[blocks in formation]

An act of Congress, approved March 28, 1850, to enable Arkansas and other States to reclaim swampy lands within their limits, granted all the swamp and overflowed lands remaining unsold within their respective limits to the several States. Although the total amount claimed by Iowa under this act does not exceed 4,000,000 acres, it has, like the Des Moines River and some of the land grants, cost the State considerable trouble and expense, and required a deal of legislation. The State expended large sums of money in making the selections, securing proofs, etc., but the General Government appeared to be laboring under the impression that Iowa 'was not acting in good faith; that she had selected a large amount of lands under the swamp land grant, transferred her interest to counties, and counties to private speculators, and the General Land office permitted contests as to the character of the lands already selected by the Agents of the State as “swamp lands. Congress, by joint resolution December 18, 1856, and by act March 3, 1857, saved the State from the fatal result of this ruinous policy. Many of these lands were selected in 1854 and 1855, immediately after several remarkably wet seasons, and it was but natural that some portions of the selections would not appear swampy after a few dry seasons. Some time after these first selections were made, persons desired to enter parcels of the socalled swamp lands and offering to prove them to be dry. In such cases the General Land office ordered hearing before the local land officers, and if they decided the land to be dry, it was permitted to be entered and the claim of the State rejected. Speculators took advantage of this. Affidavits were bought of irresponsible and reckless men, who, for a few dollars, would confidently testify to the character of lands they never saw. plications multiplied until they covered 3,000,000 acres. It was necessary that Congress should confirm all these selections to the State, that this gigantic scheme of fraud and plunder might be stopped. The act of Congress of March 3, 1857, was designed to accomplish this purpose. But the Commissioner of the General Land office held that it was only a qualified confirmation and under this construction sought to sustain the action of the Department in rejecting the claim of the State, and certifying them under act of May 15, 1856, under which the railroad companies claimed all swamp land in odd numbered sections within the limits of their respective roads. This action led to serious complications. When the railroad grant was made, it was not intended, nor was it understood that it included any of the swamp lands. These were already disposed of by previous grant. Nor did the companies expect to receive any of them, but under the decision of the Department adverse to the State the way was opened, and hey were not slow to enter their claims. March 4, 1862, the At

These ap

torney General of the State submitted to the General Assembly an opinion that the railroad companies were not entitled even to contest the right of the State to these lands, under the swamp land grant. A letter from the Acting Commissioner of the General Land Office expressed the same opinion, and the General Assembly by joint resolution, approved April 7, 1862, expressly repudiated the acts of the railroad companies, and disclaimed any intention to claim these lands under any other than the act of Congress of September 28, 1850. A great deal of legislation has been found necessary in relation to these swamp lands.

[blocks in formation]

One of the most important grants of public lands to Iowa for purposes internal improvement was that known as the "Railroad Grant,” by act of Congress, approved May 15, 1856. This act granted to the State of Iowa, for the purpose of aiding in the construction of railroads from Burlington, on the Mississippi River, to a point on the Missouri River, near the mouth of Platte River; from the city of Davenport, via Iowa City and Fort Des Moines to Council Bluffs; from Lyons City northwesterly to a point of intersection with the main line of the Iowa Central Air Line Railroad, near Maquoketa; thence on said main line, running as near as practicable to the Forty-second Parallel; across the said State of Iowa to the Missouri River; from the city of Dubuque to a point on the Missouri River near Sioux City, with a branch from the mouth of the Tete des Morts, to the nearest point on said road, to be completed as soon as the main road is completed to that point, every alternate section of land designated by odd numbers, for six sections in width, on each side of said roads. It was also provided that if it should appear, when the lines of those roads were definitely fixed, that the United States had sold, or right of pre-emption had attached to any portion of said land, the State was authorized to select a quantity equal thereto, in alternate sections, or parts of sections, within fifteen miles of the line so located. The lands remaining to the United States within six miles on each side of said roads were not to be sold for less than the double mininum price of the public lands when sold, nor were any of said lands to become subject to private entry until they had been first offered at public sale at the increased price.

Section 4 of the act provided that the lands granted to said State shall be disposed of by said State only in the manner following: that is to say: "That a quantity of land not exceeding one hundred and twenty sections for each of said roads, and included within a continuous length of twenty miles of each of said roads, may be sold; and when the Governor of said State shall certify to the Secretary of the Interior that any twenty continuous miles of any of said roads is completed, then another quantity of land hereby

[ocr errors]

granted, not to exceed one hundred and twenty sections for each of said roads having twenty continuous miles completed as aforesaid, and included within a continuous length of twenty miles of each of such roads, may be sold; and so from time to time until said roads are completed, and if any of said roads are not completed within ten years, no further sale said shall be made, and the lands unsold shall revert to the United States."

At a special session of the General Assembly of Iowa, by act approved July 14, 1856, the grant was accepted and the lands were granted by the State to the several railroad companies named, provided that the lines of their respective roads should be definitely fixed and located before April 1, 1857; and provided, further, that if either of said companies should fail to have seventy-five miles of road completed and equipped by the 1st day of December, 1859, and its entire road completed by December 1, 1865, it should be competent for the State of Iowa to resume all rights to lands remaining undisposed of by the company so failing.

The railroad companies, with the single exception of the Iowa Central Air Line, accepted the several grants in accordance with the provisions of the above act, located their respective roads and selected their lands. The grant to the Iowa Central was again granted to the Cedar Rapids & Missouri River Railroad Company, which accepted it.

By act, approved April 7, 1862, the Dubuque & Sioux City Railroad Company was required to execute a release to the State of certain swamp and school lands, included within the limits of its grant, in compensation for an extension of the time fixed for the completion of its road.

A careful examination of the act of Congress does not reveal any special reference to railroad companies. The lands were granted to the State, and the act evidently contemplated the sale of them by the State, and the appropriation of the proceeds to aid in the construction of certain lines of railroad within its limits. Section 4 of the act clearly defines the authority of the State in disposing of the lands.

Lists of all the lands embraced by the grant were made, and certified to the State by the proper authorities. Under an act of Congress approved August 3, 1864, entitled, "An act to vest in the several States and Territories the title in fee of the lands which have been or may be certified to them,” these certified lists, the originals of which are filed in the General Land Office, conveyed to the State "the fee simple title to all the lands eru braced in such lists that are of the character contemplated" by the terms of the act making the grant, and "intended to be granted thereby; but where lands embraced in such lists are not of the character embraced by such act of Congress, and were not intended to be granted thereby, said lists, so far as these lands are concerned, shall be perfectly null and void; and no right, title, claim or in

terest shall be conveyed thereby." Those certified lists made under the act of May 15,1856, were forty-three in number, viz.: For the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, nine; for the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad, eleven; for the Iowa Central Air Line, thirteen; and for the Dubuque & Sioux City Railroad, ten. The lands thus approved to the State were as follows: Burlington & Missouri River R. R...

287,095.34 acres Mississippi & Missouri River R. R.

774,674.36 Cedar Rapids & Missouri River R. R.

775,454.19 Dubuque & Sioux City R. R.......

.1,226,558.32 A portion of these had been selected as swamp lands by the State, under the act of September 28, 1850, and these, by the terms of the act of August 3, 1834, could not be turned over to the railroads unless the claim of the State to them as swamp was first rejected. It was not possible to determine from the records of the State Land Office the extent of the conflicting claims arising under the two grants, as copies of the swamp land selections in some of the counties were not filed of record. The Commissioner of the General Land Office, however, prepared lists of the lands claimed by the State as swamp under the act of September 28, 1850, and also claimed by the railroad companies under act of May 15, 1856, amounting to 553,293.33 acres, the claim to which as swamp had been rejected by the Department. These were consequently certified the State as railroad lands. There was no mode other than the act of July, 1856, prescribed for transferring the title to these lands from the State to the companies. The courts had decided that, for the purposes of the grant, the lands belonged to the State, and to her the companies should look for their titles. It was generally accepted that the act of the Legislature of July, 1856, was all that was necessary to complete the transfer of title. It was assumed that all the rights and powers conferred upon the State by the act of Congress of May 14, 1856, were by the act of the General Assembly transferred to the companies; in other words that it was designed to put the companies in the place of the State as the grantees from Congress—and, therefore, that which perfected the title thereto to the State perfected the title to the companies by virtue of the act of July, 1856. One of the companies, however, the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company, was not entirely satisfied with this construction. Its managers thought that some further and specific action of the State authorities in addition to the act of the Legislature was necessary to complete their title. This induced Gov. Lowe to attach to the certified lists his official certificate, under the broad seal of the State. On the 9th of November, 1859, the Governor thus certified to them (commencing at the Missouri River) 187,207.44 acres, and December 27th, 43,775.70 acres, an aggregate of 231,073.14 acres. These were the only lands under the grant that were certified by the State authorities with any design of perfecting the title already

vested in the company by the act of July, 1856. The lists which were afterward furnished to the company were simply certified by the Governor as being correct copies of the lists received by the State from the United States General Land Office. These subsequent lists embraced lands that had been claimed by the State under the Swamp Land Grant.

It was urged against the claim of the Companies that the effect of the act of the Legislature was simply to substitute them for the State as parties to the grant. 1st. That the lands were granted to the State to be held in trust for the accomplishment of a specific purpose, and therefore the State could not part with the title until that purpose

should have been accomplished. 2d. That it was not the intention of the act of July 14, 1856, to deprive the State of the control of the lands, but on the contrary that she should retain supervision of them and the right to withdraw all rights and powers and resume the title conditionally conferred by that act upon the companies in the event of their failure to complete their part of the contract. 3d. That the certified lists from the General Land Office vested the title in the State only by virtue of the act of Congress approved August 3, 1854. The State Land Office held that the proper construction of the act of July 14, 1856, when accepted by the companies was that it became a conditional contract that might ripen into a positive sale of the lands as from time to time the work should progress, and as the State thereby became authorized by the express terms of the grant to sell them.

This appears to have been the correct construction of the act, but by a subsequent act of Congress, approved June 2, 1864, amending the act of 1856, the terms of the grant were changed, and numerous controversies arose between the companies and the State The ostensible


of this additional act was to allow the Davenport & Council Bluffs Railroad "to modify or change the location of the uncompleted portion of its line," to run through the town of Newton, Jasper county, or as nearly as practicable to that point. The original grant had been made to the State to aid in the construction of railroads within its limits, and not to the companies, but Congress, in 1864, appears to have been utterly ignorant of what had been done under the act of 1856, or, if not, to have utterly disregarded it. The State had accepted the original grant. The Secretary of the Interior had already certified to the State all the lands interded to be included in the grant within fifteen miles of the lines of the several railroads. It will be remembered that section 4, of the act of May 15, 1856, specifies the manner of sale of these lands from time to time as work on the railroads should progress, and also provided that "if any of said roads are not completed within ten years, no further sale shall be made, and the lands unsold shall revert to the United States." Having vested the title to these lands in trust, in the State of Iowa,

« ForrigeFortsett »