New York capitalist, William B. Welles, purchased the title, such as it was, of that Company to section thirty-three, which embraced the one hundred sixty acres upon which Mr. Riley settled in 1855, and which became the home of his widow and her family. In April, 1868, after Mrs. Riley and her family had lived on her farm thirteen years, improved and made it valuable and Fort Dodge had become a flourishing town, Mr. Welles brought suit to dispossess Mrs. Riley of her home and have her title from the Government annulled and his claim declared valid. Fearing to risk the decision on his claim before an Iowa court or jury, Mr. Welles made affidavit that he could not obtain justice in the State courts and, being a non-resident, succeeded in having the case transferred to the United States Circuit Court for trial, where Mrs. Riley discovered when it was too late, she could not obtain justice.
The Court declared that the preëmption entry and patent issued to Mrs. Riley by President Lincoln were null and void, that they conveyed no legal title and that the patent was hereby cancelled, that the claim of Mr. Welles was confirmed and that Mrs. Riley should at once surrender possession of her home to Mr. Welles, she paying all costs of the suit, and that an execution be at once issued by the clerk of the court to enforce such collection of costs.
When this astounding decision became known to the thousands of settlers on the so-called “River lands” who held titles from the United States, they were filled with dismay and could not believe that the highest title the Government could give to a citizen for a home purchased from its officers would be set aside by the Supreme Court. They could not believe that tribunal from whose decree there was no appeal would rob them of their homes for which they had paid their hard earnings and had complied with every requirement of law in preempting or entering the public lands. They therefore contributed to a fund to