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MISSOURI VALLEY LAND COMPANY v. WIESE.

decided: February 3, 1908.

MISSOURI VALLEY LAND COMPANY
v.
WIESE.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEBRASKA.

Author: White

[ 208 U.S. Page 238]

 MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.

Within the grants of land made to the Union Pacific Railroad Company and the Sioux City and Pacific Railroad Company by the act of Congress of July 1, 1862, c. 120, 12 Stat. 489, and the amendatory act of July 2, 1864, c. 216, 13 Stat. 356, some of the land within place limits overlapped. This controversy concerns the title to a forty-acre tract within an overlap.

We state the salient facts established by the pleadings and

[ 208 U.S. Page 239]

     the proofs in order to make clear the contentions which are required to be decided.

The land involved is the northeast 1/4 of the northeast 1/4 of section 21, township 17, range 11 east, Washington County, Nebraska. At the time of the passage of the granting acts referred to the records of the General Land Office showed a school indemnity selection of the tract now in controversy, made on July 1, 1858. The railroads named, each having complied with all the conditions of the acts of Congress, had become fully entitled to the granted lands prior to January 1, 1870. A joint patent was issued in 1873 to the two roads named for a large quantity of the lands within the common territory. This action of the Land Department was upheld by the Circuit Court for the District of Nebraska in 1876, and the two railroad companies were adjudged to be tenants in common of such lands. Sioux City & P.R.R. Co. v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, 4 Dill. 307; S.C., Fed. Cas. No. 12,909. As remarked in a footnote to a report of the case, "This decree was acquiesced in by the parties, who subsequently effected an amicable partition of the land." Apparently, however, in consequence of the school indemnity selection referred to, the forty-acre tract now in controversy was not included in such patents. On July 3, 1880, the school indemnity selection was cancelled by the General Land Office because not authorized by statute. See 17 L.D. 43. This cancellation, so far as the record discloses, left the tract free from claims antagonistic to the rights of the railroad companies under the grants of 1862 and 1864. On June 12, 1881, the Union Pacific Railroad Company "listed the land in question, per list No. 4, but the Sioux City and Pacific Railroad Company never listed the same." On December 1, 1882, the Union Pacific Railroad Company sold, and in 1887, after completion of the payment for the same, conveyed the land to John Japp by a warranty deed, purporting to transfer the entire title, and this deed was soon afterwards recorded. Japp went into and remained in open, continuous and adverse possession of the land, farming

[ 208 U.S. Page 240]

     the same, until February 28, 1891, when he sold it to Asmus Wiese, the defendant in error. The latter at once recorded his deed, enclosed the land with a wire fence, and maintained an exclusive possession of the land, claiming to be the owner.

Upon the ground that the school indemnity selection referred to, although invalid, was uncancelled when the railroad grants of 1862 and 1864 were made, and that such invalid selection operated to except the tract in question from said grants, the General Land Office on May 19, 1892, cancelled the listing of the tract which had been made by the Union Pacific Railroad Company and rejected a claim "as to this land" made by the Sioux City and Pacific Railroad Company. When such claim was made and its precise character, is not shown by the record.

By § 5 of the act of March 3, 1887, c. 377, 24 Stat. 556, providing for the adjustment of land grants made by Congress to aid in the construction of railroads and for the forfeiture of unearned lands, etc., it was made lawful for a bona fide purchaser of lands forming part of a railroad land grant, but which for any reason had been excepted from the operation of the grant, to make payment to the United States for said lands and obtain patents therefor. Because of the ruling made by the General Land Office, to the effect that the Union Pacific Railroad Company was without title to the land which it had conveyed to Japp, as before stated, Asmus Wiese, on August 10, 1893, began proceedings under the fifth section of the act of 1887 to obtain a patent to the land from the United States, made the required publication and proof, and on September 25, 1893, paid to the register of the proper local land office the sum of $50, the price of the land. A certificate was delivered to Wiese, reciting that he was entitled, on presentation thereof, to receive a patent. On October 17, 1894, presumably while an application of Wiese for patent was pending before the Commissioner, the Sioux City and Pacific Railroad Company filed a protest against the issue of the patent, on the grount that the land affected lay within the

[ 208 U.S. Page 241]

     limits of the grant to said company under the act of 1864, that the indemnity school selection then apparently existing was void, and did not cause the land to be excepted from the grant on the definite location of the road, and in consequence that there was no authority of law for the purchase by Wiese. It was further claimed that as the land was within the grant to the Sioux City road, it was a condition precedent to acquiring title under the act of 1887, that it had been purchased from that company, whereas the proof by Wiese was that it had been purchased from the Union Pacific Railroad Company. The protest was dismissed by the Commissioner on the ground that the Sioux City Company was debarred from making the protest, because a claim previously made by that road to the land had been rejected. Thereafter, upon application of the attorneys for the Sioux City Company, this decision of the Commissioner was reviewed by the Secretary of the Interior. On April 28, 1896, applying a prior decision in Union Pacific Ry. Co. v. United States, 17 L.D. 43, that official held that the school indemnity selection referred to having been made without statutory authority therefor, did not reserve the land so selected from the operation of subsequent grants to the railroads on the definite location of their line or lines, and that the entry made by Wiese in supposed conformity to the act of 1887 was unauthorized. In August following the entry of Wiese was formally cancelled. In September, 1897, a patent from the United States for the tract was issued to the Missouri Valley Land Company as the successor in interest to the Sioux City and Pacific Railroad Company. Following a notification from the Land Office by letter, dated May 17, ...


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