NORTHERN PACIFIC R. CO. V. SANDERS, 166 U. S. 620 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Northern Pacific R. Co. v. Sanders, 166 U.S. 620 (1897)

Northern Pacific Railroad Company v. Sanders

No. 12

Argued March 12, 1897

Decided April 19, 1897

166 U.S. 620


Lands were expressly excepted from the grant made in 1864 for the benefit of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which were not free from preemption "or other claims or rights" at the time the line of the road was definitely fixed and a plat thereof filed in the office of the Commissioner of the General Land Office. The general route of the railroad was fixed February 21, 1872, and its line of definite location on the 6th of July, 1882. After the company filed a map of general route, the Commissioner of the General Land Office, under the directions of the Secretary of the Interior, April 22, 1872, transmitted a diagram of that route to the register and receiver of the land office at Helena, Montana, with a letter of instructions directing the withdrawal from sale or location, preemption, or homestead entry, all the surveyed and unsurveyed odd-numbered sections of public lands falling within the limits of forty miles as designated on that map. The lands in dispute are within the exterior lines of both the general and definite routes of the railroad. Prior to such definite location, certain persons, qualified to purchase mineral lands under the laws of the United States, entered upon the possession of

Page 166 U. S. 621

these lands, and did "file upon" them "as mineral lands," applying for patents, and conforming in all respects to the provisions of Chapter 6 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, Title XXXII, relating to "Mineral Lands and Mining Resources." The company filed a protest against the perfection of any entry of the lands as mineral lands upon the ground that they were not mineral lands nor commercially valuable for any gold or other precious metals therein contained. At the time of the definite location of the Northern Pacific Railroad and of the filing of the plat and map thereof in the General Land Office, the applications for these lands as mineral lands were pending and undetermined, the applicants claiming, before the proper office, that they were mineral lands of the United States to which they were entitled under their respective applications, and not lands in quality such as was described in the grant to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. On the 4th day of August, 1887, the company presented to the register and receiver of the proper land office for approval, a list of lands selected by it as having been granted by the act of Congress, to the end that such lands (the list including the lands here in dispute) might be patented to it, but that officer refused to approve such list because of the existence, on the 6th day of July, 1882, of the above claims to the lands as mineral lands. It did not appear from the record what became of the several applications set out in the answer to purchase these lands as mineral lands, nor whether the railroad company appealed from the decision made in 1887 by the local land office at Helena refusing to approve the list presented of lands claimed by it under the act of Congress. Held that the above applications were "claims" within the meaning of the Act of July 2, 1864, granting lands to aid in the construction of a railroad and telegraph line from Lake Superior to Puget Sound on the Pacific coast by the northern route, and excepting therefrom lands not

"free from preemption or other claims or rights at the time the line of said road is definitely fixed, and a plat thereof filed in the office of the Commissioner of the General Land Office;"

consequently, the lands embraced by those applications did not pass to the railroad company under the grant made by the above act.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 166 U. S. 622

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