MICHIGAN LAND & LUMBER CO. V. RUST, 168 U. S. 589 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Michigan Land & Lumber Co. v. Rust, 168 U.S. 589 (1897)

Michigan Land & Lumber Company v. Rust

No. 57

Argued October 25-26, 1897

Decided December 18, 1897

168 U.S. 589


The Act of September 28, 1850, c. 84, granting swamp lands to the several states, was a grant in praesenti, passing title to all lands which at that date were swamp lands, but leaving to the Secretary of the Interior to determine and identify what lands were, and what lands were not, swamp lands.

Whenever the granting act specifically provides for the issue of a patent, the legal title remains in the government until its issue, with power to inquire into the extent and validity of rights claimed against the government.

Although a survey had been made of the lands in controversy which indicated that they were swamp lands, it was within the power of the land office at any time prior to the issue of a patent to order a resurvey and to correct mistakes made in the prior survey.

The facts in this case clearly show an adjustment of the grant upon the basis of the resurveys, and their acceptance by the officer of the state charged by the act of Congress with the duty of so doing, and this makes such adjustment final and conclusive.

The Act of March 3, 1857, c. 117, did not operate to confirm to the Michigan the title to all lands marked on the approved and certified list of January 13, 1854, as swamp and overflowed lands, and direct the issue of a patent or patents therefor, but it simply operated to accept the field notes finally approved as evidence of the lands passing under the grant, leaving to the Land Department to make any needed corrections in the surveys and field notes.

The decision in Martin v. Marks, 97 U. S. 345, does not conflict with this construction of the act of 1857.

This was an action of ejectment, commenced in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Michigan, on February 11, 1888. On November 28, 1892, the case came on for trial before the court and a jury. At the close of the testimony, the jury, under the instructions of the court, returned a verdict for the defendant. On May 7, 1895, this judgment was affirmed by the court of appeals, 31 U.S.App. 731, and to review such judgment, the case was brought

Page 168 U. S. 590

here on writ of error. The land in dispute is situated in Clare County, being the S.E. 1/4 of S.E. 1/4 of sec. 20, N.W. 1/4 of S.W. 1/4 of sec. 21, N.W. 1/4 of S.E. 1/4 of S.E. 1/4 of sec. 22, N.W. 1/4 of N.W. 1/4 of sec. 28, N. 1/2 of S.W. 1/4 of sec. 29, N. 1/2 of N.E. 1/4 of sec. 35, township 18, range 3 W., and E. 1/2 of S.W. 1/4 of sec. 1, township 18, range 4 W., and amounting to 400 acres, the undivided half of which only was claimed by plaintiff.

The contention of the plaintiff, generally speaking, is that this was swamp land, and granted to the State of Michigan by the Act of Congress of date September 28, 1850, c. 84, 9 Stat. 519, granting swamp lands to the several states; that it was included in a list of such lands in the Ionia Land District, approved by the Secretary of the Interior, and forwarded to the Governor of Michigan on January 13, 1854; that the Act of March, 3, 1857, c. 117, 11 Stat. 251, confirmed the action of the Secretary of the Interior, and thereby passed the title to the State of Michigan, by which state it was, on October 14, 1887, conveyed to plaintiff's grantor.

The defendant, on the other hand, contends that the original surveys of the public lands in the State of Michigan were erroneous; that at the instance of the state, Congress ordered resurveys, which resurveys were carried on from the years 1842 to 1857; that, while it is true this land was by the original surveys classed as swamp land, and included in the Ionia land district list approved and certified to the State of Michigan, the resurveys showed that it was not land of that description; that a new list for that district, not including this land, was in 1886 made out and certified to the state; that such new list was accepted by the state as correct, and a patent for the lands described therein issued to and received by it; that, after all this had taken place, and in 1870, the land in question was sold by the officers of the United States at auction, after public advertisement, and that patents were duly issued upon such sale, under which patents the defendant claims title.

Page 168 U. S. 591

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