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United States v. Lawton (110 U.S. 146)

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

110 U.S. 146

United States  v.  Lawton

The appellee recovered a judgment in the court of claims against the United States for $929.50. That court found the following facts: In 1827 James Stoney, of South Carolina, died, leaving a will, which was duly proved, and contained the following provision:

'The other equal part or share of my personal property, charged and chargeable with the payment of half of the said annuity to my beloved wife, Elizabeth, together with all the lands I possess on the south side of Broad creek, on the island of Hilton Head, I give and devise unto such person or persons as I shall hereafter appoint my executor or executors, to and to the use of them or him, my executor or executors, their heirs, executors, and assigns, upon the trust nevertheless, and to and for the intent and purpose hereinafter expressed and declared of and concerning the same; that is to say, upon trust for the sole benefit of my beloved daughter, Martha S. Barksdale, for and during her natural life, free from the debts, contracts, and engagements of any husband to whom she may be allied, or the claims of his creditors; and upon the death of my said daughter, Martha S. Barksdale, it is my will, in tention, and desire that the trusteeship above created in my executor or executors over the said part of my real estate and personal property shall immediately dissolve and expire; and if my said daughter, Martha S. Barksdale, shall have any lawful issue living at the time of her death, then I give and devise the said part of my real and personal property to such issue, him, her, or them, and their heirs foreover.'

A tract of land known as the Hill Place, in St. Luke's parish, South Carolina, was a part of the estate so devised. Martha S. Barksdale, named in the will, entered into possession of the Hill Place, under the devise, and continued in possession until dispossessed, in consequence of the tax sale hereinafter mentioned. After the making of the will she became the lawful wife of Joseph A. Lawton. The appellee is her lawful and only living issue. In November, 1862, the direct tax commissioners of the United States assessed a direct tax on the Hill Place, amounting to $88, and in December, 1873, (a mistake, probably, for 1863,) it was sold for non-payment of the tax. The amount of the tax, penalty, interest, and costs, was $170.50. The property was 'struck off for the United States by the tax commissioners,' for the sum of $1,100, and a tax certificate, which is now on file in the office of the commissioner of interna revenue, was issued therefor, but no money was paid, 'the tax commissioners having bid in the property for the United States.' The board of tax commissioners took possession of the land in the name of the United States, and from time to time leased the same. The amount realized from the leasing does not appear. The United States are still in possession of 50 acres. The remainder was sold at public sale in December, 1875, for $130, under the provisions of the act of June 8, 1872, c. 337, (17 St. 330.) No application under that act and the acts supplementary thereto, for redemption of the property, was ever made. It does not appear that the appellee ever parted with his interest in the remainder of the tract, except as dispossessed by the tax sale, or that he ever assigned his right to receive the surplus remaining from the purchase money. Mrs. Lawton died in April, 1880. It does not appear that during her life-time any demand was made upon the treasury for the surplus. In May, 1882, the appellee applied to the secretary of treasury for any surplus proceeds of the sale which might be in the treasury. No action was taken thereon, and nothing has been paid to the appellee on such application.

Sol. Gen. Phillips and John S. Blair, for appellant.

Wm. E. Earle and J. J. Darlington, for appellee.



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).