Sweringen v. St. Louis

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

185 U.S. 38

Sweringen  v.  St. Louis

 Argued: March 4, 5, 1902. --- Decided: April 7, 1902

The plaintiff in error, being the plaintiff below, obtained judgment in the state circuit court for the city of St. Louis for the recovery of certain land described in the judgment. Upon appeal to the supreme court of the state of Missouri this judgment was reversed (151 Mo. 348, 52 S. W. 346), and the plaintiff has brought the case here by writ of error.

The action was ejectment for land described in the petition, which also set up a claim for the rents and profits. The answer of the city denied all the allegations of the petition, set up adverse possession for ten years, and acquiescence on the part of the plaintiff in the possession and use of the premises by the city as and for a public wharf. The property described in the petition is situate in the city of St. Louis, and is bounded on the east by the Mississippi river. The parties went to trial before the court, a jury being waived, and after the evidence was in the issues were found in favor of the plaintiff, although she recovered judgment for but a portion of the property described in her petition, the portion for which she recovered being part of a public wharf of the city running along the west line of the river, and being 90 feet along the line of the wharf from north to south, and running back its whole depth from the east line on the river to its rear or western line.

The question involved in the case upon the merits is, in substance, whether the plaintiff is entitled to the alluvion caused by the recession of the Mississippi river, to the extent of many hundred feet east of the point where it flowed in 1852, at the time when the plaintiff's predecessor took title to the property by virtue of a patent from the United States called the 'Labeaume patent.' The trial court held she was, and the supreme court held she was not.

On the trial the plaintiff offered in evidence as the source of her title a patent from the United States to Labeaume, dated in 1852. It was objected to as not tending to support the issues in the case, and as not showing plaintiff's grantor a riparian owner. The objection was overruled and the patent received in evidence. It recites the proceedings which preceded the issuing of the patent, from which recitals it appears a concession was made of the land described, by the lieutenant governor of the Spanish province of Upper Louisiana, July 15, 1799, and a survey thereafter made, and the proceedings confirmed in accordance with the acts of Congress relating to lands in the province named, approved respectively March 2, 1805, and March 3, 1807, and after some other recitals a description of the land conveyed is set forth, which commences as follows:

'Begin at a stake set on the right bank of the Mississippi river between high and low water mark and on the extension line produced eastwardly from Labeaume's southern ditch, the lower and most eastern corner of this survey, and the upper and most northern corner of the survey of Joseph Brazeau, numbered 3332,' etc.

Then follow in the patent what amounts to several printed pages, giving in detail the courses and distances of the outboundaries of the land described in the patent, from the southeastern corner along to the western limit, thence towards the north and thence back towards the east until the description is brought to the northeastern corner of the survey, which is also a corner of the city of St. Louis, being the northern termination of the northwestern boundary line thereof. This corner is marked 'F' on the plat accompanying the patent, and the description then proceeds to give the eastern line of the grant parallel with the Mississippi river, and commences that line in the following language: 'From the corner of 'F' down the right bank of the Mississippi river, with the meanders thereof, between high and low water mark, south nine degrees east,' etc. The description then goes on with six or eight different courses and distances, altering the United States called the 'Labeaume patent.' the place of beginning.'

It appears that the east boundary line of the land described in this patent was at the time of the execution of the patent, in 1852, several hundred feet west of the waters of the river, and at the present time is about 1,500 feet west thereof. Between those waters and the east line of the grant there was then what is termed on the plat accompanying and referred to in the patent a sand beach, which was, as stated, several hundred feet in width, thus separating by that beach the east line of the grant from the river.

Messrs. G. A. Finkelnburg, Edward S. Robert, and Edward P. Johnson for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. Charles Claflin Allen, B. Schnurmacher, and Charles W. Bates for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice Peckham, after making the foregoing statement of facts, 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).