Elder v. Horseshoe Mining Milling Company

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

194 U.S. 248

Elder  v.  Horseshoe Mining Milling Company

 Argued: April 18, 1904. --- Decided: May 2, 1904

The plaintiffs in error, being the administrator, together with the heirs at law of Rufus Wilsey, deceased, commenced this suit in the state court of South Dakota against the defendants, and upon the trial the complaint was dismissed upon the merits; that judgment was affirmed by the supreme court of the state, and the plaintiffs have brought the case here. The action was commenced to obtain a decree that defendants held in trust for the plaintiffs in error an undivided one-half interest in and to the land embraced in what is called in the complaint the Golden Sand lode mining claim, and plaintiffs asked for a decree that the defendants should convey to the plaintiff in error, Elder, administrator, an undivided one-half interest therein, and for such other and further relief as might be just and equitable.

The answer contained a denial of the various allegations of the complaint and set up a defense of laches on the part of the plaintiffs in error in asserting their claim. The case went to trial before the court, and the following facts were found:

In January, 1878, Rufus Wilsey and Charles H. Havens located a mining claim near Bald mountain, in the Whitewood mining district, Lawrence county, South Dakota, by discovering mineral-bearing rock in place, sinking a shaft, posting discovery notices, and planting boundary stakes; and on May 13 of the same year they filed for record their location certificate, which was then recorded. On June 12, 1878, Wilsey died, and soon thereafter the plaintiffs, his heirs at law, were informed of his death. They knew that he had left property, and from a time shortly after his death corresponded with different attorneys and others residing in the Black hills, trying to get something out of the estate; but, until the arrangement was made with the attorneys under which this action is brought, made no progress towards a settlement. From the time of the death of Wilsey, in 1878, up to December, 1893, the heirs of Wilsey did nothing towards contributing or offering to contribute towards paying for the annual labor made necessary by the Federal statute (Rev. Stat. § 2324, U.S.C.omp. Stat. 1901, p. 1426) in order to keep possession of the mine. On June 19, 1878, one Evans was appointed special administrator of the estate of Wilsey, and his letters were subsequently revoked, and one Stevens was appointed and filed his bond as administrator on August 13, 1881. Subsequently, on an allegation of the death of Stevens, some time in 1888, the present administrator was appointed on the 12th of August, 1893.

In 1889, or soon thereafter, processes for the successful treatment of all mining ores, including such ore as was found in the ground in controversy, were introduced in Lawrence county, and as a consequence the value of the mining property therein was materially enhanced, and this property became of much greater value in August, 1892, and December, 1893, than at any time since its location.

On December 5, 1893, the plaintiffs in error, by their attorneys, served on the defendant company an offer in writing to pay $700 for annual development and assessment work, and if that was not the correct amount of the expense for protecting their half interest in the Golden Sand lode, then they offered to pay the full amount due for the protection of the half interest of the plaintiffs in error, and they asked for a receipt, and demanded a deed for such half interest. The offer and the request were refused, and this action was begun on December 6, 1893.

From the time of the location of the mine up to 1888, inclusive, Havens, the co-owner with Wilsey, did at least $§ 00 worth of labor each year in order to hold the claim, and filed on January 2, 1889, an affidavit to that effect, including the time from 1880 to and including the year 1887, and another affidavit to the same effect for the year 1888. Under the statute he published a notice directed to 'Rufus Wilsey, his heirs, administrators, and to all whom it may concern,' informing them that he had expended $800 in labor upon the mine for the years ending December 31, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, and 1887, and stating that if, within ninety days after this notice by publication, they failed to contribute their proportion, $400, being $50 for each of said years, their interest in said claim would become the property of the subscriber under § 2324 of the Revised Statutes of the United States. Havens also published for the year 1888 a notice similar to the one already given in regard to the work done prior to that year. The two notices were published in the proper newspaper and were set out in full and published in each daily issue of the paper (every day in the week except Sunday), beginning Monday, January 7, 1889, and concluding Tuesday, April 2, 1889, and no more. Havens also continued, during the years 1889, 1890, 1891, and 1892, to do at least $100 worth of work in the mine for the purpose of holding the same. On August 10, 1892, Havens made a deed of the whole lode and mining claim to one Thomas H. White, and on August 25, 1892, White caused to be filed for record an affidavit of Havens, which recited that he was one of the locators of the Golden Sand lode, and that Wilsey, his co-owner, and whom he advertised out for not contributing his proportion of labor, had not paid his proportion nor any of the expenditures for holding the claim.

Questions were made as to the sufficiency of the notices and as to the regularity of the publication of the same under the above statute of the United States. The case was tried once before and resulted in a judgment for plaintiffs, which was reversed by the supreme court of the state (9 S. D. 636, 70 N. W. 1060), and upon the new trial the judgment was for the defendants. 15 S. D. 124, 87 N. W. 586.

Messrs. Eben W. Martin and Norman T. Mason for plaintiffs in error.

Mr. Chambers Kellar and Messrs. Moody, Kellar, & Moody for defendants in error.

Mr. Justice Peckham, after making the above statement of facts, delivered the opinion of the court:

Notes[edit]

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).