Open main menu

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

163 U.S. 56

Wiggan  v.  Conolly

By the first article of the treaty of 1862, negotiated June 24th, ratified July 16th, and proclaimed July 28th (12 Stat. 1237), it was provided that:

'The Ottawa Indians of the United Bands of Blanchard's Fork and of Roche de Boeuf, having become sufficiently advanced in civilization and being desirous of becoming citizens of the United States, it is hereby agreed and stipulated that their organization and their relations with the United States, as an Indian tribe, shall be dissolved and terminated at the expiration of five years from the ratification of this treaty; and from and after that time the said Ottawas, and each and every one of them, shall be deemed and declared to be citizens of the United States, to all intents and purposes, and shall be entitled to all the rights, privileges and immunities of such citizens, and shall, in all respects, be subject to the laws of the United States, and of the state of states thereof in which they may reside.' The seventh article reads that:

'Proper patents by the United States shall be issued to each individual member of the tribe and person entitled for the lands selected and allotted to them, in which it shall be stipulated that no Indian, except as herein provided, to whom the same may be issued, shall alienate or encumber the land allotted to him or her in any manner until they shall, by the terms of this treaty, become a citizen of the United States; and any conveyance or encumbrance of said lands, done or suffered, except as aforesaid, by any Ottawa Indian, or the lands allotted to him or her, made before they shall become a citizen, shall be null and void. And forty acres, including the houses and improvements of the allottee, shall be inalienable during the natural lifetime of the party receiving the title.'

Esther Wilson as appears by the census roll, duly certified by the commissioner of Indian affairs and the secretary of the interior, of date March 30, 1864, was an allottee under this treaty, and at that time a girl of the age of seven years. On December 1, 1865, a patent was issued to her for the land in controversy, the granting words of which are as follows:

'Now know ye that the United States of America, in consideration of the premises, and pursuant to the third and seventh articles of the treaty aforesaid, have given and granted, and by these presents do give and grant, unto the said Esther Wilson and to her heirs, the tract of land above described: provided, however, and these presents are upon the express condition, and with the limitation as required by the treaty aforesaid, that the said Esther Wilson shall not alienate or incumber the aforesaid tracts of land until she shall become, by the terms of said treaty, a citizen of the United States; and any conveyance or incumbrance of said lands, done or suffered by said Esther Wilson, made before she shall become a citizen, shall be null and void; to have and to hold the said tracts of land, with the appurtenances, unto the said Esther Wilson and to her heirs and assigns, forever, subject to the limitation and condition aforesaid.'

On February 23, 1867, a treaty was negotiated between the United States and several Indian tribes (15 Stat. 513), the scope and purpose of which is disclosed by this recital in the preamble:

'Whereas it is desirable that arrangements should be made by which portions of certain tribes, parties hereto, now residing in Kansas, should be enabled to remove to other lands in the Indian country south of that state, while other portions of said tribes desire to dissolve their tribal relations and become citizens.'

Among the parties to this treaty were the Ottawa Indians. Certain amendments were suggested by the senate on June 18, 1868, which were accepted by the Indians September 30, 1868, and the treaty proclaimed October 14th following. The third section provides for a cession by the Shawnees of a part of their reservation in the Indian Territory to the United States. The sixteenth recites that this ceded territory 'is hereby sold to the Ottawas at one dollar per acre,' while the seventeenth section reads as follows:

'The provisions of the Ottawa treaty of one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, under which all the tribe were to become citizens upon the sixteenth of July, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven, are hereby extended for two years, or until July sixteenth, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine; but at any time previous to that date any member of the tribe may appear before the United States district court for Kansas, and declare his intention to become a citizen, when he shall receive a certificate of citizenship, which shall include his family, and thereafter, be disconnected with the tribe, and shall be entitled to his proportion of the tribal fund; and all who shall not have made such declaration previous to the last-mentioned date shall be still considered members of the tribe. In order to enable the tribe to dispose of their property in Kansas, and remove to their new homes and establish themseves thereon, patents in fee simple shall be given to the heads of families, and to all who have come of age among the allottees under the treaties of one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, so that they may sell their lands without restriction, but the said lands shall remain exempt from taxation so long as they may be retained by members of the tribe, down the said sixteenth of July, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine.'

On October 26, 1872, Benjamin Esterly, as the guardian of Esther Wilson, appointed such guardian by the probate court of Franklin county, state of Kansas (in which county the lands in controversy are situated), executed a deed to John Wiggan, which deed recites a sale of the entire 80 acres at private sale for the sum of $60, t e confirmation of such sale by the probate court, and an order on the guardian to execute a deed. Subsequently the grantee therein, John Wiggan, conveyed to Horace Wiggan and Albert E. Wiggan. On February 17, 1881, the allottee, she having in the meantime been married, under the name of Esther King, commenced an action in the district court of Franklin county against said last-named grantees for the recovery of the possession of the lands. Trial being had, a judgment was rendered in her favor, which, on June 4, 1886, was affirmed by the supreme court of the state. 11 Pac. 140. On May 6, 1891, the death of Esther King was suggested, and an order of revivor entered by the supreme court in the names of her heirs at law, Alexander Conolly and John King, her husband and only child. On May 26, 1892, a writ of error was allowed by the chief justice of that court, and on June 20, 1892, there was filed an affidavit that one of the defendants, now plaintiff in error, Albert E. Wiggan, was a minor at the time of the judgment of affirmance, and had not attained his majority until within less than two years prior to the suing out of the writ of error. The case, therefore, in this court is pending between one of the original defendants and the heirs of the original plaintiff.

Ben. T. Du Val and H. C. Mechem, for plaintiff in error.

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).