Holt v. Murphy,
207 U.S. 407 (1908)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Holt v. Murphy, 207 U.S. 407 (1908)

Holt v. Murphy

No. 61

Argued December 6, 1907

Decided January 6, 1908

207 U.S. 407


Under the general rule of law that an entry segregates the tract entered from the public domain subject to be entered until that entry is disposed of, this Court sustains the rule of the Land Department that no subsequent entry can be received after the Land Commissioner has held the entry for cancellation until the time allotted for appeal has expired or the rights of the original entry have been finally determined.

Where the successful party in a land contest does not enforce his preference rights or take any action looking to an entry within the prescribed period, but files a waiver of his right of entry, in the absence of any findings sustaining charges of fraud as to the delivery of the waiver, this Court will not, in an action commenced four years thereafter, set aside a patent issued to one who had entered the land and in whose favor the waiver was filed.

15 Okl. 12 affirmed.

This was a suit commenced in the District Court of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, by appellant, praying that the appellees, the holders of the legal title to a tract of land in Oklahoma County be decreed to hold that title in trust for her benefit. The district court entered a decree in favor of the defendants, which was affirmed by the supreme court of the

Page 207 U. S. 408

territory, 15 Okl. 12, from whose decision this appeal was taken.

These facts are undisputed: on April 23, 1889, Ewers White made a homestead entry of the land. Subsequently two other parties, C.J. Blanchard and Vestal S. Cook, attempted to enter the same land. On July 16, 1889, in a contest before the local land officers, they held that all the claimants were disqualified because of entering the territory in violation of the President's proclamation. On appeal, the Commissioners of the General Land Office, on March 7, 1890, affirmed their ruling, dismissed the contests of both Blanchard and Cook, and held the entry of White for cancellation. From this decision White prosecuted an appeal to the Secretary of the Interior, who, on July 21, 1891, affirmed the decision of the Commissioner. 13 L.D. 66. During the time allowed for appeal to the Secretary from the Commissioner, and on March 11, 1890, Levi Holt, by his attorney in fact, filed a soldier's declaratory statement for the land, which was suspended by the register and receiver pending final action on the appeal. Thereafter and on November 29, 1890, before the decision by the Secretary of his appeal, White filed a relinquishment of his entry and all rights thereunder, and the defendant Samuel Murphy immediately thereafter made a homestead entry thereon.

In addition, it was charged by plaintiff that, after a decision by the Secretary of the Interior, in a contest between Murphy and Holt in favor of Holt, or rather in favor of his widow (as he had died in the meantime), a contract was entered into between plaintiff's attorney and the defendant Samuel Murphy, by which her attorney should deceive her as to her right in the land, and, for a pecuniary consideration received from Murphy, should file a waiver of her right of entry, and thus permit him to acquire a patent, all of which was done; that Anton H. Classen (the present holder of the legal title) and the other defendants were fully aware of what was thus wrongfully done; that the entry of Murphy appearing on the record as being unchallenged, a patent was, on January 19, 1898, issued

Page 207 U. S. 409

to him. Subsequently, the title to most of the land passed to defendant Classen, who at the time of the filing of the waiver by plaintiff's attorney was receiver of the land office of the district in which the tract in controversy is situated, and who claimed in his answer, among other things, that he was a bona fide purchaser and without notice of any equities of the plaintiff.

Sections 2304 and 2309, Rev.Stat., provide for homestead entries by soldiers and officers who served in the Army of the United States. By § 2309, the declaratory statement of such soldier or officer may be made by an agent as well as personally, and he is allowed six months thereafter to begin settlement and improvement, whereas, in ordinary cases, the entryman must make affidavit of his right to enter before the register or receiver, and must commence his residence and cultivation of the land immediately after the filing of the affidavit.

Page 207 U. S. 411

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