Hosmer v. Wallace,
97 U.S. 575 (1878)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hosmer v. Wallace, 97 U.S. 575 (1878)

Hosmer v. Wallace

97 U.S. 575


1. Pending a proceeding in a tribunal of the United States for the confirmation of a claim to lands in California under a Mexican grant, no portion of them embraced within the boundaries designated in the grant is open to settlement under the preemption laws, although, upon the final survey of the claim when confirmed, there may be a surplus within those boundaries.

2. Until a segregation of the quantity granted is made by an approved official survey, third parties cannot interfere with the grantee's possession of the lands and limit it to any particular place within those boundaries.

3. Between March 1, 1856, and May 30, 1862, unsurveyed public lands in California were not subject to settlement under the preemption laws. Since the latter date, they, as well as surveyed lands, have been so subject.

4. The right of preemption only inures in favor of a claimant when he has performed the conditions of actual settlement, inhabitation, and improvement. As he cannot perform them when the land is occupied by another, his right of preemption does not extend to it.

5. The object of the seventh section of the Act of July 23, 1866, 14 Stat. 218, "to quiet land titles in California," was to withdraw from the general operation of the preemption laws lands continuously possessed and improved

Page 97 U. S. 576

by a purchaser under a Mexican grant which was subsequently rejected or limited to a less quantity than that embraced in the boundaries designated, and to give to him, to the exclusion of all other claimants, the right to obtain the title.

6. A "bona fide preemption claimant" is one who has settled upon lands subject to preemption with the intention to acquire them and who, in order to perfect his right to them, has complied, or is proceeding to comply in good faith with the requirements of the preemption laws.

This was a suit to charge the defendant as trustee of certain land in California and to compel him to transfer the title to the plaintiff. The district court of the state, in which it was brought, rendered judgment for the defendant. The supreme court of the state affirmed it, and the plaintiff has brought the case here. The facts are sufficiently stated in the opinion.

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