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Statement of the Case.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN and MR. JUSTICE BROWN concur in this dissent.
Mr. L. S. Dixon and Mr. Ashley Pond for plaintiff in error. James McKeen and Mr. Frank W. Owers were on their brief.
Mr. T. M. Patterson for defendant in error.
SULLIVAN v. IRON SILVER MINING COMPANY.
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE DIS
TRICT OF COLORADO.
No. 7. Argued November 20, 23, 1891.- Decided February 29, 1892.
A placer patent conveys to the patentee full title to all lodes or veins within
the territorial limits, not then known to exist; and mere speculation and belief, based, not on any discoveries in the placer tract, or any tracings of a vein or lode adjacent thereto, but on the fact that quite a number of shafts, sunk elsewhere in the district, had disclosed horizontal deposits of a particular kind of ore, which, it was argued, might be merely parts of a single vein of continuous extension through all that territory, is
not the knowledge required by the law. As the judgment in this case rests upon a sound principle of law, this court
affirms it, although it was put, by the court below, upon an unsound principle.
This was an action of ejectment, commenced in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Colorado on the 5th day of March, 1883, by the defendant in error. The complaint alleged that on the first day of January, 1883, plaintiff was the owner and in possession of a tract of land in Lake County, Colorado, known as the Wells and Moyer placer claim, consisting of 193 13 acres, the description of which was given in full; that while so in possession, and on the 2d day of January, 1883, the defendants entered upon a certain portion, which was fully described, being about ten acres, and wrongfully seized and detained the same.
In their answer the defendants set forth that the plaintiff held title to the placer claim by a patent
Statement of the Case.
from the United States, of date March 11, 1879, which contained these restrictions and exceptions:
“ First. That the grant hereby made is restricted in its exterior limits to the boundaries of the said lot No. 281, as herein before described, and to any veins or lodes of quartz or other rock in place bearing gold, silver, cinnabar, lead, tin, copper or other valuable deposits which may hereafter be discovered within said limits, and which are not claimed or known to exist at the date hereof.
“ Second. That should any vein or lode of quartz or other rock in place bearing gold, silver, cinnabar, lead, tin, copper or other valuable deposits be claimed or known to exist within the above-described premises at the date hereof, the same is expressly excepted and excluded from these presents."
They also averred that at the time of the location of the placer claim and the issue of the patent a vein or deposit of mineral ore in rock in place, of great value, was known and claimed to exist within the boundaries and underneath the surface of said placer claim, and that the patentee knew that said vein was claimed to exist, and did exist, within said premises; that the application for the patent did not contain any application for said vein or lode; and that on the 1st day of January, 1883, the defendants, citizens of the United States, went upon the premises and sunk a shaft thereon, and at the depth of more than ten feet from the surface cut and exposed said vein or deposit, and proceeded afterwards to file a location certificate. A demurrer to this answer was sustained, and judgment entered for the plaintiff. The defendants took the case on error to this court, and here the judgment of the Circuit Court was reversed. Sullivan v. Mining Company, 109 U. S. 550. The case turned on the construction of the pleadings, and it was held that the “allegation in the answer, that the vein was known by the patentees to exist at the times mentioned, is an allegation, in the very words of the statute itself, of the fact which the statute declares shall be conclusive against any right of possession of the vein or lode claim in a claimant of the placer claim only.” No opinion was expressed on the question discussed by counsel, as to whether any other
Opinion of the Court.
than a located vein or lode could be deemed to be a known vein or lode within the meaning of the statute and the exception in the patent. On the return of the case to the Circuit Court, a replication was filed, denying that there was at the time of the location of the placer claim or the issue of the placer patent any known vein, lode or mineral deposit within the premises, and also denying that the defendants discovered or exposed any vein, lode or mineral deposit of any kind whatever. On November 17, 1885, the case was tried before a jury, the verdict and judgment were for the plaintiff, and the defendants again bring the case here on error.
Mr. T. M. Patterson for plaintiffs in error.
Mr. L. S. Dixon and Mr. Ashley Pond for defendant in
Mr. JUSTICE BREWER delivered the opinion of the court.
On the trial, the court took the case away from the jury, the only instruction it gave being as follows:
“Under the opinion rendered by Judge McCrary in this case, it appears that the plaintiff is entitled to recover, the defendants' location not having been made until after the patent was issued, and we will enter your verdict for the plaintiff in such form as counsel may present.'
In this the District Judge trying the case simply followed the opinion theretofore expressed by the Circuit Judge, to the effect that location was necessary before a vein or lode could be adjudged a known vein or lode within the exception in the patent, and the provision of section 2333, Revised Statutes. (5 McCrary, 274.) In this ruling was error, as has since been repeatedly determined by this court. Reynolds v. Iron Silver Mining Co., 116 U. S. 687; Iron Silver Mining Co. v. Reynolds, 124 U. S. 37+; Noyes v. Mantle, 127 U. S. 318, 353; Iron Silver Mining Co. v. Mike & Starr Mining Co., ante, 394. In Noyes v. Mantle, this court, speaking of sec. 2333,
Argued with No. 2, ante, 394, and No. 3, ante, 430.
Opinion of the Court.
used this language: “The section can have no application to lodes or veins within the boundaries of a placer claim which have been previously located under the laws of the United States, and are in possession of the locators or their assigns; for, as already said, such locations, when perfected under the law, are the property of the locators, or parties to whom the locators have conveyed their interest. As said in Belk v. Meagher, 104 U. S. 279, 283: 'A mining claim perfected under the law is property in the highest sense of that term, which may be bought, sold, and conveyed, and will pass by descent.' It is not, therefore, subject to the disposal of the government. The section can apply only to lodes or veins not taken up and located so as to become the property of others. If any are not thus owned, and are known to exist, the applicant for the patent must include them in his application, or he will be deemed to have declared that he had no right to them. Sullivan v. Iron Silver Mining Co., 109 U. S. 550, 554.”
But, notwithstanding the technical error in this ruling, we cannot see that it wrought any prejudice to the substantial rights of the plaintiff in error, for, upon all the facts in the case, the judgment was one which must necessarily have been rendered. It appears beyond dispute, in fact it is alleged in the answer, that defendants entered upon the premises in January, 1883, and not earlier, and thereafter sank a shaft and did whatever work was done, and this, as appears by the pleadings and the testimony, was nearly four years after the issue of the patent. But a placer patent conveys to the patentee full title to all lodes or veins within the territorial limits, not then known to exist. So it matters not what
. developments or discoveries were made by these defendants after the issue of the patent. Nothing then disclosed could limit the effect of the patent, or except from its scope any vein or lode within its territorial limits. And, therefore, the testimony as to what took place after the issue of the patent, or as to the discoveries made thereafter, might properly have been excluded, and may now be wholly rejected in considering what judgment ought to have been rendered.
The only other question requiring notice is this: After the
Opinion of the Court.
plaintiff had finished its testimony, and the defendants had commenced offering theirs, the court intimated that it intended to direct a verdict for the plaintiff on the conceded fact that no location was made by the defendants until after the issue of plaintiff's patent, but at the same time notified the defendants that they could put in all the evidence they wished as to the existence of a lode, and the patentee's knowledge of it, and, replying to counsel for plaintiff, who was objecting to any further testimony, said: “Well, Mr. Owers, , the theory upon which they proceed is that you never got this lode, [it] being known to you. Whether they made a valid location of it or not is another question ; but if it was known to the patentee at the time of the entry, whether located or not, their position is, and they are going to maintain it in the Supreme Court if they can, that you never got title to it by means of your placer patent.”
And after that, defendants offered a mass of testimony, the scope of which was similar to that condemned as insufficient in the case of Iron Silver Mining Co. v. Reynolds, supra. Its purport was that it was commonly believed that underlying all the country in that vicinity was a nearly horizontal vein or deposit, frequently called a blanket vein ; and that the parties who were instrumental in securing this placer patent shared in that belief, and obtained the patent with a view to thereafter developing such underlying vein. But whatever beliefs may have been entertained generally, or by the placer patentees alone, there was up to the time the patent was obtained no knowledge in respect thereto. It was, so far as disclosed by this testimony, on the part of everybody, patentees included, merely a matter of speculation and belief, based not on any discoveries in the placer tract, or any tracings of a vein or lode adjacent thereto, but on the fact that quite a number of shafts sunk elsewhere in the district had disclosed horizontal deposits of a particular kind of ore, which it was argued might be merely parts of a single vein of continuous extension through all that territory. Such a belief is not the knowledge required by the section. In the case referred to this court said : “ There may be difficulty in deter