JOPLIN V. CHACHERE, 192 U. S. 94 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Joplin v. Chachere, 192 U.S. 94 (1904)

Joplin v. Chachere

No. 96

Argued December 16, 1903

Decided January 4, 1904

192 U.S. 94


An adjudication by commissioners under sec. 4 of the Act of March 3, 1807, amending the Act of March 2, 1805, for settlement of claims of land in the Territory of Orleans and Louisiana, for an exact quantity of land already occupied by the claimant by one claiming under a grant of the former sovereign, and which was confirmed by the Act of April 29, 1816, so vested the title in the claimant that a patent issued by the government in 1900 to the heirs of the claimant will not prevail against a title properly acquired meanwhile by adverse possession based upon a tax sale, notwithstanding no survey other than the general survey of 1856 was made after the confirmation.

This action was brought by the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Parish of Acadia, State of Louisiana, by plaintiff in error, to have himself declared the owner of a tract of land containing 870.06 acres, described as section 41, township 7 south, range 1 east. Subsequently he amended his petition and claimed one-tenth individually and nine-tenths as administrator of the succession of Bennet Joplin. He traced title in both capacities to Bennet Joplin, to whom the land was confirmed by the Act of Congress, approved March 3, 1807, entitled "An Act Respecting Claims of Land in the Territories of Orleans and Louisiana." 2 Stat. 440. This act was an amendment to the Act of March 2, 1805, 2 Stat. 324, which provided for ascertaining and adjusting the titles and claims to land within the same territory. The purpose of both acts was to recognize and establish the titles possessed by the inhabitants of that territory prior to its acquisition by the United States.

Section 4 of the act of 1807 provided:

"That the commissioners appointed or to be appointed for the purpose of ascertaining the rights of persons claiming land in the Territories of Orleans and Louisiana shall have full powers to decide according to the laws and established usages and customs of the French and Spanish governments, upon

Page 192 U. S. 95

all claims to lands within their respective districts, where the claim is made by any person or persons, or the legal representative of any person or persons who were, on the 20th day of December, one thousand eight hundred and three, inhabitants of Louisiana, and for a tract not exceeding the quantity of acres contained in a league square, and which does not include either a lead mine or salt spring, which decision of the commissioners, when in favor of the claimant, shall be final against the United States, any act of Congress to the contrary notwithstanding."

A patent was issued July 16, 1900, in favor of Bennet Joplin, heirs and assigns. Stating the recitals of the patent and some other facts, the Supreme Court of Louisiana said:

"That it [the patent] was granted in accordance with the provisions of the act of Congress of the third of March, 1807. It declares there had been deposited in the General Land Office of the United States a patent certificate numbered 1499, issued by the register and receiver of the United States Land Office, on the 25th of May, one thousand nine hundred, whereby it appeared that the private land claim of Bennet Joplin, being numbered one thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven, class B, in the report of the old board of commissioners for the Western District of the Territory of Orleans, was confirmed by the said commissioners under the authority conferred upon them by the act of Congress approved on the 3d of March, 1807, entitled 'An Act Respecting Claims to Land in the Territories of Orleans and Louisiana;' that the claim had been regularly surveyed and designated as section forty-nine in township seven south, of range one west, and section forty-one in township seven south, of range one east, of the Louisiana Meridian, in the Southwestern District of Louisiana, containing eight hundred and seventy acres and six hundredths of an acre, as appeared by a plat and descriptive notes on file (in the General Land Office) thereof, duly examined and approved by James Lewis, Surveyor

Page 192 U. S. 96

General for Louisiana, on the 9th day of May, one thousand nine hundred; that this plat and descriptive notes were inserted and made part of the patent."

"The plat and descriptive notes referred to were signed, as recited, by James Lewis, surveyor general of Louisiana, on the 9th of May, 1900."

"Immediately following the plat, the surveyor general recites that it represents the survey of the private land claim of Bennet Joplin, confirmed by the old board of commissioners for the Western District of Louisiana, in pursuance of the authority conferred upon them by the fourth section of the Act of Congress approved March 3, 1807, entitled 'An Act Respecting Claims to Lands in the Territories of Orleans and Louisiana,' as appeared by their confirmation certificate No. B, 1927, dated March 11, 1812. After making this recital, the surveyor general says: 'The following being a description of the survey taken from the approved field notes of N. B. Phelps, deputy surveyor.' He then gives the field notes of the survey."

"At the end of the document, under date of May 9th, 1900, are the words 'examined and approved,' followed by the signature of the surveyor general."

The defendants Chachere and Boagni depended for title upon purchases from Victor C. Sittig, by authentic acts duly recorded. Sitting purchased the same at tax sale in 1871. The defendants pleaded that Sitting and themselves had the uninterrupted, peaceable, and actual possession of the land in good faith since 1871; had erected improvements thereon and paid taxes. They also pleaded the prescription of three, four, five, ten, and twenty years. Victor Sitting was called in warranty and made the same defenses.

The district court decreed that the claim of plaintiff be rejected, the plea of prescription set up by defendants be sustained, and they be quieted in their title and possession of the land. The supreme court of the state affirmed the decree, and the case was then brought here. Other facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 192 U. S. 100

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