Roberts v. Northern Pacific Railroad Company

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Roberts v. Northern Pacific Railroad Company by George Shiras, Jr.
Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

158 U.S. 1

Roberts  v.  Northern Pacific Railroad Company

The railroad company claimed title to the lands in question under an agreement of purchase and a deed of conveyance from the county of Douglas. The defendants set up a title under a subsequent deed of conveyance from the same county. After certain pleas and demurrers on behalf of the defendants Roberts and Ellis were overruled, the case was disposed of on bill and answer, and a final decree was rendered in favor of the complainant against Roberts and Ellis, and dismissing the bill without prejudice as to Johnson, from which decree an appeal was taken by Roberts and Ellis to this court.

The record discloses that an agreement was made on December 16, 1880, between the Northern Pacific Railroad Company and the county supervisors of Douglas county, whereby the former undertook to construct, complete, and equip its line of railroad through Douglas county by a route proposed by the county, and to erect certain wharves and docks to make a connection between the railroad and Lake Superior, and in consideration of this the county agreed to sell and convey certain parcels of land which the county had become possessed of by sales for unpaid taxes.

On January 16, 1882, the county board, by resolution, after reciting that the railroad company had complied with the terms of the agreemen, authorized a deed of conveyance of the lands to be executed and delivered to the company. In the deed there was an acknowledgment of the receipt of one dollar in hand paid, and of the performance by the company of its part of the agreement. This deed, dated January 20, 1882, was duly recorded in the office of the register of deeds of Douglas county.

The bill alleged that the company had expended in the construction of the main line from the Northern Pacific junction through Douglas county to Superior, and in the construction of proper depots, side tracks, and connections, the sum of $542,098.78; in the construction of the bay front line to Conner's Point, the terminus called for in the agreement, the sum of $93,423.91; and in the construction of a dock or pier in the bay of the town of Superior the sum of $116,249.73. It was also alleged in the bill, and not denied in the answer, that at the time when the county proposed to dispose of said lands to the company said lands were nontaxable, and yielded no income whatever to the county, and that ever since they were conveyed to the company the latter had in each and every year paid the taxes levied thereon, and had expended large sums of money in the payment of such taxes, to wit, more than $5,000; that its title to said lands remained undisputed by any one during all the time from said January 20, 1882, until the month of July, 1888; and that, in the meantime, the company had sold and conveyed various parcels of said lands to many different persons, and whose titles are based upon said deed of the county to the company.

On the 6th day of July, 1888, and on the 7th day of March, 1889, the county clerk of said county, in pursuance of a resolution of the board of supervisors, made deeds of those dates to the plaintiff in error Roberts for an alleged consideration of $385.

The other facts of the case are sufficiently stated in the opinion.

William F. Vilas, for appellants.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 4-9 intentionally omitted]

John C. Spooner, James McNaught, F. M. Dudley, and A. H. Garland, for appellee.

Mr. Justice SHIRAS, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, 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).