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KNEPPER v. SANDS

May 31, 1904

KNEPPER
v.
SANDS



CERTIFICATE FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

Fuller, Harlan, Brewer, Brown, White, Peckham, McKenna, Holmes, Day

Author: Harlan

[ 194 U.S. Page 477]

 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.

This cause is before us upon questions certified by the Circuit Court of Appeals pursuant to the Judiciary Act of March 3, 1891, c. 517, 26 Stat. 826.

The controlling facts in the extended statement sent up by the Judges of the Circuit Court of Appeals, as the basis of the questions propounded, are these:

By an act approved May 12, 1864, c. 84, Congress made a grant of lands to the State of Iowa for the purpose of aiding in the construction of a railroad from Sioux City to the south line of Minnesota at such point as the State might select -- the lands to be held subject to the disposal of its Legislature, for that purpose only. Upon the completion of each section of ten consecutive miles of road it became the duty of the Secretary of the Interior to issue to the State patents for one hundred sections for the benefit of the constructing company; and so on, until the road was completed, when the whole of the lands granted were to be patented " to the State for the uses aforesaid, and none other." 13 Stat. 72, §§ 1, 2, 3.

If the road was not completed within ten years from the acceptance of the grant by the constructing company, then the lands granted and not patented were to "revert to the State" for the purpose of securing the completion of the road within such time, not exceeding five years, and upon such

[ 194 U.S. Page 478]

     terms as the State should determine -- the lands not in any manner to be disposed of or encumbered except as the same were patented under the provisions of the act, and upon the failure of the State to complete the road within five years after the above ten years then the lands undisposed of were to "revert to the United States." § 4.

The State accepted the grant, April 3, 1866, upon the conditions prescribed by Congress, and authorized the Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad Company, a Minnesota corporation, to construct the road. The company entered upon the work of construction, and completed only five sections of ten miles each, receiving the full amount of land to which it was entitled by reason of such construction.

In consequence of the failure of the railroad company to complete the construction of the road, the State declared by an act approved March 16, 1882, that, in respect of all lands and rights to land granted or intended to be granted to that company, they "are hereby absolutely and entirely resumed by the State of Iowa, and that the same be and are absolutely vested in said State as if the same had never been granted to said company." Before the passage of that act the State, through its executive officers, ascertained by computation that the railroad company had received conveyances for all lands it was entitled to receive under the terms of the grant, and that the State then held legal title to 85,457.41 acres pertaining to the grant, no part of which had then or ever since been earned by the company. The land in question here was a part of those unearned lands.

Subsequently, by an act which took effect April 2, 1884, the State relinquished to the United States all its right, title and interest in the lands which by the above act of 1882 were declared vested in the State.

The land here in dispute, being section 9, township 95, north of range 42, west of the fifth principal meridian, in O'Brien County, Iowa, was open and unoccupied when the above act of ...


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