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United States Supreme Court

52 U.S. 437

Webster  v.  Reid

THIS case was brought up by a writ of error allowed by John F. Kinney, Judge of the Supreme Court of Iowa, on the 10th of November, 1847. The writ was issued, as usual, in the name of the President of the United States, and was addressed, 'To the Honorable the Judges of the Supreme Court of the Territory, now State, of Iowa.'

It was what was called an action of right brought by Reid against Webster, to recover the possession of 160 acres of land in Lee County, then in the Territory of Iowa. The suit was brought on the 1st of October, 1844.

The facts were these.

On the 4th of August, 1824, the United States made a treaty with the Sac and Fox Indians, by which a tract of country between the Des Moines and Mississippi Rivers was reserved for the use of the Half-breeds belonging to the Sac and Fox Indians. This treaty was ratified on the 18th of January, 1825.

On the 30th of June, 1834, Congress passed the following act (4 Stat. at Large, 740):--

'Be it enacted, &c., That all the right, title, and interest, which might accrue or revert to the United States, to the reservation of land lying between the rivers Des Moines and Mississippi, which was reserved for the use of the Half-breeds belonging to the Sac and Fox nations, now used by them, or some of them, under a treaty made and concluded between the United States and the Sac and Fox tribes or nations of Indians, at Washington, on the 4th of August, 1824, be, and the same are hereby, relinquished and vested in the said Half-breeds of the Sac and Fox tribes or nations of Indians, who, at the passage of this act, are, under the reservation in the said treaty, entitled, by the Indian title to the same, with full power and authority to transfer their portions thereof, by sale, devise, or descent, according to the laws of the State of Missouri.'

On the 16th of January, 1838, the territorial legislature of Wisconsin passed an act for the partition of the Half-breed lands, and for other purposes. The preamble to the act was as follows:--

'Whereas, it is expedient in order to the settlement of that tract of land lying between the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers, commonly called the 'Half-breed lands,' which was reserved for the Half-breeds of the Sac and Fox tribes of Indians, by treaty made at Washington city, between the United States and those tribes, on the 4th of August, 1824, which was released to said Half-breeds, with power to convey their rights, &c., by act of Congress, approved the 30th of June, 1834, that the validity of the titles of the claimants should be determined, and partition of sald lands among those having claims should be made, or a sale thereof, for the benefit of such valid claimants; now therefore, Be it enacted,' &c.

The act directed that all persons claiming any interest in said lands should file, within one year, with the clerk of the District Court of Lee County, a written notice of their respective claims, &c. Edward Johnston, Thomas S. Wilson, and David Brigham were appointed commissioners to receive testimony concerning the validity of claims, who should be entitled to $6 per diem. The act consisted of twenty-four sections, and pointed out the manner in which the commissioners should discharge their duties. Certain persons were also appointed to sell portions of the land in order to pay all necessary expenses.

On the 22d of June, 1838, a supplement was passed, making certain changes, which need not be particularly noticed.

On the 25th of January, 1839, the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Iowa passed an act repealing the two preceding acts, and proceeding as follows:--

'Sect. 2. That the several commissioners appointed by and under that act to sit and take testimony, may immediately, or as soon as convenient, commence actions before the District Court of Lee County, for their several accounts against the owners of the said 'Half-breed lands,' and give eight weeks' notice in the Iowa Territorial Gazette to said owners of such suits; and the judge of said District Court, upon the trial of said suits before it at its next term, shall, if said accounts are deemed correct, order judgment for the amount and costs to be entered up against said owners, and said judgment shall be a lien on said lands, and a right of redemption thereto; said judgment, when entered, shall draw interest at the rate of twelve per cent. per annum.

'Sect. 3. The words 'Owners of the Half-breed Lands lying in Lee County,' shall be a sufficient designation and specification of the defendants in said suits.

'Sect. 4. All the expenses necessarily incurred by said commissioners in the discharge of their duties under the above-named acts, shall be included in their accounts.

'Sect. 5. The trial of said suit or suits shall be before the court, and not a jury; and this act shall receive a liberal construction, such as will carry out the spirit and intention thereof.

'Approved, January 25, 1839.'

At the August term, 1839, of the District Court for Lee County, Edward Johnston and David Brigham, two of the commissioners, recovered judgments against the owners of the Half-breed lands, as follows:--

'EDWARD JOHNSTON v. OWNERS OF THE HALF-BREED LANDS, lying in Lee County, I. T.-In Debt.

'Now comes the auditor, appointed by the court to examine, adjust, and allow the account of the plaintiff in the above-entitled cause, to wit, H. T. Reid, Esq., and makes report that he finds the sum of $1,290 to be due from said defendants to said plaintiff, which report is accepted by the court. Whereupon, it is ordered by the court, that the plaintiff recover of the defendants the sum of $1,290, together with his costs of suit in this behalf expended.'

'DAVID BRIGHAM v. THE OWNERS OF THE HALF-BREED LANDS, lying in the County of Lee.-In Debt.

'Now comes the auditor, appointed by the court to examine, adjust, and allow the account of the plaintiff in the above-entitled cause, to wit, Oliver Weld, Esq., and makes report that he finds the sum of $818 to be due from the said defendants to said plaintiff; which report is accepted by the court. Whereupon, it is ordered by the court, that the plaintiff recover of the said defendants the sum of $818, the amount stated in the auditor's report, and costs in his behalf expended.'

On the 26th of November, 1841, executions were issued upon the above two judgments.

On the 1st of December, 1841, the sheriff levied the executions 'on the Half-breed tract of land, situated between the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers, granted by treaty to the Half-breeds of the Sac and Fox tribes of Indians,' and advertised the same for sale on the 1st of January, 1842.

On the 1st of January, 1842, the sheriff sold the land, containing 119,000 acres, more or less, to Hugh T. Reid, for the sum of $2,884.66.

On the 2d of January, 1843, William Stotts, sheriff of Lee County, and successor of the sheriff who had made the sale, executed a deed to Reid for the following tract, viz.:--

'All that tract of land lying between the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers, and south of a line drawn from a point on the Des Moines River, opposite the point where the northern boundary of the State of Missouri strikes the same, to the Mississippi, commonly known as the Half-breed lands lying in Lee County, and containing 119,000 acres, more or less; the said tract of land lying, being, and situate in the county of Lee and Territory of Iowa aforesaid, with all the right, interest, claim, and demand of the said owners of the Half-breed lands lying in Lee County, in, over, and to the same, and every part and parcel thereof; to have and to hold all the above-granted premises and appurtenances thereto belonging, or in any wise appertaining, to the said Hugh T. Reid, his heirs and assigns for ever.

On the 1st of October, 1844, Reid brought a suit against Webster, and filed the following declaration:-

'Territory of Iowa, Lee County, ss.

'HUGH T. REID v. JOSEPH WEBSTER.

'Hugh T. Reid claims against Joseph Webster a tract of land, with the appurtenances, lying in the county aforesaid, and described as follows, to wit, the northeast quarter of section 12, in township 67 north, and range 5 west, containing 160 acres, more or less; and thereupon the said Hugh T. Reid says that he has right to the immediate possession of said property, and to the ownership thereof in fee simple, and also to damages for its detention, and offers to prove that such is his right.

H. T. REID, Attorney for himself.'

The defendant put in the following plea:--

'Territory of Iowa, Lee County, sct.

'District Court of said County, October Term, 1841.

'Joseph Webster denies the right of Hugh T. Reid to the tract of land, with the appurtenances, and damages for the detention thereof, as set forth in his declaration, or to any part thereof; and hereupon he prays a jury to determine the truth of this plea.

'MILLER, MILLS, & COCHRAN, for Defendant.'On the 12th of May, 1845, the cause came on for trial, when the verdict of the jury was for the plaintiff.

There were eight bills of exceptions taken in the progress of the trial, which occupied twenty-six pages of the printed record. Into them were incorporated long legislative acts and deeds, of which a summary is given above.

Instead of transcribing these long exceptions, it will be sufficient to state the points involved.

First Exception.

The plaintiff offered in evidence the two judgments given in favor of Johnston and Brigham.

This was the first evidence offered by the plaintiff to the jury. The defendant objected to the admissibility of the judgments, as being rendered without jurisdiction; but the court overruled the objections, and admitted the records, to which the defendant excepts, and prays the court to sign and seal this his first bill of exceptions, which is done at the time the same was taken on the trial.

CHARLES MASON, Judge.

Second Exception.

The plaintiff offered in evidence the above judgments, the executions issued thereon, the sheriff's return and deed to Reid; then a witness to prove that Webster was in possession of the land mentioned in the declaration, and had been so since the year 1839 or 1840, and that the land was within the Half-breed reservation; and then the various legislative acts.

The defendant then moved the court to enter a nonsuit against the plaintiff, which motion was overruled by the court, to which ruling and decision the defendant excepts and prays, &c.

CHARLES MASON, Judge.

Third Exception.

Be it known, that on the trial of this cause, after the plaintiff had closed his evidence, and defendant had moved the court for a nonsuit, as stated in a bill of exceptions numbered two in this cause, the defendant offered to prove to the jury that the judgments, executions, sheriff's sale, and sheriff's deed, constituting the evidence introduced by plaintiff, was all procured by fraud by said plaintiff and others, and that the whole title of plaintiff is based upon fraud and fiction; to the introduction of which evidence the plaintiff objected, and the court sustained the exception, and ruled that such evidence should not be admitted; to which defendant excepts, and prays the court to sign and seal this bill of exceptions.

CHARLES MASON, Judge.

NotesEdit

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).