Haydel v. Dufresne
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58 U.S. 23 (1854)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Haydel v. Dufresne, 58 U.S. 17 How. 23 23 (1854)
Haydel v. Dufresne
58 U.S. (17 How.) 23
In 1811, Congress passed an Act, 2 Stat. 663, giving to the owners of land in Louisiana bordering on any river, creek &c., the preference in purchasing back land, and where, by reason of bends in the river, each claimant could not obtain a tract equal in quantity to the adjacent tract already held by him, the surveyor of the district, under the superintendence of the surveyor of the public lands south of the State of Tennessee was directed to divide the vacant land between the several claimants in such a manner as to him might seem most equitable.
These officers decided as judges upon the equities of the claimants, and their allotments are not liable to be overthrown by courts of justice upon any other ground than that of fraud, which is not imputed in this case.
The widow Francois Dufresne filed her petition in the Fourth Judicial District Court of the State of Louisiana, in the Parish of St. John the Baptist, complaining that the United States deputy surveyor had allotted to her 79 28/100 acres of back land instead of 121 13/100, and had given to Mrs. widow Marcelin Haydel, 243 20/100 acres, instead of 201 35/100, which was her fair proportion.
It is not necessary to trace the progress of the dispute or to refer to the surveys. The Fourth Judicial District Court decided that, inasmuch as the deputy surveyor had apportioned the back lands in the manner now complained of, and there was not to be found on the face of the survey such gross preference and unwarrantable proceeding, which alone, in some cases, would require the interposition of a court of justice, the defendant should be quieted in her possession. Other points were raised and decided, which it is not necessary to notice.
It was carried to the supreme court, which reversed the judgment of the court below, holding that the act of the deputy surveyor was merely ministerial, and that he was bound to make an equitable division of the back land between the front owners, in proportion to the respective quantities held by the latter.
The widow Marcelin Haydel brought the case up to this Court.