Gwin v. United States

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United States Supreme Court

184 U.S. 669

Gwin  v.  United States

 Argued: February 26, 28, 1902. --- Decided: March 24, 1902

This is an appeal from an order of the district court of the United States for the northern district of California sustaining a demurrer to and dismissing the petition of the appellants, interveners, who prayed that a certain decree of the above-named district court, made on November 30, 1859, be ordered to be executed.

It appears that on January 31, 1852, certain persons by the name of Peralta presented to and filed with the board of land commissioners, under the act of Congress 'to ascertain and settle the private land claims in the state of California,' passed March 3, 1851 (9 Stat. at L. 631, chap. 41), a petition for the confirmation of the rancho of San Antonio. Subsequently the four claimants divided the lands among themselves in severalty, and the board, proceeding to examine the claim upon the evidence, decided in favor of its validity, but restricted the area of the grant by fixing the northern boundary line at San Antonio creek, which included about one half of the claim. Both parties appealed from this decision, and the claim was certified to the district court for the northern district of California, in which court a transcript of the proceeding was filed September 23, 1854. The district court upon the trial reversed the decree of the land commissioners, and declared the claim as set forth in the petition to be valid, by decree entered January 26, 1855.

From this decree the United States appealed to this court, which affirmed the decree of the district court (1857). United States v. Peralta, 19 How. 343, 15 L. ed. 678. Two controversies were decided: First, that the officers issuing the grant had power to make grants of land; and, second, that the northern boundary of the land extended beyond San Antonio creek, according to the claim of the petitioners. Upon the mandate of this court being filed in the district court, a final decree was entered therein on November 30, 1859, slightly amending its former decree in substantial compliance with such mandate. This decree is still in force.

Afterwards, and on August 10, 1860, the surveyor general returned into court a corrected plat of a survey, purporting to be in conformity with the decree of November 30, 1859. Thereupon, and on October 8, 1860, one Carpentier and others filed a petition of intervention, in which they claimed adversely so much land as lay under the waters of the estuary of San Antonio, up to the highest tide lands, through mesne conveyances from the state of California, and afterwards filed in court their exceptions to the survey. The United States also filed exceptions thereto. The litigation thus inaugurated continued for more than ten years, and finally resulted in a decree of the district court, August 4, 1871, approving a modified survey of the tract, a certified plat of which had been filed in the clerk's office. An appeal was taken from this decree by the United States to the circuit court for the ninth judicial circuit, by which court the appeal was dismissed July 31, 1874, and a decree entered that the claimants have leave to proceed under the decree confirming the survey as a final decree. The Commissioner of the General Land Office thereupon caused to be prepared and recorded a patent of the United States for that portion of the lands included in the survey.

Thirty-seven years after the entry of the years after the dismissal of the above appeal in the circuit court, the successors in title of one of the Peraltas presented to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, September 2, 1896, a plat of a survey of the rancho San Antonio made by the surveyor general of California, November 25, 1895, under the act of Congress of July 23, 1866 (14 Stat. at L. 218, chap. 219), with certified copies of the decree of November 30, 1859, with a request that he issue to the petitioners a patent in accordance with such plat of survey, which the Commissioner declined to do, September 22, 1896, and the Secretary of the Interior affirmed his decision. The appellants thereupon, and on July 27, 1899, filed in the district court for the northern district of California a petition of intervention in the original case of the United States v. Peralta, praying that the decree of November 30, 1859, might be ordered to be executed; that the government be required to issue to the appellants its patent for so much of the lands of the rancho as had not theretofore been patented to them, or any of them. The United States demurred to the petition, which on January 29, 1900, was dismissed. [99 Fed. 618.]

This was followed by another similar petition, filed March 29, 1900, based upon the survey of 1895, which was also demurred to, and resulted in a decree, rendered May 28, 1900, sustaining the demurrer and dismissing the petition. Whereupon petitioners appealed to this court.

Messrs. James T. Boyd, George A. King, Boyd & Fifield, and Thayer & Rankin for appellants.

Messrs. Matthew G. Reynolds and Solicitor General Richards for appellee.

Mr. Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the court:


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).