Myers v. Croft - 80 U.S. 291 (1871)
U.S. Supreme Court
Myers v. Croft, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 291 291 (1871)
Myers v. Croft
80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 291
1. When the grantee in a deed is described in a way which is a proper enough description of an incorporated company, capable of holding land, as ex. gr., "The Sulphur Springs Land Company," the court, in the absence of any proof whatever to the contrary, will presume that the company was capable in law to take a conveyance of real estate.
2. A grantor not having perfect title who conveys for full value is estopped, both himself and others claiming by subsequent grant from him, against denying title, a perfect title afterwards coming to him.
3. Under the 12th section of the Act of September, 1841, "to appropriate the proceeds of the sales of public lands and to grant preemption rights" -- which section, after prescribing the manner in which the proof of settlement and improvements shall be made before the land is entered, has a provision that "all assignments and transfers of the rights hereby secured, prior to the issuing of the patent, shall be null and void" -- a preemptor who has entered the land, and who at the time is the owner in good faith and has done nothing inconsistent
with the provisions of the law on the subject, may sell even though he has not yet obtained a patent. The disability extends only to the assignment of the preemption right.
An act of Congress entitled "An Act to appropriate the proceeds of the sales of the public lands and to grant preemption rights," approved September 4, 1841, after prescribing the manner in which the proof of settlement and improvement shall be made before the land is entered, has this proviso: "and all assignments and transfers of the right hereby secured prior to the issuing of the patent shall be null and void."
Under and by virtue of this act, one Fraily, on the 3d of September, 1857, entered a quarter-section of land in Nebraska, at the land office for the Omaha Land District, with the register thereof.
On the same 3d of September, 1857 -- no letters patent having as yet issued to him -- in consideration of $36,000, as appeared on the face of the deed, he conveyed by a warrantee deed the premises to "The Sulphur Springs Land Company," the company being not otherwise described in the instrument and there being nothing in the instrument or in other proof to show whether the said grantee was a corporation and capable of taking land or an unincorporated company.
On the 1st of May, 1860 -- more than two years after the date of the deed above mentioned -- Fraily made another deed for the sum, as appeared by the instrument, of $6,000 to a certain Myers.
In this state of things, Myers sued Croft, who was in under the company, in ejectment to try the title to the land. And the deed to "The Sulphur Springs Land Company" being in evidence on the part of the defendant, the plaintiff moved the court to rule it from the jury for the reasons:
1st. That he had not shown that the Sulphur Springs Land Company was an organization capable of receiving the conveyance of land, and
2d. That under the provisions of the act of Congress already quoted, the deed was void.
The court overruled the motion, charging contrariwise, that the deed was valid and passed the title to the premises. To this ruling and charge the plaintiff excepted, and judgment having been given for the defendant the case was now here.