Mills County v. Railroad Companies,
107 U.S. 557 (1883)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mills County v. Railroad Companies, 107 U.S. 557 (1883)

Mills County v. Railroad Companies

Decided April 23, 1883

107 U.S. 557


1. The swamp and overflowed lands granted by the Act of Sept. 28, 1850, c. 84, are subject to the disposal of the states wherein they respectively lie, and no party other than the United States can question such disposal or enforce the conditions of the grant.

2. The proviso to the second section of the act, that the proceeds of the lands shall be applied exclusively, as far as necessary, to the purpose of reclaiming the same by levees and drains, imposed an obligation which rests upon the good faith of the states. No trust was thereby attached to the lands, and the title to them, which is derived from either of the states, is not affected by the manner in which she performed that obligation.

3. The State of Iowa having granted its swamp and overflowed lands to the counties respectively in which they are situate, Mills County, insisting that certain lands were of this character, made claim thereto. The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company claimed them under the Act of May 15, 1850, c. 28. These conflicting claims gave rise to a suit between the parties, which was decided by the state courts in favor of the county. A writ of error was thereupon brought, and, whilst it was pending here, a compromise was entered into by which the county was to make certain conveyances to the company, and to pay it the sum of $10,000 for lands previously disposed of. Conveyances were executed accordingly. Afterwards, the county instituted suit to have the compromise declared void, and the company sued for the $10,000. The state courts having sustained the compromise, and decided against the county in both suits, writs of error were brought here.


1. That the county cannot set up that the lands were disposed of contrary to the provisions of the said act of 1850.

2. That although, after the compromise was made, the writ then pending was submitted to this Court, and decided in favor of the county, yet that this did not abrogate the compromise, as the parties continued to act under it, and that the decision of the state court in the present cases is not repugnant to, nor in disaffirmance of, the opinion and judgment of this Court.

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