Jamestown & Northern R. Co. v. Jones,
177 U.S. 125 (1900)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Jamestown & Northern R. Co. v. Jones, 177 U.S. 125 (1900)

Jamestown and Northern Railroad Company v. Jones

No. 142

Argued February 1, 1900

Decided March 26, 1900

177 U.S. 125


Under the Act of March 3, 1875, c. 152, "granting to the railroads the right of way through the public lands of tile United States," such grant to the

plaintiff in error took effect upon the construction of its road.

This suit was brought by plaintiff in error to have itself adjudged the owner of a right of way over the northwest quarter of section eight in township 141, of range 64, in the County of Stutsman, State of North Dakota.

Its title rests upon the Act of Congress of March 3, 1875, entitled, "An Act Granting to Railroads the Right of Way through the Public Lands of the United States."

The plaintiff was organized September 17, 1881, under the laws of the Territory of Dakota. After its organization, it surveyed a line of route for its railroad from a point near Jamestown in a northwesterly direction through the County of Stutsman and over the land in controversy. The survey was finished the 30th of October, 1881. A map representing the survey was made by a resolution of the board of directors, and was adopted as the definite route of the railroad.

In 1882, the road was constructed upon the line surveyed, and since that time trains have been continuously run over it by the plaintiff.

On the 26th of January, 1883, the plaintiff filed with the Secretary of the Interior a copy of its articles of incorporation, and due proofs of its organization under the same. On the 13th of March, 1883, plaintiff's map of definite location was filed and approved by the Secretary of the Interior. There was some uncertainty in the evidence whether such map was ever filed in the office of the register of the local land office, but it probably was.

Page 177 U. S. 126

On the 12th of February, 1881, the land then being public land of the United States, duly surveyed, one Sherman Jones filed a declaratory statement upon it, alleging settlement the 8th of February, 1881. On the 13th of March, 1883, it had not been cancelled or vacated.

On the 26th of May, 1882, one William S. King filed a declaratory statement on the land, which on the 13th of March, 1883, had not been cancelled.

In addition to the above, the trial court found the following facts:

"On the 7th day of March, A.D. 1883, one Ella Sharp filed in said land office an application to be allowed to enter said tract under the homestead law, together with the affidavit required by law. Said application was received and entered at said land office and continued in force until, on the 21st day of November, 1892, it was cancelled at said land office by relinquishment."

"On the 23d day of February, A.D. 1883, the defendant, T. J. Jones, was a citizen of the United States and over the age of twenty-one years. On that day, intending to purchase said tract under the preemption laws, he built a house thereon; on the 3d day of March of said year, he commenced living in said house, and from that day continuously to the present has resided on said land and has cultivated and improved the same. On June 5, 1883, he filed in said land office at Fargo a declaratory statement under the preemption law, alleging settlement on said land on March 3, 1883. He afterward applied to said land office to be allowed to make proof under his declaratory statement, but owing to the existence of said prior homestead entry of Ella Sharp, said application was refused. In November, 1892, he secured from said Ella Sharp a relinquishment of her homestead entry, and on the 21st day of November, 1892, the same date said entry was cancelled by relinquishment, he made application to said land office to be allowed to change his preemption entry upon said tract into a homestead entry. Said application was received at said land office, the entry allowed and numbered 20,234, and a receiver's receipt bearing the same number issued to said defendant. Afterward, on the 21st day

Page 177 U. S. 127

of January, A.D. 1893, he made final proof for said land under the homestead law, and on February 18, 1893, a final receiver's receipt, numbered 7,233, was issued to him by said land office at Fargo. On the 26th day of May, 1893, a patent in due form, whereby the United States conveyed and granted said land to said defendant, was issued to and received by him. There was not in said receiver's receipt or final certificate, or in said patent for said tract a reservation of any vested or accrued right, claim, or interest to said land on the part of the plaintiff or of any person or corporation under the act of Congress of March 3, 1875. At the time defendant settled upon said land, plaintiff was and ever since has been engaged in operating a line of railroad thereover."

"The plaintiff has not at any time instituted proceedings or resorted to any process whatever under state or federal laws to condemn a right of way across said land, or to divest defendant of his title or any possessory right that he might have to said land."

"Plaintiff has taken for its use as a right of way upon said land a strip one hundred feet wide, being fifty feet on each side of the central line of its railroad tract and extending diagonally across said land from a point about the middle of its south boundary to a point near its northwest corner. Said strip includes about six acres of said land. The land not taken is divided into two unequal parts, and its value for farming purposes decreased. Trains of cars are drawn by plaintiff over and across said land every day, and the crop on defendant's land is injured by smoke from said railroad, and his buildings and crops subjected to increased hazard of destruction by fire. By the taking of said strip for a right of way and the construction and operation of a railroad thereon, the said land is depreciated in value in the sum of three hundred dollars."

"Defendant has not at any time consented to the taking or use of said land by plaintiff, and has not received any compensation for said taking or for the injury and damage inflicted thereby."

As conclusions of law, the court found that no right of way accrued until the 13th of March, 1883, the date of the filing of the profile

Page 177 U. S. 128

map of the road; that, prior to that time the land had ceased to be public land by reason of the preemption and homestead entries which had been filed upon it; that the defendant, T. J. Jones, was the owner in fee of said land without reservation of any kind, and that his title related back to February 23, 1883, the date of his settlement thereon.

Judgment was entered dismissing plaintiff's cause of action, awarding the defendant three hundred dollars and costs taxed at $24.65, and that,

"upon the payment to the defendant of the sum of three hundred dollars and the costs of this action, there shall vest in the plaintiff, Jamestown & Northern Railroad Company, and its successors and assigns, the full legal title to that portion of the northeast quarter of section 8, township 141, range 64, used by it as a right of way, to-wit, fifty feet on each side of the center line of said railroad, as the same has been heretofore constructed and is now located and operated through said land by said plaintiff."

Upon appeal to the supreme court of the state, the judgment was affirmed (7 N.D. 619), and this writ of error was then sued out.

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