Where property in California has been in the undisturbed
possession of the claimant and his heirs for sixteen years without
any other person's claiming or
Page 63 U. S. 294
exercising a possession or right of possession, and it appears
that the grant was originally made by Governor Alvarado during his
term of office, the claim will be confirmed.
This was an appeal from the district court of the United States
for the Northern District of California.
The facts of the case and state of the title are fully set forth
in the opinion of the court.
MR. JUSTICE McLEAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The petition of the heirs of Francisco de Haro represents:
"That on the 30th July, 1843, the father of your petitioner made
and presented his petition in writing to Alvarado, Governor of
California, soliciting for himself the grant of a lot of land in
the Mission of Dolores, to which he had previously obtained a
provisional grant of Jose Ramon de Estrada."
"That on the 16th of August, 1843, said Francisco obtained a
formal grant of said Alvarado to the lot so petitioned for, and
remained in possession thereof up to the time of his decease, and
that from that time up to this day your petitioners have been and
still are in the quiet and undisputed possession of said land."
"That said land is situated in the Mission Dolores, and in the
block known and laid down on the official map of San Francisco as
block No. 37, and forms the northeast of Center and Dolores
Streets, containing fifty Spanish varas square -- which grant has
properly been recorded in the archives of California -- and that
the original documents are herewith submitted to the inspection of
your honorable board. "
Page 63 U. S. 295
Francisco Sanchez was sworn as to the genuineness of the grant,
and he says:
"I never saw the paper before, but I have no doubt it is
genuine. I am acquainted with the signatures of Francisco de Haro
and Juan B. Alvarado, having often seen them write, and I recognize
their signatures, as they appear on said document, as their genuine
There were some old houses on the land at the time of the grant,
which had belonged to the mission. These were repaired by Francisco
de Haro, and in 1846 he was living in them. The land had been
enclosed since by his son-in-law, Charles Brown. De Haro died there
in 1848. The house was repaired by de Haro.
Francisco de Haro, over his own signature, represents:
"That being established in the establishment of Dolores, in
houses of the name called 'Mayor domos,' opposite the principal
house and plaza, and, as I obtained them from the prefect of the
1st district, Don Jose Ramon Estrada, I solicit of your Excellency
the legitimacy in property, for the expenses that I have to make to
repair them, to live therein with my family, in virtue of my
services rendered, receiving grace from your Excellency by adding
fifty varas eastward of the houses, inasmuch as I beg most humbly
"MONTEREY, August 16, 1843"
"MOST EXCELLENT SIR: Whereas the citizen Francisco de Haro has
rendered interesting services to the nation and to the departmental
government, and in virtue of his being already in possession of the
houses solicited by previous consent of the government, as it is
shown by the concession of the prefect of the district, I have
concluded by these presents, in conformity and ratifying said
concession jointly with the fifty varas to the eastward of said
houses, as solicited."
"The judge of San Francisco will have it so understood, for the
cases that may occur upon informations in relation to the new Town
This claim was at first held not to be valid, and was
consequently rejected by the commissioners. From this decision
there was an appeal to the district court. On this appeal a
Page 63 U. S. 296
witness, Candelario Valencia, was sworn who says he is
forty-eight years of age and resides in the Mission of Dolores, San
Francisco County, California. The witness first knew Francisco de
Haro about thirty years since. He is now dead; he died in 1847 or
1848, at the Mission of Dolores, and in the building now occupied
by Louis Pruso, which is on the northeast of Center and Dolores
Streets. The lot on which this house is situated is a fifty-vara
To the question, who are the heirs of Francisco de Haro?, the
"At the time of his death, he left eight children, one died
without issue; the names of those living are as follows: Josef de
Haro, wife of James Dennison (she was formerly wife of Guerrera,
now dead); Rosalia de Haro, formerly wife of Mr. Andrews, deceased
(now wife of Charles Brown); Natividad, formerly wife of Ignacio
Castro, deceased, and now of Paul Tissot; Prudencia, unmarried;
Candelaria, unmarried; Charlotta, wife of Fish. Dennison, brother
of James; and Alonzo, not yet of age. Francisco de Haro lived in
the house ten years. It was formerly part of the establishment of
the mission, and was occupied by the mayor domos; it fronts upon
the plaza of the mission, and also is opposite the principal house
of said mission. Since the death of Francisco de Haro, it has been
occupied, and is still, by the tenants of his heirs. Dolores and
Center Streets have always existed since the mission was
established, but had not their present names -- in fact, they had
no names. This lot in question had the same position that it now
has; a surveyor without any difficulty could locate said lot."
The witness says that he has lived at the Mission Dolores for
the last sixteen years, and has seen all that he has testified
The final decree of the circuit court before both the judges was
"This cause came on to be heard upon the transcript of the
proceedings in the board of the United States land commissioners
&c., and upon the proof taken in this court upon the appeal
from the decision of the said board, taken therefrom by the
complainant, and upon hearing counsel for appellants and
Page 63 U. S. 297
respondent, and due deliberation being thereupon had &c., it
is ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the decision and decree of
the said board be, and the same hereby is, reversed."
"And it is further ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the claim
of the said appellants to the land claimed by them is valid and
that the same be, and hereby is, confirmed to them."
The land whereof confirmation is made is that certain fifty-vara
lot situated in the Mission Dolores, on the northeast corner of
what are known as Center and Dolores Streets, on which lot there is
a house which formerly formed a part of the establishment of the
Mission Dolores, occupied by the mayor domos thereof, said lot
fronting on the plaza, opposite to the principal house of said
mission, and which lot was in the occupancy of Francisco de Haro
for some years previous to his death, and has been recently in the
possession of one Louis Pruso as tenant of the claimant, together
with and adding fifty varas to the eastward and immediately
adjoining said houses.
Subsequently a notice was served on the district attorney that
the counsel for the complainants will move the court, on the 14th
of September, 1857, on that day or as soon thereafter as counsel
can be heard, that the decree entered in this cause be reformed by
adding to the description of the property confirmed by the said
decree, "together with the parcel of land, fifty varas square, to
the eastward thereof. San Francisco, September 10, 1857."
Afterwards, on motion of the district attorney of the United
"it is ordered that the decree heretofore rendered at this term
in the above case be set aside, and that the cause stand for
reargument at the next term of this Court."
And the final entry:
"Upon filing and reading the affidavit of B. S. Brooks, and upon
inspection of a traced copy of the original grant of title, whereof
confirmation was heretofore made, certified in due form from the
office of the Surveyor General, from which it manifestly appears to
the court that the said grant was originally made and dated by
Page 63 U. S. 298
Alvarado during his term of office, and that the date which it
now bears is an evident alteration against the interests of the
claimants, and therefore not to be imputed to them, and upon filing
a notice of motion and due proof of service thereof upon the
district attorney of the United States, and counsel having been
heard for both parties, on motion of Mr. Williams, of counsel for
the claimants, it is ordered that the order heretofore made in this
cause setting aside and vacating the decree heretofore made
confirming the claim be and the same is hereby vacated, set aside,
and annulled, and said decree revived and reinstated."
From this decree there was an appeal to the Supreme Court of the
United States by the government.
"It appears that an undisturbed possession of the property
claimed has been in the possession of Francisco de Haro and his
heirs sixteen years, and it does not appear that anyone has claimed
or exercised a possession or right of possession over the premises.
The copy of the original grant of title, whereof confirmation was
heretofore made, certified in due form from the office of the
Surveyor General, from which it manifestly appears to the court
that the said grant was originally made and dated by Governor
Alvarado during his term of office, and the date which it now bears
is an evident alteration against the interests of the claimants,
and therefore not to be imputed to them."
This, being the language of the court, imparts verity to the
grant, and would seem to settle all doubt on the subject.
There were some old houses on the land at the time of the grant,
which belonged to the mission, but it would seem no longer belong
Upon the whole, we cannot doubt, from the title papers, and
especially from the sixteen years' possession which has been
enjoyed by De Haro and his heirs -- using the property as their
own, claiming it under the grant -- that the title should be
confirmed, and it is hereby