Stone v. United States,
167 U.S. 178 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Stone v. United States, 167 U.S. 178 (1897)

Stone v. United States

No. 285

Submitted April 2, 1897

Decided May 10, 1897

167 U.S. 178


The United States court in the District of Washington has jurisdiction of an action brought by the United States against a defendant, found there, to recover for timber unlawfully cut from lands of the United States in Idaho.

It is no defense against such action that the defendant was indicted criminally for cutting such timber and was acquitted.

The ruling of the court about the challenges are without merit.

The provision in the Act of March 3, 1875, c. 152, that the railroad companies therein provided for have "the right to take from the public lands adjacent to the line of said road material," etc., means lands in proximity, contiguous to, or near the road.

As between the government and a settler, the title to public land until the conditions of the law are fulfilled remains in the United States, but in the meantime, if the settler is engaged in improving the land as required by law and disposes of any surplus timber without intent to defraud the government, and the purchaser buys the timber under the belief that there is no intent or purpose to defraud the government, the sale is lawful and the purchaser is protected.

The fact that claimants to lands under the homestead and preemption laws, after occupation for a time, abandon the lands is not alone proof that they intended to defraud the government, although in the meantime they have cut and sold the timber from the lands during the occupation, but the jury should judge of the intent of the parties so acting by all the circumstances surrounding each case, and if these circumstances satisfy the jury that claimants of the land were acting in good faith at the time they sold the timber, and the purchaser had no reasonable ground to believe otherwise, then such sale would be lawful.

A general verdict is not a nullity by reason of its being received or recorded on Sunday.

Page 167 U. S. 179

The case is stated in the opinion.

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