UNITED STATES V. PACHECO, 69 U. S. 587 (1864)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Pacheco, 69 U.S. 2 Wall. 587 587 (1864)

United States v. Pacheco

69 U.S. (2 Wall.) 587


1. When the boundaries designated in a decree of the district court, confirming a claim to land under a Mexican grant in California embrace a greater tract than the quantity confirmed, the grantees have the right to select the location of this quantity, subject to the restriction that the selection be made in one body and in a compact form, and subject also in some instances to selections made by their previous residence and by sales or other disposition by them of parcels of the general tract.

2. When the sea or a bay is named as a boundary of land, the line of ordinary high water mark is intended where the common law prevails. And where a decree confirming a Mexican grant mentions a bay as one of the boundaries of the land confirmed, without any further particulars, the same line will be considered as adopted.

Appeal from the decree of the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of California confirming the survey and location of a grant made by the

Page 69 U. S. 588

Mexican government of California to Pacheco and another, March 23, 1844, for three leagues of land situated on the east side of the Bay of San Francisco.

The decree of the district court confirming the claim of the grantees under the grant, described the land as

"known by the name of Potrero de los Cerritos, and bounded on the side of the Mission of San Jose by the Samson de los Alios (Ravine of the Willows), on the north by the Creek of the Alameda (Arroyo de la Alameda), and on the west by the bay, containing about three square leagues."

The ravine and the creek here referred to as boundaries connect with each other, and with the bay enclose a tract of greater quantity than the three leagues confirmed. On the side of the bay there is salt or marsh land of about two leagues in extent. The whole of this land is covered by the monthly tides, at the new and full moon, and a part of it is covered by the daily tides.

The decree of the district court was affirmed on appeal by the supreme court. Subsequently, a survey was made of the quantity confirmed, under the Act of June 14, 1860, and approved by the district court. The survey embraced the greater part of the marsh land which is covered by the monthly tides, and excluded that part or the greater portion of it which is covered by the daily tides. From the decree of approval the United States took the present appeal in the interest of settlers on the upland, and the question before the Court was as to the correctness of the survey.

The government contended that the boundary designated as the bay should be so run as to include all the marsh land -- in other words, that by the bay as a boundary in this case was meant the line of low water mark -- and assuming that the boundaries given in the decree do not close, also contended that a fourth line must be determined by the quantity confirmed and so drawn as to exactly include it. The respondents insisted that they had the right to locate the quantity granted to them anywhere within the exterior boundaries named in the decree of confirmation, subject only to the condition, that the location be made in one body and

Page 69 U. S. 589

in a compact form, which condition was followed in the present case.

The grant referred to a map, but that included both marsh land and upland, and did not indicate that one should be taken before the other.

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