Dunbar v. Green,
198 U.S. 166 (1905)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Dunbar v. Green, 198 U.S. 166 (1905)

Dunbar v. Green

No. 200

Submitted April 6, 1905

Decided May 1, 1905

198 U.S. 166


The guardian of an Indian minor appointed in a County of Kansas, other than that in which the land was situated, gave a deed to his ward's property; the grantees did not take possession or exercise any act of ownership for thirty years, when the original owner took possession of the land which was still vacant and unimproved, and for the first time asserted the invalidity of his guardian's deed; thereupon the grantees under the guardian's deed brought ejectment; the defendant answered by general denial and also by cross-petition asked for equitable relief quieting the title and declaring his guardian's deed void; the state court held the deed void but awarded possession to the grantees thereunder on the ground of the ward's laches.

Held error; that, in an action of ejectment, plaintiff must recover on the strength of his own title, and not on the weakness of defendant's, and that the rule is not affected in this case by the fact that the defendants, by cross-petition, had asked for equitable relief.

This was an action of ejectment brought September 22, 1900, in the District Court of Wyandotte County by defendants in error, who were plaintiffs below, to recover possession of certain lots of land in the City of Argentine. The case was tried upon an agreed statement of facts, substantially as follows:

The land was patented December 28, 1859, to Susan Whitefeather, as the head of a family consisting of herself and her son, George Washington, who were members of the Shawnee tribe of Indians. The patent was issued under the treaty of May 10, 1854 (Indian Treaties, p. 792), with the Shawnees. Whitefeather died prior to July 10, 1862, and her son, George Washington, inherited the land. On November 27, 1867, he being then fourteen years of age, the Probate Court of Johnson County appointed Jonathan Gore as his guardian, though the land was in Wyandotte County. In these proceedings Washington is described as the minor heir of George and Judy

Page 198 U. S. 167

Washington. Under such appointment, the guardian sold the land to one Joel F. Kinney for $2,000, executing to him a guardian's deed, which was approved by the Secretary of the Interior May 21, 1869, and the title so acquired by Kinney passed by a series of conveyances to the plaintiffs Green. In these proceedings for a sale, Gore described himself as guardian of George Washington, the minor heir of Susan Whitefeather, deceased. Washington remained a member of the Shawnee tribe until September 26, 1900, when he was made a citizen of the United States. He took no steps to impugn the validity of the guardian's deed until June 25, 1895, when, according to the agreed statement of facts, the defendant Dunbar took possession of the land as his agent. Up to this time, it had remained vacant and unimproved. Plaintiffs recovered judgment, which was affirmed by the supreme court. 66 Kan. 557.

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