Keokuk & Western R. Co. v. Missouri,
152 U.S. 301 (1894)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Keokuk & Western R. Co. v. Missouri, 152 U.S. 301 (1894)

Keokuk & Western Railroad Company v. Missouri

No. 182

Decided March 12, 1894

152 U.S. 301


Where two railroad corporations were consolidated after passage of a state constitutional amendment which forbade exemptions from state taxation, the resulting corporation was not entitled to the benefit of a tax exemption previously granted to one of its predecessors/

Action brought in a court of the state of Missouri by the state for the use of the collector of Scotland County against the Keokuk & Western Railroad Company to enforce an alleged lien for taxes. Judgment was rendered for plaintiff, and was affirmed by the supreme court of the state. 99 Mo. 30. Defendant brings error.

This was an action at law brought in the circuit court of Missouri for the county of Scotland, by the state, suing for the use of the collector of revenue for Scotland County, against the Keokuk and Western Railroad Company, to charge the property then in its hands as owner with an alleged lien for state and county taxes levied on the property of the Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska Railway Company for the year 1886. The Keokuk and Western Railroad Company, defendant, became the purchaser of the property of the corporation against which the tax was levied in December, 1886, through a sale thereof under a supplemental decree of foreclosure rendered July 8,

Page 152 U. S. 302

1886, and by other deeds of conveyance made by the Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska Railway Company and by the Central Trust Company of New York.

The answer set forth the following facts in defense:

1. That the Alexandria and Bloomfield Railroad Company was chartered by Special Act of February 9, 1857, to build a railroad from Alexandria, Missouri, in the direction of Bloomfield in the state of Iowa, to the northern boundary of the state of Missouri. The act further provided that the construction of the road should be commenced within ten years after the passage of the act, and completed within ten years thereafter, and that "the stock of said company shall be exempt from taxation for a period of twenty years after its completion." By a subsequent Act of February 19, 1866, the corporate name of such railroad company was changed to the Alexandria and Nebraska City Railroad Company. It appeared upon the trial that the road was completed to the state line in December, 1872.

2. March 2, 1869, the legislature passed a general law authorizing any railroad company in Missouri to consolidate with a railroad company of an adjoining state, making one company of the two,

"whose stock shall be so consolidated, under such terms and conditions and stipulations as may be mutually agreed between them, in accordance with the laws of the adjoining state in which the road is located, with which connection is thus formed."

The fourth section of this act provided as follows:

"Any such consolidated company shall be subject to all the liabilities, and bound by all the obligations of the company within this state, which may be thus consolidated with one in the adjacent state as fully as if such consolidation had not taken place, and shall be subject to the same duties and obligations to the state, and be entitled to the same franchises and privileges under the laws of this state, as if the consolidation had not taken place."

Pursuant to this act, the Alexandria and Nebraska City Railroad Company, on May 3, 1870, consolidated with the Iowa Southern Railway Company, an Iowa corporation, under the name of the Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska Railway Company, forming a continuous

Page 152 U. S. 303

line from Alexandria, on the Mississippi, to a point in the state of Iowa near Nebraska City, on the Missouri River.

3. Subsequently, and on August 19, 1886, the Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska Railway Company was sold under a decree of foreclosure entered in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Iowa, to Morris K. Jesup and Henry C. Thatcher, who subsequently, and in December of the same year, conveyed the same to the Keokuk and Western Railroad Company, defendant.

4. Defendant further set forth in its answer, by way of estoppel, that in 1873, plaintiff brought suit against the Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska Company to recover the taxes for the year 1872 upon the property described in the petition in this action; that defendant answered, claiming the exemption provided by the ninth section of the original Alexandria and Bloomfield charter; that such suit was decided in favor of the railroad company and affirmed upon appeal to the Supreme Court of Missouri, and reported in 65 Mo. 123.

5. Defendant also pleaded by way of further estoppel that in 1881, one Secor and other stockholders of the Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska Company filed a bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Missouri, praying an injunction against said company paying the taxes alleged to be due upon their property in Scotland, Clarke, and Schuyler Counties, and to enjoin the county court and the collectors of revenue from claiming such taxes for the year 1881 or any previous years; that a temporary injunction was granted, which was made final and perpetual, and which is still in full force and effect; that in such suit, complainant claimed the same exemption contained in the Alexandria and Bloomfield charter, which the court held to be valid, and that such case was reported in 9 F. 809.

It further appeared that a new constitution was adopted by the state of Missouri in 1865, which contained the following provisions:

"Article 11, § 3. All statute laws of this state now in force, not inconsistent with this constitution shall continue in force

Page 152 U. S. 304

until they shall expire by their own limitation, or be amended or repealed by the general assembly.'"

"Article 11, § 16. No property, real or personal, shall be exempt from taxation, except such as may be used exclusively for public schools, and such as may belong to the United States, to this state, to counties, or to municipal corporations within this state."

Upon the hearing of this case, the Circuit Court of Scotland County denied the exemption claimed by the defendant, and rendered judgment against it for the taxes in question, which judgment was affirmed on appeal by the supreme court of the state, 99 Mo. 30, whereupon, after an unsuccessful motion for a rehearing, defendant sued out this writ of error.

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