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United States Supreme Court

72 U.S. 444

United States  v.  Armijo

APPEAL from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of California.

The question presented for determination in the case related to the location of the southwestern line of the survey of a grant of land in California, made to one Francisco Armijo, which survey was approved by the District Court. The Armijo grant adjoined another grant in California made to one Francisco Solano; and, to understand the question presented, a statement of the origin and nature of both of the grants is necessary.

In January, 1837, Francisco Solano, a chief of an Indian tribe, presented a petition to the commanding general of the northern frontier of California, and director of colonization, for a grant of a tract of land of about four square leagues in extent, known by the name of Suisun. In his petition he represented that the land belonged to him by hereditary right from his ancestors, and that he was in its actual possession, but that he desired to 'revalidate' his rights; that is, to obtain a new recognition of their validity, in accordance with the existing laws of the Republic and the recent law of colonization decreed by the supreme government. The commanding general soon afterwards, during the same month, acceded to the petition so far as to give Solano a provisional grant of the land, 'as belonging to him by natural right and actual possession,' but accompanied it with a direction to him to ask from the government the usual title, in order to give validity to his rights, in conformity with the new law of colonization. In accordance with this direction, Solano applied, in January, 1842, to Alvarado, then Governor of California, for a full grant, accompanying his application with the above petition to the commanding general and the provisional grant of that officer.

On the 20th of the same month a formal grant was accordingly issued to him by the Governor, which was afterwards approved by the departmental assembly.

This grant was presented to the board of land commissioners created under the act of March 3, 1851, by Archibald C. Ritchie, who had become interested in the land, and the same was confirmed to him by the board, and afterwards by the District Court, and the decree of confirmation was affirmed by this court at its December Term, 1854. [1]

In the following year the four square leagues were surveyed under the directions of the Surveyor-General of the United States for California, and the survey was approved by that officer. In conformity with this survey, a patent was issued by the United States to Ritchie in January, 1857, and his representatives (heirs or vendees) have been in possession of the premises even since.

In November, 1839, more than two years after the application of Solano to the commanding general, Francisco Armijo also presented a petition to that officer for a grant of a tract of land of about three leagues in extent, known by the name of Tolenas, representing that the land solicited adjoins the Suisun tract. The general immediately gave the petitioner permission to occupy the land thus situated, as it was vacant and was not private property. The order granting this permission enjoins upon the petitioner, as a duty to avoid molesting the Indians or other neighbors, to endeavor to win their confidence, to give information of any attempt at rebellion, and, in every case, to act in accord with the chief of the Suisun, and directors him to apply, with this order, to the political authorities for the necessary title-papers. Application was accordingly made to the prefect of the district, and by him the application was transferred to the governor of the department, who, on the 4th of March, 1840, issued to Armijo a formal grant of the premises. One of the conditions annexed to the grant provided that on no account should the grantee molest the Indians nor his immediate neighbors. This grant was also presented to the board of land commissioners, and was rejected. On appeal to the District Court, the decision of the board was reversed and the grant confirmed, and at the December Term of 1859 the decree of the District Court was affirmed by this court.

The survey made by the Surveyor-General of the United States for California of the tract thus confirmed located the land adjoining the tract patented to Ritchie, and was approved by the decree of the District Court in July, 1863, and the case came before this court on appeal from this decree. The appeal was prosecuted by two intervenors, claiming under the Armijo title. All the other representatives of the original grantee approved of the location made, and desired its confirmation.

The United States were also appellants on the record, but they did not press their objections urged in the court below. The specific quantity granted was not described by metes and bounds in either of the two grants, but in each reference was made to a map indicating the exterior limits within which the quantity was to be taken. Both maps represented, to a great extent, the same general tract, and the intervenors sought to include within the survey of the Armijo grant a portion of the land patented to Bitchie, and thus to be enabled to retain the land occupied by them, either as pre-emptors or holders of warrants issued by the State for the five hundred thousand acres given by Congress under the act of September 4, 1841.

Messrs. J. B. Williams and J. A. Wills, for the appellants, and Messrs. Carlisle and Stanley, for the respondents.

Mr. Justice FIELD, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court, as follows:


^1  17 Howard, 525.

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).