Gilmer v. Stone,
120 U.S. 586 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gilmer v. Stone, 120 U.S. 586 (1887)

Gilmer v. Stone

Submitted December 20, 1886

Decided March 7, 1887

120 U.S. 586


A, a resident in Irish Grove, Illinois, died there leaving a will by which, after bequeathing his library to the Presbyterian Church of Irish Grove and $500 for the erection of another Presbyterian church in Illinois, and $50 to be paid on the minister's salary of the Presbyterian church of Irish Grove for 1884, and some other bequests, he bequeathed and devised the remainder of his estate "to he equally divided between the board of foreign and the board of home missions." The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America has a corporate "Board of Foreign Missions" and a corporate "Board of Home Missions," but it was agreed by counsel that several other religious bodies in the United States have similar organizations for the same purposes. Held that there was a latent ambiguity in the will respecting the object of the residuary gift, which ambiguity could be removed by extrinsic evidence, and that the evidence introduced on that point, taken in connection with the other bequests in the will for the benefit of Presbyterian churches, showed that the testator,

Page 120 U. S. 587

in making the residuary gift, had in his mind the Board of Foreign Missions and the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, of which he was a member and an officer.

The restriction upon the right of a congregation, formed for religious purposes, to receive "land not exceeding in quantity . . . ten acres," which is imposed by § 42 of the Act of the Legislature of Illinois of April 18, 1872, applies to congregations incorporated for the object named in § 35 of that act, viz., "the purpose of religious worship," and does not affect foreign benevolent or missionary societies incorporated either with the objects named in the incorporation of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States or with the objects named in the incorporation of the Board of Home Missions of that church, although both organizations are important agencies in the general religious work of that church.

Christian Union v. Yount, 101 U. S. 352, commented upon, explained, and affirmed.

Bill in equity to set aside a will and its probate for uncertainty so far as they related to the residuary devise and bequest. Decree dismissing the bill, from which plaintiff appealed. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

Page 120 U. S. 588

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