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U.S. Supreme Court

Guaranty Savings Bank v. Bladow, 176 U.S. 448 (1900)

Guaranty Savings Bank v. Bladow

No. 184

Submitted January 31, 1900

Decided February 26, 1900

176 U.S. 448


The power to review and set aside the action of local land officers exists in the general land department.

When an entry is cancelled, after due notice to the entryman, and after a hearing in the case, it is conclusive against him everywhere, upon all questions of fact, and it cannot be regarded as a mere nullity when set up against his mortgagee, even though such mortgagee had no notice of the proceeding to cancel the certificate.

Such an entry does not transfer the title to the land, but simply furnishes prima facie evidence of an equitable claim for a patent, and the use of the certificate for that purpose is subject to be destroyed by its official cancellation.

This action was brought to foreclose a mortgage owned by the plaintiff in error upon certain land in North Dakota which the defendant in error claimed was his, and not subject to the lien of the mortgage. It was brought in the proper state

Page 176 U. S. 449

court, and the trial resulted in a judgment in favor of the defendant declaring him to be the owner of the land, that the mortgage of the plaintiff in error was no lien upon it, and that it should be cancelled as an apparent cloud upon the title of the defendant.

The plaintiff appealed from this judgment to the supreme court of the state, where it was affirmed, 6 N.D. 108, and the case was brought here on writ of error.

The material facts are as follows: on January 6, 1881, one Anderson filed in the proper land office at Fargo, in the then Territory of Dakota, his homestead application to enter the land which is involved in this action. On July 20, 1881, he appeared before the register and receiver, and, under section 2301, Revised Statutes, commuting his homestead to a preemption entry, made final proof of his claim, which was allowed and a final certificate issued, which was filed in the office of the register of deeds of the proper county on July 25, 1881. After the filing of proof, and on July 20, 1881, Anderson mortgaged the land to one H. E. Fletcher, who, on June 20, 1882, assigned the mortgage to the plaintiff. Both the mortgagee and the assignee acted in good faith, and each instrument was executed for a valuable consideration.

On May 8, 1882, Anderson conveyed the land to one R. M. Ink, who on April 7, 1883, conveyed the same to one J. S. Ink, and on January 6, 1885, J. S. Ink conveyed the premises to the defendant.

All of the above were warranty deeds and duly recorded.

On March 14, 1882, after the final proof had been made by Anderson and passed upon by the register and receiver of the land office, and the record had been transmitted to the General Land Office at Washington, the commissioner held the entry of Anderson upon said land and directed the register and receiver of the local land office to hold the entry for cancellation upon the ground that the testimony in the final proof made by Anderson for the land in question was evasive and failed to show six months' residence.

On January 22, 1886, the defendant filed in the land office at Fargo his application and affidavit to contest the entry of

Page 176 U. S. 450

Anderson upon the land on the ground that the proof furnished by Anderson upon that entry was false and that the entry was fraudulent, and in that affidavit he set forth that Anderson had never established his residence upon the land and had never resided thereon and never made the same his home as provided by the homestead laws of the United States.

The Commissioner of the General Land Office thereupon ordered a hearing before the register and receiver at Fargo between the defendant and Anderson as to the truth of the allegations in defendant's affidavit and application for contest. Due notice of the hearing was given to Anderson by publication, in accordance with an order of the register, which was granted upon an affidavit that personal service could not be made upon him.

At such hearing, the defendant appeared with his witnesses and gave evidence tending to establish the truth of the allegations in his affidavit of contest, but no appearance was made or testimony offered by Anderson, and after the hearing, the evidence taken thereon was transmitted to the Commissioner of the General Land Office at Washington who, on the 14th day of November, 1887, directed the entry of Anderson to be cancelled as a fraudulent entry, which the register and receiver of the land office at Fargo thereafter did, and the entry was duly cancelled of record as a fraudulent entry, and the defendant was notified thereof. From this decision Anderson took no appeal.

After the final decision of the Commissioner of the General Land Office upon the contest, and after the cancellation of the entry of Anderson, the defendant made his homestead entry upon the land, and on the 26th of April, 1893, submitted his final proof therefor, which was passed upon by the register and receiver and placed of record on that date, and a final certificate in due form was then issued to him by the register and receiver, and thereafter, on July 6, 1893, the government issued to him a patent for the land, which was recorded on October 25, 1893.

No notice of the cancellation of the homestead entry and certificate of Anderson was ever given to H. E. Fletcher,

Page 176 U. S. 451

the mortgagee, or to the plaintiff herein, his assignee, and the cancellation was made without actual notice of the decision of the Commissioner of the General Land Office to either Fletcher or the plaintiff, and neither Fletcher nor the plaintiff was served with any notice of the contest of defendant involving the land, nor was either made a party defendant in that contest.

After the cancellation and on June 15, 1891, plaintiff filed in the United States land office at Fargo proof of its interest as assignee of the mortgage, and moved that a patent be issued under the provisions of section 7 of the Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 1095, 1098, c. 561, which motion was denied by the Commissioner of the General Land Office on August 13, 1891, and, on appeal, by the Secretary of the Interior on July 15, 1892.

The notes secured by the mortgage not having been paid, this action was brought to foreclose the same, and the defendant set up as a defense the facts in relation to the entry of Anderson and its cancellation and the issuing of the patent to him as above set forth.

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