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U.S. Supreme Court

Knapp v. Alexander-Edgar Lumber Co., 237 U.S. 162 (1915)

Knapp v. Alexander-Edgar Lumber Company

No. 139

Submitted January 18, 1915

Decided April 5, 1915

237 U.S. 162


An entryman's interest prior to actual possession is more than mere color of title. From the time of the entry, the homesteader has the right of possession as against trespassers and all others except the United States.

The title of a homesteader, while inchoate, is subject to be defeated only by his failure to comply with the requirements of the statute, and so long as he complies therewith, he has an inceptive title sufficient as against third parties to support suits in equity or at law.

A homesteader has a preferential right to the land, and when he receives a patent vesting in him the complete legal title, it relates back to the date of the initiatory act so as to cut off intervening claimants. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 237 U. S. 163

Under special circumstances such as are present in this case, a homesteader may maintain an action for trespass against one cutting timber on the land entered and recover from the wrongdoer and retain for his own use the value of that which has been taken notwithstanding the trespasser has settled with the government and paid an amount in satisfaction for the timber taken.

Although, until patent issues, the land entered is under the control of the Land Department, the power of that Department is not unlimited or arbitrary, and cannot be exercised without notice to the homesteader and opportunity to be heard, and it is open to the homesteader to seek redress in the courts for wrong done to his interests by an unwarranted compromise.

In this case, the facts do not show knowledge on the homesteader's part of the facts sufficient to charge him with ratification, and quaere whether ratification can be inferred from a mere demand on his part without benefits accruing to him as the result thereof.

Quaere as to the right of the trespasser against whom judgment is rendered in such a case to require from the homesteader an assignment of his claim against the government for the amount collected by it in settlement of the trespass.

Judgment based on 145 Wis. 528 reversed.

The facts, which involve the rights of a homestead after entry and before patent as against trespassers, are stated in the opinion.

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