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U.S. Supreme Court

New Orleans Pacific Railway Co. v. Parker, 143 U.S. 42 (1892)

New Orleans Pacific Railway Co. v. Parker

No. 137

Argued January 4-5, 1892

Decided February 1, 1892

143 U.S. 42


When several plaintiffs claim under the same title, and the determination of the cause necessarily involves the validity of that title, and the whole amount involved exceeds $5,000, this Court has jurisdiction as to all such plaintiffs, though the individual claims of none of them exceed $5,000; but where the matters in dispute are separate and distinct, and are joined in one suit for convenience or economy, the rule is the reverse as to claims not exceeding $5,000.

A mortgage by a railroad company of its railroad, rights of way, roadbed, and all its real estate then owned or which might be thereafter acquired appurtenant to or necessary for the operation of the railroad, and all other property wherever situated in the state then owned or which might thereafter be acquired by the company and which should be appurtenant to or necessary or used for the operation of its road, and also the tenements, hereditaments, and appurtenances thereunto belonging, does not cover a grant of lands within the state subsequently made by Congress to the company in aid of the construction oĄ its road.

An appurtenance is that which belongs to or is connected with something else to which it is subordinate or less worthy, and with which it passes as an incident, and in strict legal sense, land can never be appurtenant to land.

A grant to a railroad company of public lands within defined limits not sold, reserved, or otherwise disposed of when the route of the road becomes definitely fixed conveys no title to any particular land until the location, and until the specific parcels have been selected by the grantee and approved by the Secretary of the Interior.

If a holder of one or more of a series of bonds issued by a railroad company and secured by a mortgage in terms like this mortgage has a right to institute proceedings for the foreclosure of the mortgage -- about which no opinion is expressed -- he is bound to act for all standing in a similar position, and not only to permit other bondholders to intervene, but to see that their rights are protected in the final decree.

The Court stated the case as follows:

This was a bill in equity to foreclose a mortgage, and a cross-bill to have the mortgage decreed not to be a lien upon chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 143 U. S. 43

the land grant involved in the controversy. The bill was originally filed February 15, 1886, by the plaintiff Parker, "for himself and for all parties holding bonds and coupons similar to those herein set forth," against the New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Vicksburg Railroad Company (hereinafter called the "Baton Rouge Company"), the Union Trust Company of New York, the New Orleans Pacific Railway Company, (hereinafter called the "Pacific Company"), John F. Dillon and Henry M. Alexander, trustees in certain land grant mortgages of the Pacific Company, and Samuel D. McEnergy, then Governor of Louisiana, to foreclose a mortgage given by the Baton Rouge Company, October 1, 1870, upon the property of the company, and upon a land grant claimed to be covered by such mortgage. Plaintiff Parker claimed only the amount of coupons matured upon two bonds. Subsequently one Hamlin, another bondholder under the same mortgage, intervened in the cause, which was tried in the circuit court, and two distinct decrees rendered upon the same day, one in favor of Parker, in the sum of $2,400, with interest at five percent from October 1, 1885, and one in favor of Hamlin, for $6,000, with like interest. 33 F.6d 3. The mortgage in question, so far as it is material to be considered, purported to cover the right of way;

"also all other property, real and personal, of every kind and description whatsoever and wherever situated in the State of Louisiana, which is now owned, or which shall hereafter be acquired, by the said company, and which shall be appurtenant to or necessary or used for the operation of said main line of railroad or any of said branches,"

etc. The mortgage, which was made to the Union Trust Company of New York, provided that the holders of bonds and coupons should have the right to institute legal proceedings for its foreclosure. The company put the bonds, secured by this mortgage, upon the market and disposed of a number of them. This mortgage was by public act, and was recorded in several of the parishes through which the main line and the branches were to run.

By an Act of Congress approved March 3, 1871, 16 St. 573, c. 122, to incorporate the Texas Pacific Railroad Company, certain lands in Louisiana were granted to the Baton Rouge chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 143 U. S. 44

Company in aid of its construction of a railroad from New Orleans to Baton Rouge; thence by way of Alexandria to the eastern terminus of the Texas Pacific Railroad at Shreveport.

On November 11, 1871, the Baton Rouge Company filed in the General Land Office a map designating the general route of its road from Baton Rouge, by way of Alexandria, to Shreveport, and thereupon the withdrawal of the public lands along this line was ordered in accordance with the provisions of the above act of Congress, secs. 12 and 22. In 1881, the Baton Rouge Company transferred all its right, title, and interest in these lands to the Pacific Company, and in March, 1885, patents were issued to said company, as assignee of the Baton Rouge Company, for 679,287 acres of land lying in different parts of the state.

At the time this assignment was made, no work either upon the main line or upon the branches had been done by the Baton Rouge Company. December 28, 1870, the Baton Rouge Company executed a second mortgage to the governor of the state, as trustee, to secure the payment of certain bonds which were never issued. Such second mortgage having been subsequently cancelled, on September 4, 1872, one Allen assuming to act as president of the Baton Rouge Company, also executed a mortgage to secure the payment of 12,000 bonds, which, however, appear never to have been issued.

By acts of mortgage dated April 17, 1883, and January 5, 1884, the Pacific Company executed to appellants Dillon and Alexander a land grant and sinking fund mortgage upon the lands acquired from the Baton Rouge Company, to secure the payment of certain bonds, which the bill averred to be subsequent and subordinate to the mortgage executed by the Baton Rouge Company to secure the payment of the bonds in suit.

None of the defendants named in the bill appeared except the Pacific Company and Dillon and Alexander, trustees of the land grant mortgage of this company. These parties filed a general demurrer which was argued and overruled, in September, 1886, and a decree pro confesso was entered against the other defendants. Subsequently an answer was filed alleging in substance that the charter of the Baton Rouge Compa