FELIX V. PATRICK, 145 U. S. 317 (1892)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Felix v. Patrick, 145 U.S. 317 (1892)

Felix v. Patrick

No. 301

Argued April 14, 1892

Decided May 16, 1892

145 U.S. 317


F., a half-breed of the Sioux nation, received in 1857 a certificate of land scrip under the Treaty of July 15, 1830, 7 Stat. 328, and under the act of July 17, 1854, 10 Stat. 304, c. 83, which enacted that "no transfer or conveyance of any of said certificates or scrip shall be valid." In March, 1860, she executed a power of attorney in blank and a quitclaim deed in blank, the name of the attorney, the description of the land, and the name of the grantee in the deed being omitted. These came into the possession of P. on the payment of $150, who inserted the name of R. as attorney and his own name as grantee, and a tract of 120 acres in Omaha, of which he was already in possession, but without valid title, as the description. The deed was then delivered to him by R., and was put upon record. P. never informed F. of this location, or of the record of these several instruments, but remained in possession of the located tract either personally or through his grantees. Congress, on the procurement of P., confirmed his title to the tract. 15 Stat. 186, c. 240 ; 269, c. 21. The half-breed was ignorant of all this until August, 1887, when the Sioux Indians became citizens of the United States by virtue of article 6 of the Treaty of April 29, 1868, 15 Stat. 637. In 1888, the representatives of F., who had deceased, filed a bill in equity against P. setting forth these facts, averring that the power of attorney and quitclaim deed had been fraudulently procured by some persons unknown, and praying that P. should be decreed to have taken the title in trust for F., and that the power of attorney and the quitclaim deed should be declared to be fraudulent and a cloud upon plaintiffs' title, and that the defendants be directed to surrender the estate to plaintiffs. To this the defendants demurred, and the court below dismissed the bill.


(1) That P. was chargeable with notice that the power and the quitclaim deed were intended as devices to evade the law against the assignment of the scrip, and that he acquired no title through them.

(2) That he acquired no additional rights through the confirmatory acts of Congress.

(3) That having no right to locate the scrip for his own benefit, he must be deemed to have located it for F. and as her representative.

(4) That this implied trust did not prevent him from taking and holding possession of the land adversely to her and for his own use and benefit.

(5) That under these circumstances, F. was bound to use reasonable diligence in discovering the fraud and seeking redress.

Page 145 U. S. 318

(6) That, conceding that plaintiffs were incapable of being affected with lathes so long as they maintained their tribal relations, the bill was fatally defective in not setting forth when and how the alleged frauds were discovered in order that the court might clearly see whether it could not have been discovered before.

(7) That in view of all the circumstances, it would be inequitable to disturb the disposition made of the case below.

(8) That the most which could be justly demanded would be the repayment of the $150, with interest.

This was an appeal from a decree sustaining demurrers to a bill in equity filed by the heirs of Sophia Felix against the defendant Patrick and his grantees for the purpose of having them declared trustees for the plaintiffs of certain lands in the City of Omaha which in 1861 he had caused to be entered in the name of Sophia Felix by virtue of certain scrip issued to her as a member of the Dakota or Sioux nation of Indians.

The allegations of the bill were, in substance, as follows:

1. That in 1854, Sophia Felix, being a half-breed of the Sioux or Dakota nation of Indians, residing in Minnesota under the treaty of July 15, 1830, and the Act of Congress of July 17, 1854, was entitled to have issued to her scrip for the location of 480 acres of land, as provided by that act. That in 1857, scrip was issued to her for 480 acres, and that before the location of said scrip, the said Sophia Felix intermarried with one David Garnelle.

2. That on March 31, 1860, certain persons unknown, "by certain wicked devices and fraudulent means," procured the said Sophia with her husband, said David Garnelle, to execute a power of attorney in blank, also a quitclaim deed in blank, a copy of each of which was attached to the bill. The power of attorney omitted the name of the attorney, the number of the scrip, and the description of the land, and authorized the person whose name was to be inserted to sell and convey and confirm unto the purchaser there of the following described pieces or parcels of land, "to be located for us and in our name," etc. The quitclaim deed also omitted the name of the grantee and the description of the land, but both instruments were otherwise in legal form.

3. That the defendant Patrick in November, 1861, procured

Page 145 U. S. 319

from some person unknown possession of said strip, to the amount of 120 acres, and on November 21 made application to the land office at Omaha to locate such scrip, and thereupon, in the name of said Sophia Felix, located the same upon certain described real estate in the County of Douglas and Territory of Nebraska (these lands are now admitted to be within the limits of the City of Omaha). That

"at the time of said location, the said Sophia Felix had never parted with the title to or any interest in said scrip, and was the absolute owner thereof and sole beneficiary therein, and these facts the said Matthewson T. Patrick at that time and at all times well knew, and the said location inured wholly to the benefit of the said Sophia Felix,"

although she had no knowledge that Patrick had procured the possession of the said scrip or located the same. That the said Patrick,

"in securing possession of said scrip, procured the same with the intent to appropriate the scrip to his own use and defraud the said Sophia Felix out of the same and out of all interest therein and out of all benefits thereunder, and located the same designing it for his own use and benefit, and with the fraudulent intent to deprive the said Sophia Felix out of all benefit and interest therein."

4. That, in the further prosecution of his scheme to defraud, Patrick secured the blank power of attorney and quitclaim deed, and shortly thereafter caused the power to be filled out with a description of the scrip, and of the property located with it, and caused the name of William Ruth to be inserted as the attorney to sell and convey the property, a description of which was so inserted. That he also caused the quitclaim deed to be filled out with a description of the property, and inserted his own name as grantee, making the instrument purport to be a conveyance by Sophia and David Garnelle to himself. That on September 7, 1863, he caused the said power of attorney and quitclaim deed to be filed for record in the recorder's office of Douglas County, and in furtherance of said wrongful designs caused the said William Ruth, named by himself as attorney, to execute and deliver to him a deed of the property, by virtue of his pretended authority, and caused the same to be filed for record.

Page 145 U. S. 320

5. That at and before the location of such scrip, defendant Patrick was in possession of the premises, and had attempted to acquire title to the same by preemption, but in that respect was unsuccessful, and that said scrip was procured and located by him for his own benefit, and to acquire a title which he could not acquire under the preemption acts.

6. That in furtherance of said scheme, the said Patrick procured the enactment of an act of Congress, approved February 2, 1869, confirming the title to the land in question to the parties holding by deed from the patentee.

7. That the said Patrick never informed the said Sophia or her husband, or anyone related to her by blood,

"that he had procured and located said scrip, or that he had procured said blank instruments and filled them out, or had caused a deed to be executed conveying to himself the real estate herein before described, or that he claimed any ownership therein, but, on the contrary, fraudulently concealed the same and exercised every precaution to prevent said proceedings coming to the knowledge of said parties."

That, recognizing the frailty of his title, he endeavored for several years to secure the execution of a deed by the said Sophia and her husband without letting them know the character of the instrument, whereby they would convey to him in fee the said property, and to that end procured his father to write a letter, a copy of which was made an exhibit. That all the acts heretofore stated were in the execution of an unlawful scheme to wrong and defraud said Sophia out of said scrip and property. That the instruments executed as aforesaid by her and her husband were not intended by them to be used for the purpose of conveying the said property to any person whatsoever, or to authorize such conveyance by any other person, and no consideration was received by either of them for the scrip, but that Patrick has claimed, and still claims and asserts, ownership in the premises, ever since the location of said scrip.

8. That a large part of said land has been platted and recorded, divided into lots, and sold by warranty deed to others, who are made defendants as purchasers from him of particular descriptions given in the bill.

Page 145 U. S. 321

9. That these grantees had notice of infirmities, if not actual fraud, attaching to the title of Patrick, since, among other things, the power of attorney and deed are dated nearly two years prior to the scrip location. That on July 3, 1863, the United States issued to the said Sophia Felix its patent for the premises, which was filed for record on July 25, 1863.

10. That the said Sophia Garnelle died December, 1865, and during her lifetime had no knowledge that Patrick had secured and located said scrip; had no knowledge that the power of attorney and quitclaim deed had been filled out or used in any manner, or placed on record, and had no knowledge as to the disposition made of such scrip, or of the acts of the said Patrick. That the plaintiffs, who are the heirs at law of the said Sophia Felix, had no knowledge whatever of the facts set forth until 1887, when, under a certain treaty with the Sioux Indians, they became citizens of the United States, and that prior to this time they had maintained their tribal relations with the Sioux Indians, and were, by acts of Congress, inhibited and barred from instituting any action in any of the courts, federal or state, in the United States, were denied access to the said courts, and had no legal standing therein as a party.

11. That Patrick and those claiming under him ought not to be permitted to hold such real estate, but should surrender the same to the plaintiffs, in view of the fact that said scrip, under the treaty of Prairie du Chien and the Act of Congress of July 17, 1854, could not be sold, assigned, or transferred, directly or indirectly. That Patrick received said scrip in trust for said Sophia, and located the same in trust for her, and holds possession of the land as trustee for her and her heirs, and ought not to be allowed to assume any adverse relation to the plaintiffs. That he ought also account for the rents, issues, and profits of said land for all the time he has had possession thereof, etc. Prayer that he be declared a trustee; that the power of attorney and quitclaim deed be declared fraudulent and void, and a cloud upon plaintiff's title. and be cancelled; that the act of Congress confirming Patrick's title to the lands be declared unconstitutional and void; that the defendants

Page 145 U. S. 322

surrender possession of the land to the plaintiffs, and that the said Patrick account for the rents and profits, etc.

There were three separate demurrers filed to this bill by Patrick and several of the other defendants, principally upon the ground of want of equity and laches. Upon hearing in the court below, the bill was dismissed, 36 F.4d 7, and the plaintiffs appealed to this Court.

Page 145 U. S. 325

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