another state. This is not altered by the facts that the boats were enrolled in pursuance of our navigation acts at the city; that the ferry company had an office there; that its president, vice-president, and other principal officers lived there; that the stockholders mainly resided there, and none in the state opposite; that there the ordinary business meetings of the directors

Page 78 U. S. 424

were held, and its moneys received and disbursed, and the corporate seal kept.

A statute of Missouri enacts that "shares of stock and all other interests held in steamboats, keel boats, wharf boats, and all other vessels," shall be taxable for state purposes, and by its charter, the City of St. Louis has authority to tax all property within the city so taxable.

In this state of statutory enactment, the city authorities of St. Louis laid a tax on the value of all ferry boats used by the Wiggins Ferry Company in ferrying passengers and cargo on the Mississippi River between the City of St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, in Illinois, on the opposite shore. The ferry company refused to pay the tax on the ground that these boats were not "property within the city," and the question was whether they were so or not.

The case as found by the court below (to which it had been submitted under the act of March 3, 1865) [Footnote 1] was this:

The ferry company was incorporated by the laws of Illinois, and had its principal office in St. Louis, Missouri. There its president, vice-president, treasurer, superintendent, and other chief officers resided; there the ordinary business meetings of the directors were held, and there the seal of the corporation was kept. The company's minor officers, such as engineers and pilots on its ferry boats, resided in Illinois, opposite the City of St. Louis, where its real estate was situated, also its warehouse and some other property. The ferry boats, when not in actual use, were laid up by the Illinois shore, and were forbidden by a general ordinance of the City of St. Louis regulating ferries and ferry boats to remain at the St. Louis wharf or landing longer than ten minutes at a time. The city exacted from the company an annual ferry license, which was paid. It permitted the company to erect landing or wharf boats at its wharf or public landing, for the convenience and exclusive use of its

Page 78 U. S. 425

ferry boats, for which wharf boats the city charged the company a stipulated annual wharfage, which was also paid. The company was assessed and taxed for the value of these wharf boats within the city limits, in addition to the ferry license and wharfage.

The stockholders of the ferry company resided mainly in St. Louis. Some, however, resided in Ohio, some in New York, and some elsewhere, but none in Illinois. The meetings of the company as a corporation for the election of directors had been generally held in Illinois, but the meetings of the directors for the election of its officers and appointment of its employees had been generally held in St. Louis, Missouri. All the principal business of the company done by its directors, superintendent, and other agents, had been transacted in St. Louis. The money collected and received by it for ferriages and other dues were kept in St. Louis, and the books of the company were kept there, and some of the disbursements of the company were there made by its treasurer. The personal property belonging to the company, assessed for taxes by the city, for which these suits were brought, consisted solely of its already mentioned ferry boats. On these as well as on its other property it was duly assessed in Illinois, and paid taxes there. The ferry boats were enrolled at St. Louis under the laws of the United States; that is to say, under the acts of 1789 and 1792, which require every vessel to be registered in the district to which she belongs, and declare that her home port shall be that at or near to which her owner resides.

Upon this same state of facts, the Supreme Court of Missouri, in City of St. Louis v. Wiggins Ferry Company, [Footnote 2] had adjudged that the company was bound to pay the tax.

The court below decided that the ferry company, being a corporation created by the State of Illinois, and the ferry boats not being within the limits of St. Louis except as they habitually touched at its wharf for the delivery of passengers and cargo, was not taxable for its boats by the city, as property

Page 78 U. S. 426

within it. The fact that the principal business office of the company was in St. Louis, and that the ferry boats were enrolled at the port of St. Louis, under the United States laws, did not, as the court below considered, essentially change the case. Judgment having been accordingly entered for the ferry company, the city excepted to the law as declared by the court upon the facts, and tendered its bill of exceptions, which was signed and sealed.

Page 78 U. S. 428

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