UNITED STATES V. ELLIOTT, 164 U. S. 373 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Elliott, 164 U.S. 373 (1896)

United States v. Elliott

No. 37

Argued October 19, 1896

Decided November 30, 1896

164 U.S. 373


A tract of land in South Carolina was sold in 1863 under the direct tax acts for nonpayment of the direct tax to the United States, and was bid in by the United States. It was then subdivided into two lots, A and B. Lot A, the most valuable, was resold at public auction to E, who had a life estate in it, and it was conveyed to him. Lot B was also resold, but the present controversy relates only to Lot A. This lot was purchased by a person who had been a tenant for life of the whole tract before the tax sale. After the purchase and during his lifetime, it was seized under execution and sold as his property. No part of the property has come

Page 164 U. S. 374

into the possession of the remaindermen, claimants in this action, nor have they repurchased or redeemed any part of it from the United States, nor has any purchase been made on their account. Under the Act of March 2, 1891, c. 496, 26 Stat. 822, they brought this suit in the Court of Claims to assert their claim as owners in fee simple in remainder, and to recover one-half of the assessed value of the tract. Held that, as they were admittedly owners, as they themselves neither purchased nor redeemed the land, and as they are not held by any necessary intendment of law to have been represented by the actual purchaser, they are entitled to the benefit of the remedial statute of 1891.

The facts of the case, as found by the Court of Claims, were as follows:

On March 13, 1863, block 91 in the Town of Beaufort, South Carolina, was sold by the United States direct tax commissioner for South Carolina, under the direct tax acts, Act of August 5, 1861, c. 45, § 8, 12 Stat. 293, 294, Act of June 7, 1862, c. 98, 12 Stat. 422, to satisfy a tax, with penalty and interest, of $127.42 assessed against it, and was bid in by the United States. Said block was assessed for taxation by the said commissioner at $10,000. Subsequently it was divided into two lots, viz., lot A, containing buildings, and measuring on the north line 103 feet, and lot B, measuring on the north line 207 1/2 feet.

Lot A was resold November 1, 1866 at public auction, to T. R R. S. Elliott, for $200, and conveyed to him. Lot B was resold at public auction to Thomas M. S. Rhett for $225. At the time of the said sale for taxes, the titles in lots A and B, save so much thereof as lies west of a line drawn parallel to the west line of lot A 103 feet west therefrom, were vested in T. R. S. Elliott, as tenant for life, with remainder in fee in Alfred, William, Phoebe, Ann C., James C., Arthur H., Isabella R., Seignley C., Montrose and Apsley H. Elliott, children of the said T. R. S. Elliott. The said Apsley H. Elliott died in the year 1867, and the other mentioned children are his heirs at law. The said Thomas R. S. Elliott died in 1876. The surviving children, who are the claimants, were of tender years during the late Civil War. The value of that part of block 91 owned by the claimants is twenty-nine thirtieths of the whole value of said block.

Page 164 U. S. 375

Thomas R. S. Elliott, the tenant for life, adhered to the cause of the Rebellion, and on the occupation of Port Royal by the Union troops, in November, 1861, left St. Helena Island, with all the population of those islands, and remained away until after the close of the war. During the entire period of his absence, St. Helena Island and the adjacent islands were occupied by United States troops, and had been entirely abandoned by the original inhabitants. After the purchase, in November, 1866, by T. R. S. Elliott, the property was seized under execution, and sold as his property. Subsequently the purchaser of the property at sheriff's sale handed to the widow of T. R. S. Elliott the value of her dower in the property. No part of the property has come into the possession or ownership of the claimants, or any one of them, through the said T. R. S. Elliott. The claimants have not repurchased or redeemed any part of said property from the United States, nor has any purchase been made or intended to be on their account.

On this state of facts, the Court of Claims found that the claimants were entitled to recover, and on May 8, 1893, entered judgment in their favor for the sum of $4,185.98. From this judgment an appeal was taken and allowed to this Court.

Page 164 U. S. 376

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