« ForrigeFortsett »
Statement of the Case.
244 U. 8.
tained the following pretended description, to-wit, "the Southeast Quarter of Section 20, Township 44 North, Range 3 E., B. M."
That the description was wholly imaginary and that no lands in the State of Idaho or elsewhere were or could be so designated or described for the reason that at the time of filing the list no such survey had been made or attempted. That neither the railway company nor the timber company knew or pretended to know what lands were referred to or knew that in the event of a survey the description would be applied to the lands occupied by plaintiff. That the description was wholly insufficient to locate the lands or any part or parcel thereof, rendering the list and selection of the railway company wholly void and of no effect whatsoever.
That on October 10, 1910, a patent to the lands was issued to the railway company.
That (this on information and belief) the railway company conveyed the lands to the timber company and that company now claims to have the legal title to the
That neither the railway company nor the timber company nor any agent or employee of either has ever been in possession of the lands, but plaintiff, ever since May 15, 1903, has been and now is in possession thereof; that neither the railway company nor the timber company has ever complied with the laws of the United States so as to entitle either of them to claim any interest in or right to the lands as against plaintiff.
That the decision of the local land office and the successive approval thereof by the Commissioner of the General Land Office and the Secretary of the Interior were and are wrongful, unlawful and based upon an erroneous construction of the law and upon a statement of facts concerning which there was and is no conflict.
That at the time the patent was issued to the railway
Statement of the Case.
company plaintiff was and now is the owner of the lands and the issue of the patent to the railway company was contrary to and without authority of law and in violation of plaintiff's rights; that the railway company was without any right or authority at law to select or claim the lands or any part thereof and that the Act of Congress of March 2, 1899, upon and by virtue of which the railway company based its right to select and claim the lands, is unconstitutional and void and confers no right whatsoever upon the railway company to select or claim the lands or any part thereof against plaintiff.
The answer of the timber company admitted certain allegations of the bill of complaint but denied that the lands were vacant and open to settlement or that they were unclaimed or unsegregated or not marked or traced by boundaries, and alleged that the fact of their appropriation and segregation appeared on the records of the local land office and of the General Land Office and that the boundaries and lines of survey were duly and plainly traced and marked out upon the lands and located by monuments long prior to the time of plaintiff's settlement thereon, and that plaintiff had full knowledge thereof and did not enter upon the lands in good faith but only in the hope that the claim of the timber company and railway company might be defeated on technical grounds.
That on June 21, 1901, the railway company made selection of the lands under the provisions of the Act of Congress entitled "An Act To set aside a portion of certain lands in the State of Washington, now known as the Pacific Forest Reserve, as a public park, to be known as the Mount Ranier National Park," approved March 2, 1899, 30 Stat. 993, in lieu of an equal quantity of land relinquished to the United States pursuant to the provisions of the act. That such selection was duly made in accordance with the conditions of the act and the rules and regulations of the Land Department and described
as required by the act, and the selection was in all respects regular.
That on July 17, 1905, the official township plat was filed in the local land office and the railway company, in accordance with the provisions of § 4 of the act of Congress, filed a new selection list which conformed to the provisions of the act and the rules and regulations of the Land Department.
That at the time plaintiff made his alleged settlement upon the lands they had been surveyed and the lines of survey traced, and all other conditions are alleged to have been satisfied.
The timber company prayed that it be dismissed with costs.
The answer of the railway company was substantially the same as that of the timber company.
To the issues thus framed the evidence was addressed, upon which a decree was entered for defendants dismissing the bill, neither party to recover costs or disbursements from the other. 210 Fed. Rep. 189. It was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. 221 Fed. Rep. 30.
Mr. S. M. Stockslager, with whom Mr. A. H. Kenyon and Mr. Seabury Merritt were on the briefs, for appellant.
Mr. Charles Donnelly and Mr. Stiles W. Burr, with whom Mr. Charles W. Bunn and Mr. James B. Kerr were on the brief, for appellees.
MR. JUSTICE MCKENNA, after making the above statement, delivered the opinion of the court.
The controversy in the case turns on the construction and application of the act of Congress. Because of it the land offices, local and general, rejected plaintiff's application to enter the lands as a homestead. By virtue of it the railway and its grantee, the timber company, assert
title. Its primary purpose was to set aside certain public lands as a national park to be known as the Mount Ranier National Park. An obstacle to the purpose was a grant of the desired lands to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company and their relinquishment had to be provided for. This was done (§ 3) by authorizing the company to select an equal quantity of public lands elsewhere, or, more specifically, within any State into or through which the railroad ran. There was qualification of the character of the lands to be selected. They were to be "nonmineral public lands, so classified as nonmineral at the time of actual Government survey, which has been or shall be made, not reserved and to which no adverse right or claim shall have attached or have been initiated at the time of the making of such selection."
It was provided (§ 4) that upon the filing by the railroad company of the selection at the local land office and payment of fees prescribed by law in analogous cases and the approval by the Secretary of the Interior, he should cause a patent to issue to the company conveying to it the lands so selected; that "in case the tract so selected shall at the time of selection be unsurveyed, the list filed by the company shall describe such tract in such manner as to designate the same with a reasonable degree of certainty"; and that within three months after the tract shall have been surveyed and the plats thereof filed a new selection shall be filed by the company describing the tract according to such survey. And, further, that in case the tract as originally selected and described in the list filed in the local land office shall not precisely conform to the lines of the official survey, the company shall be permitted to describe such tract anew, so as to work such conformity.
Construing the act by its words there would seem to be no difficulty in determining its meaning. It would seem to be simple in purpose and clear in provision to accom
plish the purpose. But plaintiff raises various questions upon it. He asserts: (1) That the grant was to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company and could not be availed of by its successor through foreclosure, the Northern Pacific Railway Company. (2) That the lands were classified as mineral under the Act of Congress of February 26, 1895, 28 Stat., 683, and the classification approved by the Secretary of the Interior March, 1901, and the surveyor having failed to make any classification of the lands in terms as non-mineral they were not subject to selection. (3) That if the first and second contentions be untenable, the lands were not described "with a reasonable certainty" so as to bar the rights of settlers in good faith without actual or constructive notice.
(1) The argument advanced to support this proposition is that by the foreclosure proceedings the Northern Pacific Railroad Company ceased to exist and, if everything it had or had an interest in did not go out of existence with it, at least its rights under the Act of 1899 did, and yet counsel say plaintiff has nothing to do "with the question whether the conveyance of the lands to the United States under the provisions of the act conveyed a valid title." It would be somewhat anomalous indeed if the act conveyed to the United States a valid title but did not convey to the railroad anything substantial that could be transferred by sale under the decree of a court to the successor of that company. We might ask the question, Where in the world were the rights conveyed to the railroad company left-and if left at all, by whom were they to be enforced or availed of?
We agree with the District Court that as a mere matter of construction the contention of plaintiff must be rejected. In July, 1896 (Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. Boyd, 228 U. S. 482, 490; Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. United States, 176 Fed. Rep. 706), three years prior to the act of Congress, the railway company had become successor to the