Ashby v. Hall, 119 U.S. 526 (1886)
U.S. Supreme CourtAshby v. Hall, 119 U.S. 526 (1886)
Ashby v. Hall
Argued November 10, 1886
Decided December 13, 1886
119 U.S. 526
The entry in the Land Office of a portion of the public lands in the Territory of Montana, settled upon and occupied as a townsite, under the Act of Congress of March 2d 1867, "for the relief of the inhabitants of cities and towns on the public lands," being
"in trust for the several use and benefit of the occupants thereof, according to their respective interests, the execution of which trust, as to the disposal of the lots in such town and the proceeds of the sales thereof, to be conducted under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the legislative authority of the state or territory in which the same may be situated,"
it was held that the occupant of a lot in the town which had been surveyed and platted into streets, alleys, blocks, and lots continued to possess after such entry the same right of way over an adjoining alley which he had previously possessed as appurtenant to his lot.
The interests which the occupants possessed previous to the entry, either in the land occupied by them or in rights of way over adjoining streets and alleys, were secured by it.
The power vested in the legislature of the territory was confined to regulations for the disposal of the lots and the proceeds of the sales. These regulations might extend to provisions for the ascertainment of the nature and extent of the occupancy of different claimants of lots, and the execution and delivery to those found to be occupants in good faith of some official recognition of title in the nature of a conveyance, but they could not authorize any diminution of the rights of the occupants when the extent of their occupancy was established.
The legislature of the territory could not, under the authority conferred by the above act of Congress, change or close the streets, alleys, and blocks of the town by a new survey. Whatever power it may have over them does not come from the townsite act, but, if it exist at all, from the general grant of legislative power under the organic act of the territory.
The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.