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U.S. Supreme Court

Southwestern Coal Co. v. McBride, 185 U.S. 499 (1902)

Southwestern Coal Company v. McBride

No. 230

Argued April 21, 1902

Decided May 19, 1902

185 U.S. 499


The Act of Congress approved June 28, 1898, known as the Curtis Act, did not operate to deprive the lessors of coal mines in the Choctaw Nation of royalties due and owing to them for coal mined under valid leases, prior to that date.

This litigation was begun in the United States court for the Indian Territory, Central Judicial District, sitting at Atoka, by the chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 185 U. S. 500

the filing of a bill in equity on behalf of Hyram Y. McBride, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. The defendants named in the bill were the National Bank of Denison, the Southwestern Coal & Improvement Company (hereafter referred to as the coal company) and J. A. Randell, as administrator of the estate of G. G. Randell, deceased. The coal company is an appellant in this Court, while McBride and Randell are the appellees. It was averred in the bill that, on April 6, 1894, the complainant (McBride) was the owner of a three twenty-seconds share in a certain coal or mining interest situated in the Town of Coalgate, Indian Territory, which coal claim was being operated, under royalty contracts, by the coal company; that, to secure an indebtedness due by the complainant to the National Bank of Denison, complainant had executed and delivered a mortgage upon his aforesaid share, and that, under the assumed authority of a power of sale contained in the mortgage and pursuant to a combination between the bank and one G. G. Randell, a purported sale of said share of complainant was made to said Randell, but that said pretended sale, for various stated reasons, was illegal and void. It was further averred that from the time of said pretended sale the coal company had failed to make payments of royalties due upon said share of complainant, and was liable to account therefor. The prayer of the bill was, in substance, that the sale in question be declared a nullity, and that the various defendants account to complainant in respect to the royalties received and retained.

The bank filed its answer, and therein disclaimed having any interest in the unpaid royalties claimed by complainant and J. H. Randell, as administrator of G. G. Randell. In its answer, the coal company, among other things, unnecessary to be stated, admitted that it had withheld payments from March 1, 1897, of royalties on the coal mining share referred to in the complaint, and averred that the amount of said unpaid royalties aggregated $2,617.29. The coal company also further specifically pleaded in its answer as follows:

"Defendant coal company further states that, on the 28th day of June, 1898, the President of the United States approved an act entitled 'An Act for the Protection of the the

Page 185 U. S. 501

Indian Territory, and for Other Purposes,' and which said act of Congress is commonly known as the 'Curtis Bill,' and by section sixteen of said act it was provided that it should be unlawful for any person, after the passage of said act, except as otherwise provided therein, to claim, demand, or receive for his own use, or the use of anyone else, any royalty on coal, or any rents on any lands or property belonging to any one of said tribes or nations in said territory, or for anyone to pay to any individual any such royalty or rents or any consideration therefor, whatsoever."

"And that, by virtue of the provisions of said act of Congress hereinabove referred to, on and after the 28th day of June, 1898, no royalties accrued to any person upon this said interest claimed by the plaintiff in said mines, and that, by virtue of the provisions of said act of Congress, hereinabove referred to, the royalty which accrued upon said interest so claimed by the plaintiff in said mines and which said coal company had not paid over to said defendant bank in accordance with plaintiff's instructions, is no longer due and payable to the said plaintiff or any person claiming under him, and cannot be claimed, demanded, or received by the plaintiff, or any other person, and that, by virtue of section eighteen of said act of Congress, hereinabove referred to, any person claiming, demanding, or receiving any of the royalties which the plaintiff claims accrued upon the interest claimed by him in said coal mines, becomes guilty of a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100.00), and is liable to forfeit possession of the property in question."

A written stipulation was thereafter entered into between the complainant and the defendant Randell, administrator, wherein it was agreed that the complainant was entitled to $900 of the sum admitted by the coal company to be unpaid, and that the said defendant administrator was entitled to the remainder, or the sum of $1,717.29. Upon the pleadings in the cause and the stipulation referred to, a motion for judgment against the coal company for $2,617.29 was filed on behalf of the complainant and said defendant administrator. The motion was granted, and a judgment was entered accordingly. An chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 185 U. S. 502

appeal was taken to the Court of Appeals for the Indian Territory, and that court affirmed the judgment. 54 S.W. 1099. The judgment of affirmance was in favor of McBride and Randell, administrator, against the coal company and the sureties on its supersedeas bond (Clarence W. Turner and Homer B. Spaulding), for the amount of the original judgment, with interest and costs. An appeal was then prosecuted by the coal company and Turner and Spaulding to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. That court affirmed the judgments (104 F.1d 07), and the cause was then appealed to this Court.

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