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U.S. Supreme Court

French-Glenn Livestock Co. v. Springer, 185 U.S. 47 (1902)

French-Glenn Livestock Co. v. Springer

No. 121

Argued January 20-21, 1902

Decided April 7, 1902

185 U.S. 47


A federal question was presented by the contentions of the plaintiff in error, and this Court is of opinion that, while there was a lake abutting on or to the north of the lots, the plaintiff would take all land between the meander line and the water, and all accretions, it was competent for the defendant to show that there was not, at the time of the survey nor since, any such lake, and to contend that, in such a state of facts, there could be no intervening land, and no accretion by reliction.

This was an action brought in 1896 in the Circuit Court of Harney County, State of Oregon, by the French-Glenn Live Stock Company, a corporation of the State of California, against Alva Springer, to recover possession of a certain tract of land situated in said county. The action was tried in May, 1897, and resulted in a verdict and judgment in favor of the defendant. The cause was subsequently taken to the Supreme Court of Oregon, and by that court, on August 11, 1899, the judgment of the circuit court was affirmed, and thereupon a writ of error was allowed by the chief justice of that court, and the cause was brought to this Court.

The facts of the case, as developed at the trial, were thus stated by the supreme court: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 185 U. S. 48

"The plaintiff, to support its contention of ownership of the fee, offered in evidence (1) the official plat of the United States government survey of fractional township 26 south, range 31 east, of the Willamette meridian, showing the township rendered fractional by abutting upon the meander line along the south side of Malheur Lake, which plat appears to have been approved by the Land Department of the government and filed in the local office on September 17, 1877; the plat showing said lots bounded on the north by the meander line of Malheur Lake; (2) the field notes of the survey of the exterior boundaries of said township and its subdivisions, and the meander line of Malheur Lake, under the title heading, 'Meanders of the south shore of Malheur Lake, through fractional township 26,' etc., and indicating that it was run 'with the meander of the lake;'(3) a list of selections of land, made by the agent of the State of Oregon, claimed as swamp and overflowed, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, bearing date September 19, 1889; (4) two patents from the United States, for said lots 3 and 4, section 34, and 1 and 2, section 35, 'according to the official plats of the survey of the said lands returned to the General Land Office by the surveyor general,' such patents bearing date March 10, 1890, and October 8, 1891, respectively, and the lots containing in the aggregate, 158.53 acres; (5) two conveyances from the state, comprising the above-described lots, bearing date October 7, 1889, and April 30, 1890, respectively, and other mesne conveyances to the plaintiff, and (6) oral evidence, tending to prove that in 1877, and for some years thereafter, Malheur Lake was a continuous body of water up to the meander line of that year; that there was a narrow ridge or reef across the west end thereof, some 12 or 15 miles west of the lands in dispute, which separated its waters from those of Harney Lake; that its waters were from 8 to 12 feet higher than those of Harney Lake; that, in 1881, the waters of Malheur Lake, overflowing the ridge, cut a channel through, which was enlarged from year to year for some time; that, as a result, its surface was lowered, the water receding from the flat, shelving shore, leaving the disputed land bare, except in the spring time, from and after 1884. This constituted the

Page 185 U. S. 49

plaintiff's case. On behalf of the defendant, evidence was introduced tending to show that there never was a lake in front of the said lots; that Malheur Lake is a well defined natural body of water, but that, if the east and west exterior lines of said lots were extended north indefinitely, they would not touch or intersect the margin or border of said lake, but would leave it entirely to the east thereof; that the water of the lake had been, from a time prior to 1877, of about the same height as it was at the date of trial; that the border of the lake never at any time extended to the supposed meander line of 1877, and that there never had been any recession of the water of the lake, and a consequent reliction of land in front of the said lots."

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