GUITARD V. STODDARD, 57 U. S. 494 (1853)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Guitard v. Stoddard, 57 U.S. 16 How. 494 494 (1853)

Guitard v. Stoddard

57 U.S. (16 How.) 494


The Act of Congress passed on the 13 of June, 1812, 2 Stat. 748, entitled "An act for the settlement of land claims in Missouri" confirmed the rights, titles, and claims to town or village lots, outlots, common field lots, and commons in, adjoining, and belonging to the several towns and villages therein named, including St. Louis, which lots had been inhabited, cultivated, or possessed prior to the 20th of December, 1803.

This confirmation was absolute, depending only upon the facts of inhabitation, cultivation, or possession prior to the day named. It was not necessary for the confirmee to have received from the Spanish government a grant or survey or permission to cultivate the land.

In 1824, Congress passed a supplementary act, 4 Stat. 65, making it the duty of claimants of town and village lots to designate them by proving before the recorder the fact of inhabitation, the boundaries &c., and directing the recorder to issue certificates thereof. But no forfeiture was imposed for noncompliance, nor did the government, by that act, impair the effect and operation of the act of 1812. Claimants may still establish, by parol evidence, the facts of inhabitation &c.

In the act of 1812, the surveyor was directed to survey and mark the outboundary lines of the towns or villages, so as to include the outlots, common field lots, and commons. This was done. Whether a claimant can recover land lying outside of this line, or whether the evidence in this case is sufficient to establish the plaintiffs' title, this Court does not now decide.

This was a petition in the nature of an ejectment brought by the plaintiffs in error against Stoddard in the St. Louis Court of Common Pleas. Stoddard, who was a citizen of Ohio, removed it into the circuit court of the United States.

The ejectment was for the following lot of ground lying in the City of St. Louis, namely, commencing at a point on the north side of Laclede avenue, five feet fifty-three inches east from the junction of Laclede and Leffingwell avenues, it being the south east corner of block No. 24, in what is known as the "Stoddard addition" to the City of St. Louis; runs thence north parallel to Leffingwell avenue one hundred and seventy-two feet six inches to a point; thence west along a line parallel to Laclede avenue one hundred and twenty-five feet to a point; thence south along a line parallel to Leffingwell avenue one hundred and seventy-two feet six inches to the line of Laclede avenue; thence east along that line one hundred and twenty-five feet to the beginning; it being part of block No. 24, in what is known as the Stoddard addition to St. Louis.

On the trial the jury, under the instructions of the court, found a verdict for the defendant. The bill of exceptions explains the whole nature of the case, and as it is short, it is here inserted, as follows:

Page 57 U. S. 495

"Be it remembered that on the sixth day of May, 1853, came on the above entitled cause to be tried, when the plaintiff introduced the following parol evidence, to-wit: That from a period long prior to the 20th December, 1803, to-wit, from 1785 or 1786, to the period when the common fence fell down, which was six or seven years before the change of government, Paul Guitard, who was then an inhabitant of St. Louis, claimed and cultivated a piece of land in what was then known as the 'Cul-de-sac' prairie, near St. Louis, which land was one arpent wide in front on the east, and forty arpens long towards the west. There were several persons who cultivated lands in the 'Cul-de-sac' commencing on the south extreme of the prairie; the first was Matard; then going north the next was Guion; the next or third was Tabean; the fourth Joachim Roy; the fifth Madame Vachard; the sixth Madame Dubriel; the seventh Madame Verdon; the eighth Noise; the ninth Yosti; the tenth LaRochella; the eleventh Madame Camp; the twelfth Paul Guitard. The 'Cul-de-sac' fields laid at the end of the St. Louis prairie, forty arpent fields on the west, and they commenced about where Pratte avenue now is. The 'Cul-de-sac' field of Madame Camp was the north land of that part of what is called Chouteau mill tract, west from the St. Louis prairie fields, and the north line of the Chouteau mill tract was the north line of Madame Camp's Cul-de-sac field; and the same line was the south line of Paul Guitard's Cul-de-sac field. The 'Cul-de-sac,' which means 'end of a sac,' was formed by the hills on each side north and south, and the hills on the west. The lands cultivated there were called lands of the 'Cul-de-sac.'"

"There were other prairies near St. Louis, to-wit: the St. Louis or Big Mound prairie, the Grand prairie, and Barrier des Noyer prairie. In all of these, the lands were cultivated in strips by different individuals, and they were all protected by the same fence; there was but one fence, which commenced at the half moon just north of the old Spanish town, ran thence west to a little beyond Third Street, thence southwest to the fort a little south of the courthouse, thence westwardly around the St. Louis and Cul-de-sac fields, to the east line of the Barrier des Noyer fields, thence south along that east line, and east around the St. Louis commons to the river. This fence was a common fence, and was kept up by those who cultivated the fields in the prairies, one cultivator making and mending part, and another another part, under the supervision and direction of a man who was called a syndic. This fence kept the cattle and stock inside the commons and away from the fields that were cultivated. The St. Louis prairie fields, the Grand prairie fields, the Barrier des Noyer prairie fields, and the Cul-de-sac prairie fields were all

Page 57 U. S. 496

worked at the same time, until the common fence fell down and was neglected to be repaired, and Paul Guitard cultivated the land lying adjoining and north of the said Chouteau mill tract until the common fence fell down. His cultivation was towards the west on the hill, and he did not cultivate the land on the very eastern end, because it was rather low ground there. The cultivation of Guitard, starting from the hill, went west towards the middle of the piece of land; but how far it commenced from the eastern end, or how far it extended towards the west, was not proved. It was called Guitard's Cul-de-sac field from the west end of the St. Louis prairie fields to the west end of the Chouteau mill tract, which was the west line of the Cul-de-sac fields, now near the rock spring. The land sued for was proved to fall within one arpen in width, north of the Chouteau mill tract, and forty arpens in depth or length west from the St. Louis prairie fields; but whether it was a part of the very spot cultivated by Guitard was not proved. The plaintiffs introduced a deed from Paul Guitard which conveyed all his property and rights of property in St. Louis County, to his grandson, Vincent Guitard, but this specific claim was not mentioned; the deed was dated the 11th of January, 1822, and he died in 1823. Vincent Guitard died in 1836, leaving but three children, who are the plaintiffs and the sole representatives of their father. Vincent Guitard never in any way disposed of this land. Paul Guitard never had any concession for this land from the Spanish authorities; he never presented any claim he had to it under the act of 1812, to the recorder of land titles, nor made any claim for it before any board of commissioners. His grandson Vincent, nor none of the family, ever presented any claim to it before the recorder of land titles, under the Act of the 26th of May, 1824, nor was the land ever surveyed either by the Spanish or American government, as a field lot. The defendant introduced a confirmation and patent, by virtue of the Act of the 4th of July, 1836, to Mordecai Bell's representatives, and a survey of the United States which included the land in controversy and a regular chain of title to defendant. He also introduced map X, purporting to contain the outboundary lines of the Surveyor General, at St. Louis, projected under the first section of the Act of the 13th of June, 1812, and it was proved that the land described in the declaration, but not the whole forty arpens claimed by plaintiff, lies within said outboundary lines. Plaintiff introduced an experienced surveyor, who stated that in his opinion the outboundary line, as projected on map X, was not correctly run under the act of 1812; that said outboundary line should have been run so as to include the outlots, common field lots, and commons, in, adjoining, and belonging

Page 57 U. S. 497

to St. Louis, which he thought it did not do. It did not include the Grand prairie fields or the Barrier des noyer fields, nor the Cul-de-sac fields, either as they purport to be located on the township plat of the township in which St. Louis lies, nor as proved in this suit, except about one-third of their length as proved on the eastern end, nor does it include all of the commons of St. Louis; that in his opinion, an outboundary line run under the act of 1812, so as to include the outlots, common field lots, and commons of St. Louis, would necessarily include the outlots, common field lots, in all the prairie fields as laid down on the township plat and commons. And such survey would also necessarily include land that was neither outlot, common field lot, nor commons."


"It was agreed that in any court to which this action might be carried, map X and township plat, above alluded to, might be introduced and used without including them in this bill of exceptions."

"It is also agreed that the property in dispute is worth more than two thousand dollars, exclusive of costs. This was all the evidence in the case, and thereupon the plaintiffs asked of the court the following instructions, namely: "

" Plaintiff's instructions."

" 1. The Act of Congress of 13 June, 1812, is in its terms a grant, and confirms the right, title, and claim of all town lots or village lots, outlots and common field lots, in, adjoining, and belonging to such towns and villages as are mentioned in the act, to those inhabitants of the towns and villages or to their legal representatives who inhabited, cultivated, or possessed such lots, rightfully claiming them prior to the 20th December, 1803. And the principal deputy surveyor of the Territory of Missouri was required by said act to run an outboundary of the towns and villages mentioned in said act, so as to include the outlots, common field lots, and commons thereto respectively belonging, which outboundary line should be one continuous line, and not separate surveys of the town and lots, and should include the outlots, common field lots, and commons, and said towns and villages."

" 2. A common field lot, as intended by said act of Congress, is a piece of land of larger or smaller dimensions, as the case may be, according to ancient cultivation, lying alongside of, and parallel to, other similar pieces of land, and claimed or cultivated under the protection of a common fence by those who inhabited said towns or villages prior to the 20th December, 1803; and said pieces of land might not have been conceded or surveyed by any French or Spanish authority, or surveyed officially by the United States as a common field lot. "

Page 57 U. S. 498

" 3. If then the jury believe, from the evidence, that the land sued for formed part of a common field lot, as just defined in instruction 2, and that said common field lot was rightfully claimed, and in part or altogether cultivated prior to the 20th December, 1803, by Paul Guitard, the plaintiffs are entitled to recover, which were refused, to which plaintiffs at the time excepted, and defendant asked the following instructions: "

" Defendant's instructions."

" 1. If the jury believe, from the evidence, that the cultivation by Paul Guitard, testified to by the witnesses, was on a tract of land called a Cul-de-sac common field, and if the jury shall also believe, from the testimony, that the Cul-de-sac common fields, including the one cultivated by Paul Guitard, were at a place to the southwest from the premises sued for, and that neither of said Cul-de-sac common fields include the premises in question, then the plaintiff cannot recover in this action."

" 2. If the land sued for is within and forms a part of the tract confirmed to Mordecai Bell, or his legal representatives, and within the official survey of said Mordecai Bell tract, then the defendant has shown a title in him paramount to the title of the plaintiff, and the latter cannot recover."

" 3. There is no evidence that Paul Guitard, under whom the plaintiff derives and claims title to the premises in question, cultivated any outlot or common field lot, nor that anyone existed at the place where the cultivation that has been spoken of by plaintiffs' witnesses, existed, nor had the act of 1812 application to this land, so far as Paul Guitard and those claiming under him are concerned. The plaintiff, therefore, cannot recover in this action."

" 4. If the outboundary line of the Town of St. Louis run under the Act of Congress of 13 June, 1812, as shown by the official survey and plat, marked X, read in evidence, includes the land in controversy, then the plaintiff cannot recover. Which were given by the court, and the court of its own motion gave the following: "

" Instruction by the court."

" The court also instructed the jury, that there having been no concession nor grant, nor survey, nor permission to settle or cultivate, or possess the land claimed by Paul Guitard, to said Guitard, under and by the Spanish authorities or government, and no location of said claim by or under said government, nor under the French government, and no proof having been made at any time by said Paul Guitard, or those claiming under him, or any inhabitation, cultivation, or possession, or of the location and extent of said claim, either under the provisions of the act of the 13th June, 1812, or those of the Act of the 26th May, 1824, either before the recorder of

Page 57 U. S. 499

land titles or other United States authority; and there having been no survey or location of said land by or under the authority of the United States, the said plaintiffs cannot now set up said claim and locate it, and prove its extent and inhabitation and cultivation by parol evidence merely, and therefore cannot recover in this action,"

"to which plaintiffs also excepted at the time, and here now tender this their bill of exceptions, and pray that it be signed and sealed and made part of the record in this cause, which is done accordingly."


Page 57 U. S. 507

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