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decided: May 13, 1889.



Author: Blatchford

[ 131 U.S. Page 152]

 MR. JUSTICE BLATCHFORD delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a suit in equity, brought in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Texas by James Reid Stewart. The original bill was filed against James L. Tait and his wife, and Branch T. Masterson. Tait and wife demurred to the bill, among other things, for multifariousness, as did also Masterson. On a hearing, the demurrers were sustained, with leave to amend the bill. The plaintiff then filed an amended bill against Masterson and Tait. It was taken as confessed as to Tait, and an order made that the cause be proceeded in ex parte as to him. Masterson demurred to the amended bill, and the demurrer was sustained and the bill as against him was dismissed. The plaintiff has appealed to this court.

The allegations of the amended bill are substantially as follows: On the 10th of May, 1878, at Glasgow, Scotland, Stewart and Tait entered into a written agreement. By that agreement, Stewart's son and Tait were to proceed together to Texas, and Tait was to purchase 2560 acres of land, in such place as might seem to him most advantageous, at a price not to exceed 12 shillings per acre, title deeds to be made out and recorded in the name of Stewart, and he to authorize payment of the purchase money on delivery of the title deeds to the order of such party as might be named therein, money for improvements to be furnished by Stewart as required by Tait,

[ 131 U.S. Page 153]

     he to give receipts as acting for Stewart, and the farm to be worked on equal shares, and profits to be equally divided between Stewart's son and Tait, the agreement to remain in force for five years from the date of purchase of the land; a further tract of 2560 acres to be purchased in the names of Tait and Stewart's son, on a credit of four years, payment to be made out of realized profits; and until such additional land should be paid for, but not exceeding five years, Stewart should not require the repayment of moneys advanced; interest to be paid for such moneys at the rate of 6 per cent per annum; Tait to do his best as to supervision and guidance of Stewart's son, and to have the management and be responsible to Stewart; the amount to be advanced by Stewart not to exceed in all 3250 sterling.

The amended bill then makes the following allegations: In pursuance of such agreement, Tait, in June, 1878, purchased for Stewart and in his name, and went into the occupancy of, and held for him as his agent, for five years, 4605 acres of land in Bexar County, Texas, known as the Gasper Flores survey No. 13, and situated within the territory of the McMullen grant, thereinafter described and bounded as set forth; Stewart paid for the land $9000, and expended in improvements, as owner, $6147.51, and thereby increased the value of the land at least $3 per acre, making the whole value of the improvements, as made by him, $19,962.51. He paid about $1000 taxes on the land. The title was from the government of Spain, which conveyed in fee to the Indians of San Jose Mission, land known as the McMullen grant, in the counties of Medina and Bexar. It was conveyed by the Indians to one Garza, and by him and the Indians to one John McMullen, in fee. While McMullen owned and occupied it, and in February, 1840, one Maverick, being the owner of Texas land certificate No. 276, as the assignee of Gasper Flores, the grantee of the State of Texas, located such certificate on a portion of the land within the McMullen grant, known as the Gasper Flores survey No. 13, being the identical land owned by Stewart and thereinbefore described, and afterwards procured a patent for the land and became vested with all the title of the

[ 131 U.S. Page 154]

     Republic or State of Texas thereto, and claimed survey No. 13, adversely to the title and possession of McMullen. Afterwards, McMullen conveyed the McMullen grant to one Howard, and he, in February, 1851, commenced a suit in equity, styled chancery suit No. 10, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Texas, to remove the cloud upon his title. Maverick was made a party to that suit and appeared, and on the final hearing it was decreed that the heirs of Howard, (he having died and they having been substituted as plaintiffs,) should recover the McMullen grant from Maverick and the other defendants, and that the title of said heirs was free from all clouds, and that all patents, locations, and surveys, owned by the defendants in the suit, were void, and they were ordered to cancel the same, and the title of said heirs to the McMullen grant was adjudged to be a good title. On a reference made by said decree, a master reported that Maverick appeared to have claimed to be the owner of the Gasper Flores survey No. 13, being the land of Stewart, and that the same was situated within the limits of the McMullen grant. The master made a deed in triplicate, conveying all the the interest of the heirs of McMullen to the McMullen grant, and the heirs of Howard acquired legal title to and possession of that grant, and one Castro purchased from the heirs of Howard and became the owner of said survey No. 13, and went into possession thereof, and afterwards sold the same in fee to Stewart, for $9000, and delivered possession thereof to him, in June, 1878, the deed expressing the consideration of $10,500, and being duly recorded in Bexar County, as was also the said deed to Castro. Thus, Stewart's land became and was land titled from the State, evidence of the appropriation of which was on the county records of the county of Bexar, and in the general land office of the State, according to the provisions of section 2 of article 14 of the constitution of the State. The heirs of Howard were, by virtue of said decree, put in possession of all the land in the McMullen grant claimed by the defendants in suit No. 10, and the State of Texas acquiesced in the decree, and caused the McMullen grant to be marked on the maps of the general land office

[ 131 U.S. Page 155]

     by its boundaries within the counties of Bexar and Medina, and the grant was marked on the county maps of each of those counties, by authority of the State, and the heirs of Howard and those holding under them have been required to pay state and county taxes on the land, and the State, and the county of Bexar have levied taxes on Stewart's land and collected the same from him as owner thereof, ever since he purchased it, and he has ever since been in the actual possession and occupancy of the same and the improvements thereon, and thus his appropriation of the land was evidenced by the occupation of the owner or some person holding for him, under the provisions of section 2 of article 14 of the state constitution. Masterson became and was a party defendant to said suit No. 10, before the final determination of the same, as the assignee in bankruptcy of one Herndon, a defendant therein, (who had located a certificate on and taken out a patent to lands within the McMullen grant, and whose claim was a cloud on the McMullen title,) and had full knowledge of the decree and of the proceedings in suit No. 10, before and after the decree, and knowledge of the possession and title of the heirs of Howard and of Castro, and of Stewart's title, possession, and improvements, and that Tait was, during five years from June 22, 1878, holding Stewart's land and the improvements thereon as the agent of Stewart. The foregoing decree and conveyances vested in Stewart the absolute property in said 4605 acres of land, but Masterson and Tait fraudulently colluded with each other that Tait should abandon Stewart's land and all the improvements thereon and deliver the same over to Masterson for the consideration of $750, to be paid by him to Tait, with intent to cheat Stewart out of the value of said improvements and deprive him of his title to the land. Masterson, with such intent, and in contempt of said decree, and in violation of said provision of the constitution of Texas, fraudulently located and caused to be surveyed the whole of Stewart's land, as vacant and unappropriated domain of the State of Texas, by virtue of several land certificates issued by the State and owned by Masterson, and caused the surveys thereof and the field-notes of the surveys to be recorded in the

[ 131 U.S. Page 156]

     office of the county surveyor of Bexar County, with particulars ...

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