At the time when the United States instituted the suit against
the plaintiff in error which has just been decided, the plaintiff
in error had no interest whatever in the 26,017.33 acres of land
certified back to the United States by the Governor of Iowa
pursuant to a statute of that state, and all such laud was then
subject to entry under the preemption and homestead laws.
Page 159 U. S. 378
The case is stated in the opinion.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.
The history of the lands, of which those here in dispute form a
part, is fully stated in the opinion just delivered in Sioux
City & St. Paul Railroad Co. v. United States.
By reference to that opinion, it will be seen that the only
certificates given by the governor for the benefit of the Sioux
City Company were certificates showing the construction by it of
fifty miles, or five sections of ten consecutive miles each; that,
in 1872 and 1873, the Secretary of the Interior caused to be issued
patents to the state for 407,870.21 acres, of which 322,412.81
acres were certified by the state to the company, the state
retaining within its control 85,457.40 acres; that of the
322,412.81 acres 41,687.52 acres were awarded to the Milwaukee
Company, as successor in right of the McGregor Western Railroad
Company, leaving with the Sioux City 280,725.29 acres that it has
disposed of, and about which no question is here made; that out of
the 85,457.40 acres 37,747.89 acres were awarded to the Milwaukee
Company, and that of the 85,457.40 acres, 21,692.38 acres were
those in dispute in Sioux City & St. Paul Railroad Co. v.
and 26,017.33 acres were formally relinquished
and conveyed by the Governor of Iowa pursuant to the Act of the
Iowa Legislature of March 27, 1884. Laws of Iowa, 1884, 78, c. 71;
Laws of Iowa, 1882, 102, c. 107.
After this conveyance by the Governor of Iowa, the question as
to the disposition of these 26,017.33 acres came up for
consideration in the Department of the Interior. Upon the hearing
of this question, Secretary Lamar said:
"The certification by the governor under this act was not made
without an effort on the part of the railroad to prevent it. He was
enjoined by the company, but the injunction was dissolved, and the
Page 159 U. S. 379
followed. The company is still opposing reassertion of title by
the United States, and is now here, by its president any by
counsel, claiming in effect that the grant for the benefit of the
company was one of quantity, and not lands in place, and that
therefore the company has earned the lands in question
notwithstanding they are outside of the fifty-mile terminal
The conclusion of the Secretary is thus stated:
"I must conclude, after a careful examination of the matter as
presented, that neither the State of Iowa nor the Sioux City and
St. Paul Railroad Company ever had any title under the granting act
of 1864 to the lands in question beyond the prima facie
legal title which would appear from the face of the patents, which,
so far as these lands are concerned, were improperly and illegally
issued. This title, such as it was, had gone no further than the
state, for it had not patented or certified the lands in question
to the company. The state having relinquished and reconveyed to the
United States such title as it had, I have no hesitation in
concurring in your recommendation that the lands so certified and
conveyed be restored to entry under the settlement laws of the
United States. You will therefore treat them as public lands, and
they will be thrown open to settlement and entry, as are other
public lands of the United States."
6 L.D. 47, 53.
By an order of the Interior Department made August 4, 1887,
these 26,017.33 acres were restored to entry under the preemption,
homestead, and timber culture laws of the United States. Entries
were made September 12, 1887, as follows: by defendants in error
Lewis Countryman and Adam Phillips, respectively, under the
homestead laws, and by defendants in error Washington Royer and
Basil D. Battin, respectively, under the preemption laws.
The railroad company brought separate actions of ejectment in
the District Court of Woodbury County, Iowa, against these person,
in which it asserted title to the lands so entered by the
respective defendants. By stipulation of the parties, the four
cases were heard and determined together. Judgment in each case was
rendered for the defendant, and upon
Page 159 U. S. 380
error to the Supreme Court of Iowa each judgment was
For the reasons stated in the opinion in Sioux City &
St. Paul Railroad Company v. United States,
just decided, it
must be held that the railroad company did not have at the time
those actions were instituted any interest whatever in the
26,017.33 acres, or any of them, certified back to the United
States by the governor of Iowa pursuant to a statute of that state.
It had previously received its full complement of public lands
under the Act of May 12, 1864, on account of road certified by the
governor of the state as having been constructed in accordance with
the requirements of that act.
The judgment in each case is