U.S. Supreme Court
Medbury v. United States, 173 U.S. 492 (1899)
Medbury v. United States
Argued March 17, 1899
Decided April 8, 1699
173 U.S. 492
Under the Act of June 16, 1880, c. 244, the Court of Claims has jurisdiction of an action to recover an excess of payment for lands within the limits of a railroad grant, which grant was, after the payment, forfeited by act of Congress for nonconstruction of the road.
When in such case, by reason of the negligence of the railroad company for many years to construct its road, Congress enacts a forfeiture of the grant, the government is under no obligation to repay the excess of price paid by the purchaser of such lands in consequence of their being within the limits of the forfeited grant.
The appellant herein filed her petition in the Court of Claims, and sought to recover judgment by virtue of the provisions of the Act approved June 16, 1880, c. 244, 21 Stat. 287.
The Attorney General denied all the allegations of the petition, and the case was tried by the court upon the following agreed statement of facts: Congress made a grant of lands to the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company by the Act of March 5, 1864, x. 80, 13 Stat. 66, which contained the condition that the railroad should be built as therein provided. After the grant, the price of the lands reserved within its place limits was raised from $1.25 per acre to $2.50 per acre under the authority of law and by the direction of the Secretary of the Interior. In 1872, one Samuel Medbury made an entry of more than seven thousand acres of land within the place limits of that grant and at the double minimum price of $2.50 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
per acre, and he died in 1874, leaving his widow, the appellant herein, and a son and daughter, who subsequently conveyed to the appellant all their interest in the claim herein made.
The conditions upon which the grant of lands was made to that particular section of the proposed railroad were never complied with, and the proposed railroad was never constructed, for which reason the grant was, by the Act of Congress of September 29, 1890, c. 1040, 26 Stat. 496, forfeited to the United States. By reason of this failure to build the railroad and because of the forfeiture of the land grant by Congress, the lands purchased by Medbury ceased to be alternate sections of land within a railroad land grant, although they were such when he purchased them. Thereafter, and on the 14th of November, 1894, Lucetta R. Medbury, as the widow and heir of Samuel Medbury, made application to the Secretary of the Interior for the repayment of the excess of $1.25 per acre upon the seven thousand and odd acres of land entered by her husband, the application being made under the second section of the Act of June 16, 1880, c. 244, 21 Stat. 287, and on October 5, 1897, the application was denied by the secretary. Upon these findings of fact, the Court of Claims decided as a conclusion of law that the petition should be dismissed for want of jurisdiction. From that decision the claimant has appealed to this Court.