McGarrahan v. Mining Co.
96 U.S. 316 (1877)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McGarrahan v. Mining Co., 96 U.S. 316 (1877)

McGarrahan v. Mining Company

96 U.S. 316

Syllabus

1. The statutory provisions prescribing the manner in which a patent of the United States for land shall be executed are mandatory. No equivalent for any of the required formalities is allowed, but each of the integral acts to be performed is essential to the perfection and validity of such an instrument. If, therefore, it is not actually countersigned by the recorder of the General Land Office in person or, in his absence, by the principal clerk of private land claims as acting recorder, it is not executed according to law and does not pass the title of the United States.

2. The record in the volume kept for that purpose at the General Land Office at Washington of a patent which has been executed in the manner which the law directs is evidence of the same dignity and is subject to the same defenses as the patent itself. If the instrument, as the same appears of record, was not so executed and was therefore insufficient on its face to transfer the title of the United States, the record raises no presumption that a patent duly executed was delivered to and accepted by the grantee.

3. The Act of March 3, 1843, 5 Stat. 627, in relation to exemplifications of records, does not dispense with the provisions of law touching the signing and countersigning. The record, to prove a valid patent, must still show that they were complied with. The names need not be fully inserted in the record, but it must appear in some form that they were actually signed to the patent when it was issued.

4. The failure to record a patent does not defeat the grant.

This was ejectment by William McGarrahan in the District Court of the Twentieth Judicial District of California in and for Santa Clara County against the New Idria Mining Company to recover possession of certain lands in that state known as the Rancho Panoche Grande. He claimed them under a patent therefor which he alleged had been issued by the United States to Vicente P. Gomez, his grantor, under the act of Congress to

Page 96 U. S. 317

ascertain and settle the private land claims in the State of California, approved March 3, 1851, 9 Stat. 631. The patent was not produced upon the trial, but the plaintiff put in evidence a certified copy of an instrument as the same was recorded in a volume kept at the General Land Office at Washington for the recording of patents of the United States for confirmed Mexican land grants in California, being volume 4 of such records, upon pages 312-321 inclusive. The concluding portion of that copy is as follows:

"In testimony whereof, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, have caused these letters to be made patent, and the seal of the General Land Office to be hereunto affixed."

"Given under my hand at the City of Washington, this fourteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty seventh."

"[L. S.] By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN"

"By W. O. STODDARD"

"Secretary"

"Acting Recorder of the General Land Office"

As the only question decided by this court is whether the exemplification admitted on the trial of the cause shows upon its face the execution of a patent sufficient in law to pass the title of the United States, no reference is made to the other points which arose in the court below and were elaborately discussed by counsel here.

The district court rendered judgment for the defendant, which was affirmed by the supreme court. McGarrahan then sued out this writ of error.

Page 96 U. S. 318

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