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U.S. Supreme Court

Oaksmith's Lessee v. Johnston, 92 U.S. 343 (1875)

Oaksmith's Lessee v. Johnston

92 U.S. 343


1. In this country, there can seldom be occasion to invoke the presumption of a grant from the government, except in cases of very ancient possessions running back to colonial days, as, since the commencement of the present century, a record teas been preserved of all such grants, and of the various preliminary steps up to their issue, and provision is made by law for the introduction of copies of the record when the originals are lost.

2. In ejectment for a lot in Washington City, both parties admitted that the original title was in the United States. The plaintiff relied principally upon evidence of title arising from uninterrupted and exclusive possession by his lessor and the parties through whom he claims from 1818 to 1867. During the latter year, the defendant entered. He traced title through a conveyance of the Mayor of Washington executed in October, 1866, in completion of a sale made under the Act of Congress of May 7, 1822, 3 Stat. 691, and an ordinance of the city of the same year, creating a board of commissioners to carry the act into effect and direct the sales of lots. The act required the deeds executed to the purchasers by the mayor to be recorded among the land records of the County of Washington within the time prescribed fur the recording of conveyances of real estate. The ordinance provided that the board should keep regular minutes of their acts and proceedings and lay the same before the board of aldermen and common council at the commencement of every session of the council. The records and minutes were not produced, nor proof of their contents offered by the plaintiff. Held that no presumption can legitimately arise that any other deed of the demanded premises was executed by the mayor than the one put in evidence, and that the possession created no title upon which the plaintiff can recover.

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