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U.S. Supreme Court

Hyatt v. Vincennes National Bank, 113 U.S. 408 (1885)

Hyatt v. Vincennes National Bank

Submitted January 27, 1885

Decided March 2, 1885

113 U.S. 408


In 1874, B conveyed to H, for a term of 50 years, all the mineral coal upon and under a described tract of land, in Knox County, Indiana, with the exclusive right to enter on the land to dig for the coal, and remove it, and to occupy with constructions and buildings, as might be necessary and useful for the full development and enjoyment of the advantages of the coal, H to have the right to remove all buildings or fixtures placed on the land, when the agreement should expire, and to pay a fixed royalty for the coal mined. Under a judgment against H, the Sheriff of Knox County sold, on execution, to the judgment creditor at the courthouse door in that county, in the manner prescribed by statute for the sale of real estate, the interest of H in the term of years, and certain buildings and articles belonging to him, which were a part of the structures and machinery for operating a coal mine on the land, and which were firmly attached to the land. In a suit in equity brought by the purchaser against another judgment creditor and the sheriff, to enjoin interference with the property so purchased, held that under the Revised Statutes of Indiana of 1852, 2 Rev.Stat., part 2, c. 1, Act of June 18, 1852, vol. 2 of Davis' edition of 1876, art. 24, sec. 520, p. 232, and art. 22, secs. 463, 466 and 407 (as amended February 2, 1855), pp. 215, 217, the sale of the property as real estate was valid.

The Vincennes National Bank, of Vincennes, Indiana, and the Washington National Bank, of Washington, Indiana, having severally recovered judgments against William Helphenstine and others, composing the firm of William Helphenstine & Co., issued executions thereon, under which, and under an execution on another judgment, the Sheriff of Knox county, Indiana at the courthouse door, in Vincennes, in that county, on a notice advertised for three weeks successively in a weekly newspaper, and notices posted as required by law for twenty days, offered at public sale the rents and profits, for a term not exceeding seven years, of certain real estate and chattels real on which he had levied, and, having received no bid for such rents and profits, exposed to public sale the fee simple of the

Page 113 U. S. 409

real estate and chattels real and the improvements thereon, to-wit:

"One engine and boiler and hoisting machine, steam pump, Fairbanks' railroad scales, wagon scales, four screens, blacksmith's shop, one office building, one engine building and dump house, one stable, one lime house, two dwelling houses, track in coalmine, railroad track, switches, and all fixtures belonging to the coal mine on said real estate and leasehold."

The levy and sale included the interest of the judgment debtors for the residue of terms of years unexpired under certain mining leases of real estate, embracing that covered by the Bunting agreement, hereinafter mentioned. The two banks became the purchasers at the sale, on June 9, 1877, and received a certificate, which stated that they would be entitled to a deed unless the property should be redeemed within one year from the date of the sale. On the 25th of December, 1877, they filed a bill in equity, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Indiana against the members of the firm of William Helphenstine & Co., and the members of the firm of Hyatt, Levings & Co. The latter were judgment creditors of William Helphenstine & Co. The object of the suit was to restrain interference with the purchased property. The bill was afterwards amended by making the sheriff a defendant, and by alleging that Hyatt, Levings & Co. had caused a levy to be made, under an execution on their judgment, on iron rails and other property, which Helphenstine had detached, and on articles which constituted a part of the machinery for operating the mine, and which were firmly attached to the real estate and leasehold, and were part of the property so purchased by the plaintiffs.

The question in the case arises in respect to an agreement or lease in writing, executed by one Bunting and his wife and William Helphenstine & Co., in July, 1874, by which the former conveyed to the latter, their heirs, successors and assigns, for a term of fifty years, "all the mineral coal, iron ore, fire and potters' clay, limestone, building stone, and other minerals upon and under the farm or tract of land" described, with the exclusive right to enter on the land to dig for the articles named, and, when found, to remove the same from

Page 113 U. S. 410

the land,

"together with all rights and privileges incident to mining and securing the minerals aforesaid, including the right of ingress and egress, and to dig, bore, mine, explore, and occupy with constructions and buildings, as may be necessary and useful for the full development and enjoyment of the advantages of said coal and other minerals as aforesaid."

The lessees were given "the right to remove all buildings or fixtures placed on said land when said agreement has been forfeited or may have expired," and they were to pay fixed royalties for the articles mined and removed. The answers of Helphenstine & Co., and of Hyatt, Levings & Co., aver that the property in question was personal property, situated fifteen miles distant from the courthouse of the county, and was used in and about the operation of the mine under the mining contract.

Before the hearing the parties stipulated in writing

"that the plaintiffs are entitled to a decree as prayed for, unless the property sold should have been sold as personal property, as provided for by the statutes of the State of Indiana; that the sheriff's sale was made at the courthouse door, in the City of Vincennes, in Knox County, and more than twelve miles from the property."

The circuit court entered a decree that, by virtue of their purchase and the certificate thereof, the plaintiffs became the equitable owners, subject to the right of redemption, "of the real estate, fixtures, machinery, and chattels real," which the decree went on to describe, and of the right, title, and interest of William Helphenstine & Co., being the residue of terms of years unexpired under certain mining leases of specified real estate, including that covered by the agreement with the Buntings; that on said land and leaseholds were situate and sold, as aforesaid, to the plaintiffs, the chattels real before described as sold to them, and that the sheriff had levied on property which at the time of the sale to the plaintiffs, was annexed to and constituted part of said real estate and chattels real, and was part of the property sold to the plaintiffs, and intended to sell it. The decree enjoined the defendants from selling the property so levied on. Subsequently the defendants moved to modify the decree by striking

Page 113 U. S. 411

out so much as enjoined the sheriff from selling the machinery, buildings, fixtures, and improvements situate on the premises held under the agreement with the Buntings, because they were personal property when levied on under the execution of the plaintiffs, and the sale was void because they were not sold as personal property but as real property, and the plaintiffs acquired no title under the sale made at the courthouse door. The motion was overruled. The defendants have appealed to this Court, setting forth, in their petition of appeal, that they appeal from that part of the decree which relates to the machinery, buildings, fixtures, and improvements situated on the Bunting premises and held under the Bunting agreement, on the ground that it was personal property and not real estate, and was not sold as personal property, in the presence of the officer making the sale.

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