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U.S. Supreme Court

Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. Trodick, 221 U.S. 208 (1911)

Northern Pacific Railway Company v. Trodick

No. 117

Argued April 11, 1911

Decided May 15, 1911

221 U.S. 208


Land within place limits of the Northern Pacific Land Grant Act of July 2, 1864, c. 217, 13 Stat. 365, actually occupied by a homesteader intending to acquire title, did not pass by the grant, but were excepted from its operation, and no right of the railroad attached to such lands when its line was definitely located. Nelson v. Northern Pacific Railway, 188 U. S. 108.

Where a bona fide settler was in actual occupation of unsurveyed lands at the time of definite location of the line, the land occupied was excepted from the grant, and if, before survey, he sold his improvements to one who also settled on the land intending to apply for title under the homestead laws of the United States, the claim of the latter is superior to that of the railroad company notwithstanding the original settler had no claim of record.

A settler in actual occupation before the location of the definite line of

Page 221 U. S. 209

the railroad can stand upon his occupancy until the lands are surveyed, and his claim cannot be defeated by the railroad's assuming without right, at a date prior to his application, to assert a claim to the lands.

Under the Act of May 14, 1880, c. 89, 21 Stat. 140, delay on the part of a homesteader in making application after survey cannot be taken advantage of by one who had acquired no right prior to the filing, and so held that, where the Northern Pacific land grant had not attached on account of actual occupation, delay on the part of the settler in filing after survey did not inure to the benefit of the company.

Nelson v. Northern Pacific Railway Co., 188 U. S. 108, was not modified by United States v. Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, 218 U. S. 233, as to the rights of bona fide settlers which attached prior to definite location.

Where, by error of law, the Land Office incorrectly holds a party is entitled to patent and issues it, the courts can declare that the patent is held by the patentee in trust for the party actually entitled to have his ownership in the lands recognized.

The facts, which involve the rights of settlers on the public lands and those of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company under the Act of July 2, 1864, are stated in the opinion.

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