County of St. Clair v. Lovingston
90 U.S. 46

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U.S. Supreme Court

County of St. Clair v. Lovingston, 90 U.S. 23 Wall. 46 46 (1875)

County of St. Clair v. Lovingston

90 U.S. (23 Wall.) 46



1. Where a survey begins "on the bank of a river" and is carried thence "to a point in the river," the river bank being straight and running according to this line, the tract surveyed is bounded by the river. It is

even more plainly so when it begins at a post "on the bank of the river, thence north 5 degrees east up the river and binding therewith."

2. Alluvion means an addition to riparian land, gradually and imperceptibly made, through causes either natural or artificial, by the water to which the land is contiguous.

3. The test of what is gradual and imperceptible is that, though the witnesses may see from time to time that progress has been made, they could not perceive it while the process was going on.

4. It matters not whether the addition be on streams which do overflow their banks or those that do not. In each case, it is alluvion.

The County of St. Clair, Illinois, brought ejectment against Lovingston, for a piece of land within its own boundaries, situated on the east bank of the River Mississippi (as its east bank now runs), opposite to St. Louis. The land was confessedly "made land" -- that is to say, it was land formed by accretion or alluvion, in the general sense of that word, though whether it was land made by accretion or alluvion in the technical or legal sense of the word was a point in dispute between the parties in the case. The bank of the river had confessedly, in some way, been greatly changed, and in this part added to. The tract in dispute is indicated on the diagram upon the next page, by the deeply shaded or most dark part of it; the part at the bottom of the diagram and on the left hand side of it.

The case was thus:

Before the year 1815, and in pursuance of an early formed intention by the government to give a piece of land to soldiers in the old French settlements in Illinois, a survey was made in the public lands for one Nicholas Jarrot, of one hundred acres, which was either on or near to the Mississippi River, as it then ran, though whether, in all its parts, on

Page 90 U. S. 47

the river or only beginning on its bank and leaving a strip or pieces of land between the tract and the river -- edges more or less ragged -- was one point in the case.


Page 90 U. S. 48

The field notes and a plot of the tract, as given in proof, were thus:


"Beginning on the bank of the Mississippi River, opposite St. Louis, from which the lower window of the United States storehouse in St. Louis bears N. 70 3/4 W.; thence S. 5 W. 160 poles to a point in the river from which a sycamore 20 inches diameter bears S. 85 E. 250 links; thence S. 85 E. 130 poles (at 30 poles a slash) to a point; thence N. 15 W. 170 poles to a forked elm on the bank of Cahokia Creek; thence N. 85 W. 70 poles to the beginning."

At the time of this survey, the west line of the tract, if not in all its course on the river, was confessedly in all its course near to the river, the general course of the river bank in 1814, just before the survey, being indicated on the Diagram No. 1 by the words "River-bank in 1814," and the tract, the field notes of whose survey are above given, being marked on that diagram as "No. 579, N. Jarrot."

To the north of this tract of one hundred acres to Jarrot were two other tracts, each of one hundred acres. They are numbered on the Diagram No. 1, the one 624 and the other 766, and their general position is thus shown. Jarrot, in virtue of a transfer from some other French settler, claimed also this latter tract, No. 766.

At a later date -- that is to say in 1815 -- a certain Pierre Coudaire got a survey which covered the whole of the three

Page 90 U. S. 49

abovementioned tracts, and some irregular edges on the east between them and the Cahokia Creek, as also a small strip bending round and going to the south of the southernmost of the three tracts, or tract No. 579. What this survey embraced on the west -- that is to say, on the river side -- not embraced by the surveys of the others, or, more especially, and so far as that extent of line was concerned, not embraced by the west line of tract No. 579 -- and whether it embraced anything at all -- in other words, whether it brought the title any more upon or to the river than the old surveys -- was one of the questions of the case. The field notes of Coudaire's survey, which a drawing, Diagram No. 3, thus illustrates, called for a post in the northwesterly line of survey


636 as the point of beginning; thence south 38

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