MOSS V. DOWMAN, 176 U. S. 413 (1900)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Moss v. Dowman, 176 U.S. 413 (1900)

Moss v. Dowman

No. 141

Argued and submitted January 31, February 1, 1900

Decided February 26, 1900

176 U.S. 413


Decisions of the land department in contest cases on questions of fact are conclusive.

Dowman went upon the public land in controversy, then unoccupied, on the 19th September, 1890, built a cabin and continued to live there. November 18, 1890, he made a formal homestead entry in the local land office, and after live years of continued occupancy and proof of the same, he received a patent. On May 7, 1890, one Doran made a homestead entry of the same land without occupying it, which he subsequently relinquished, Moss paying

Page 176 U. S. 414

him $1,000 therefor, and thereupon Moss on the 24th of October, 1890, filed that relinquishment in the local land office, and made a homestead entry in her own name. April 22, 1891, she appeared on the land, commenced the construction of a house, and occupied it when finished. A contest between the two as to which had the right to acquire title was finally settled by the Secretary of the Interior in favor of Dowman. Held that the decision of the Secretary was correct.

On March 17, 1897, a patent was issued to the appellee, defendant below, for the southeast one quarter of section 22, in township 65 north, of range 4 west of the fourth principal meridian, in the State of Minnesota. Thereafter, and on March 23, 1897, the appellant, plaintiff below, filed her bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota, seeking to charge the defendant as trustee of the legal title for her benefit. To the bill as thus presented a demurrer was filed, which, on November 4, 1897, was sustained by the circuit court, and the bill dismissed. On appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, this decree was, on June 27, 1898, affirmed, 88 F.1d 1, and to review this decision this appeal was taken.

The title of defendant, as disclosed by the bill and exhibits, is as follows: on September 19, 1890, he went upon the premises in controversy, then unoccupied, built a cabin, and continued to live therein (having, on November 18, 1890, made formal homestead entry in the local land office) during all the proceedings in the land department, hereinafter stated, and until he had completed five years of occupancy, and then, upon proof of such continued occupancy, was awarded and received a patent on account of his homestead entry and occupation. The claim of the plaintiff, on the other hand, rests upon an entry in the land office prior to that of defendant, followed by a settlement on the land later than his. From 1885 to 1890, this tract, though never settled upon or occupied by anyone, was the subject of repeated entries at the local land office, such entries being made under the homestead law, the later ones being as follows: on May 7, 1890, Robert H. Doran made a homestead entry. Subsequently the plaintiff paid to Doran the sum of one thousand dollars for a relinquishment

Page 176 U. S. 415

of his homestead entry, and on the 24th day of October, 1890, she filed in the local land office that relinquishment, and at the same time made a homestead entry in her own name. On April 22, 1891, two days less than six months after her entry, she appeared on the land with assistants, material, furniture, etc., and commenced the construction of a home, completed, and occupied the same. A contest between the plaintiff and defendant in reference to the right to acquire title to this property was initiated in the local land office and carried by appeal to the Commissioner of the General Land Office and finally to the Secretary of the Interior, resulting in a decision by the latter on December 19, 1894, in favor of the defendant, and in pursuance thereof the patent was issued to him.

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