Mann v. Tacoma Land Company

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Mann v. Tacoma Land Company by David Josiah Brewer
Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

153 U.S. 273

Mann  v.  Tacoma Land Company

This was a suit by Jacob C. Mann against the Tacoma Lana Company, in which the court below dismissed the bill (44 Fed. 27), and plaintiff appealed.

On July 12, 1890, appellant, as plaintiff, filed his bill in the circuit court of the United States for the district of Washington to restrain the defendant from entering and trespassing upon certain premises. Subsequently, by leave of the court, an amended bill was filed. In that, plaintiff claimed title to three separate tracts. The allegations as to one were as follows:

'(2) That on the 29th day of October, 1889, the following described premises were unoccupied and unappropriated lands of the United States, not mineral, and unsurveyed, to wit: Commencing at a point which is three thousand nine hundred and sixty feet west of the southeast corner of section 34, in township 21 north, of range 3 east, of the Willamette meridian, running thence north thirteen hundred and twenty feet, thence west thirteen hundred and twenty feet, thence south thirteen hundred and twenty feet, thence east thirteen hundred and twenty feet to place of beginning, and containing forty acres.

'(3) That on the said 29th day of October, 1889, your orator, under and by virtue of an act of the congress of the United States, entitled 'An act for the relief of Thomas B. Valentine,' approved April 5, 1872, selected said tract of land as aforesaid described, at the United States land office at Seattle, Washington territory, that being the land office for the district in which said lands were situated, and thereupon filed with the register and receiver of said land office certificate of location No. E 222 for forty acres, issued by virtue of a decree rendered by the supreme court of the United States upon the 6th day of January, 1874, for the claim of Thomas B. Valentine, or his legal assignee, under said act of congress aforesaid, together with a description by metes and bounds of said described premises and a map of said tract, and on the 30th day of October, 1889, said selection was allowed, and your orator received from said register and receiver a certificate for said lands, entitling your orator to a patent to said lands when the same should have been surveyed by authority of the government of the United States.

'(4) That by virtue of said selection and certificate your orator is the owner of said described premises, and entitled to the sole and exclusive possession of the same.'

The title to the other two tracts was acquired in a similar way, except that plaintiff did not claim to have himself entered them, but only to hold by deed from the locators. The character of the lands, and the use to which plaintiff intended to put them, were thus stated:

'(14) That all the lands described in this amended bill are lands over which the tide ebbs and flows to a distance of 80 chains, and are what are designated on the plats and surveys of the United States as 'mud flats, bare at low water,' and are overflowed at high water at a uniform depth of from 2 to 4 feet by the waters of Commencement bay, at the head of Puget sound, in Pierce county, state of Washington, and are situated about three-fourths of a mile from the line of low water of said Commencement bay and at the mouth of the stream known as 'Puyallup river,' and are valuable and suitable for the construction of wharves, warehouses, commercial purposes, and for agricultural uses.'

'(19) That your orator intends filling in said lands aforesaid and erecting thereon warehouses and other buildings, over and across which lands general traffic may be carried on to and from the city of Tacoma.'

It is upon these lands that the bill alleged that the defendant was trespassing. The certificates of location under which these tracts were entered, being what is known as 'Valentine Scrip,' were issued under the authority of the act of congress of April 5, 1872, entitled 'An act for the relief of Thomas B. Walentine,' which authorized the circuit court of the United States for the district of California to hear and decide upon the merits of the claim of Thomas B. Valentine to a certain specified Mexican grant. The third section of the act is as follows:

'Sec. 3. That an appeal shall be taken from the final decision and decree of the said circuit court to the supreme court of the United States, by either party, in accordance with the provisions of the tenth section of said act of March third, eighteen hundred and fifty-one, within six months after the rendition of such final decision; and a decree under the provisions of this act, in favor of said claim, shall not affect any adverse right or title to the lands described in said decree; but in lieu thereof, the claimant, or his legal representatives, may select, and shall be allowed, patents for, an equal quantity of the unoccupied and unappropriated public lands of the United States, not mineral, and in tracts not less than the subdivisions provided for in the United States land laws, and if unsurveyed when taken, to conform, when surveyed, to the general system of United States land surveys; and the commissioner of the general land office, under the direction of the secretary of the interior, shall be authorized to issue scrip, in legal subdivisions, to the said Valentine, or his legal representatives, in accordance with the provisions of this act: Provided, that no decree in favor of said Valentine shall be executed nor be of any force or effect against any person or persons; nor shall land scrip or patents issue as hereinbefore provided, unless the said Valentine shall first execute and deliver to the commissioner of the general land office a deed conveying to the United States all his right, title, and interest to the lands covered by said Miranda grant.' (17 Stat. 649.)

Proceedings were had under this statute in the circuit court, and a decree was rendered in favor of the claimant, which afterwards and on January 6, 1874, was affirmed by this court. The facts respecting this grant are thus stated by the secretary of the interior in a decision quoted by plaintiff's counsel:

'On investigation of the facts relative to the Miranda grant, I find that on October 8, 1844, Manuel Micheltorena, Mexican governor of California, granted to Juan Miranda the place known as Rancho Arroyo San Antonio, bounded by the laguna and arroyo of the same name and the pass and estero of Petaluma, containing three square leagues, more or less.

'California was acquired from Mexico by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and by the eighth article of said treaty the United States stipulated to protect the property rights of all residents within the ceded territory in the same manner that the property rights of its own citizens were protected.

'This treaty did not, proprio vigore, operate as a confirmation of Mexican grants, but on the contrary, being executory in character, it addressed itself to the political department of the government, and the duty devolved upon congress of providing means for its enforcement.

'Congress, therefore, by act approved March 3, 1851, established a board of land commissioners, with power to investigate the validity of said grants and titles, with right to appeal to the United States district and supreme courts.

'The Miranda grant was presented for confirmation to the board of land commissioners by Valentine, and also by the grantees of one Ortega, who was Miranda's sonin-law. These parties claimed adversely to each other, and Valentine finally withdrew his claim, intending, it is alleged, to intervene in the district court. Before the case was reached for trial in said court, the supreme court had rendered a decision which precluded him from asserting his title by intervention. Ortega's claim was, therefore, prosecuted by his grantees, until finally rejected by the supreme court of the United States.

'After the claim of the grantees of Ortega was rejected the lands were disposed of like other public lands, and the proceeds covered into the treasury.

'Subsequently, Valentine produced satisfactory evidence that the land had been lawfully granted to Miranda by the Mexican authorities, and conveyed to him by mesne conveyances, and congress passed the act granting to Valentine an amount of scrip equal to the amount of land contained in said grant.' 6 Copp, Landowner, 28.

To this bill a demurrer was filed, and on October 22, 1890, a decree was entered sustaining the demurrer and dismissing the bill, from which decree of dismissal plaintiff has brought his appeal to this court.

T. H. N. McPherson and Edwin B. Smith, for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 277-282 intentionally omitted]

Samuel Dickson and Frederic D. McKenney, for appellee.

Mr. Justice BREWER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).