STRINGFELLOW V. CAIN, 99 U. S. 610 (1878)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Stringfellow v. Cain, 99 U.S. 610 (1878)

Stringfellow v. Cain

99 U.S. 610


1. Under the act entitled "An Act concerning the practice in territorial courts and appeals therefrom," approved April 7, 1874, 18 Stat. pt. 3, p. 27, the appellate jurisdiction of this Court over the judgment or the decree rendered by a territorial court in a case not tried by a jury can only be exercised by appeal.

2. Where the record of a suit is duly certified upon an appeal to a district court in Utah and the latter states its findings of fact and its conclusions of law separately, and appeals from its order refusing a new trial and from its judgment are taken to the supreme court of that territory, the statute whereof requires a statement, to be settled by the judge who heard the cause, specifically setting forth the "particular errors or grounds" relied on, and containing "so much of the evidence as may be necessary to explain them, and no more," and where a statement settled and signed by him, and annexed to the copy of the order refusing a new trial, contains all the testimony and written proofs and allegations of the parties certified up to the district court, upon which the trial was had, and it was stipulated that the statement might be used on an appeal from the judgment to the said supreme court, held, 1. that the proceeding was thus made to conform to the requirements of the Practice Act of Utah, and that the latter court was called upon to decide whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain the findings of fact, and, if it was, whether they would support the judgment; 2. that if that court reverses the judgment because the evidence does not sustain the findings, other findings must be made before the case can be put in a condition for hearing here, but if it has all the evidence which could be considered below should the case be remanded, it may state the facts established by the evidence and reader judgment; on an appeal to this Court, the case, if otherwise properly here, will be determined upon the facts so stated; 3. that if the findings of the district court be sustained and its judgment affirmed, or if its judgment be reversed for the reason that the findings are not sufficient to support the judgment, such findings are in effect adopted by the said supreme court, and they, for the purpose of an appeal here, furnish a sufficient statement of the facts of the case within the meaning of the act "concerning the practice in territorial courts and appeals therefrom," approved April 7, 1874, supra.

Page 99 U. S. 611

3. A., possessed of a lot in the City of Salt Lake, Utah, died in 1857, leaving a widow and minor children. Under the Act of March 2, 1867, 14 Stat. 541, the mayor, Nov. 4, 1871, duly entered at the proper land office the lands occupied as the site of the city and received, June 1, 1872, a patent therefor, "in trust for the several use and benefit of the occupants thereof according to their respective interests." The legislature of the territory prescribed, by a statute approved Feb. 17, 1889, rules and regulations for the execution of such trusts, and provided that the several lots and parcels within the limits of the lands so entered should be conveyed to "the rightful owner of possession, occupant, or occupants," or to such persons as might be entitled to the occupancy or possession. Shortly after A.'s death, his widow relinquished the possession of a part of the lot. She subsequently conveyed another portion thereof, and removed with her children therefrom. Another portion was sold by the administrator of A. to pay taxes assessed and debts incurred by making improvements upon the property after the latter's death. The purchaser paid full value therefor, and has since Dec. 10, 1869, remained in the exclusive possession thereof. Held 1. that A. at the time of his death had, by reason of his possession of the lot, an inchoate right to the benefit of the act of Congress, should under its provisions the lands be entered, and that his right to maintain the possession as against the other inhabitants of the city descended under the laws of Utah to his widow and children; 2. that the withdrawal of the widow and children from parts of the lot, and her voluntary surrender of all control over them, extinguished her and their rights as to such parts; 3. that, under the territorial statute, an occupant of a lot could sell and convey his possessory rights therein before the lands were so entered; 4. that the purchaser from the administrator is entitled to a conveyance from the mayor; 5. that the widow and children of A. are entitled to a deed from the mayor conveying to them, according to their respective interests, that part of the lot whereof they were in possession at the time the lands were entered.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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