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U.S. Supreme Court

Railroad Company v. Baldwin, 103 U.S. 426 (1880)

Railroad Company v. Baldwin

103 U.S. 426


1. The grant which the Act of July 23, 1866, c. 212, 14 Stat. 210, makes to the St. Joseph and Denver City Railroad Company, "to the extent of one hundred feet in width on each side of said road where it may pass through the public domain," is absolute and in praesenti, and a party subsequently acquiring a parcel of such lands takes it subject to that right.

2. Quaere where Congress has conferred upon a railroad corporation, organized under the laws of a state, the right of way over the public lands in a territory, can the state, subsequently created out of that territory, prevent the corporation from enjoying that right.

This was an action by Baldwin to recover of the St. Joseph and Denver City Railroad Company, or its successor in interest, damages for entering upon his land in Nebraska and appropriating, chanrobles.com-redchanrobles.com-red

Page 103 U. S. 427

in the construction of its road, a strip two hundred feet in width and two hundred road in length. The company claimed a right of way over the land of that width, under the Act of Congress of July 23, 1866, c. 212, entitled "An Act for a grant of lands to the State of Kansas to aid in the construction of the Northern Kansas Railroad and Telegraph." 14 Stat. 210. The first section of the act, so far as it is material in this case, is as follows:

"Be it enacted &c., that there is hereby granted to the State of Kansas, for the use and benefit of the Saint Joseph and Denver City Railroad Company, the same being a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Kansas, to construct and operate a railroad from Elwood, in Kansas, westwardly, via Maryville, in the same state, so as to effect a junction with the Union Pacific Railroad, or any branch thereof, not farther west than the one hundredth meridian of west longitude, every alternate section of land designated by odd numbers, for ten sections in width on each side of said road, to the point of intersection. But in case it shall appear that the United States have, when the line or route of said road is definitely fixed, sold any section, or any part thereof, granted as aforesaid, or that the right of preemption or homestead settlement has attached to the same, or that the same has been reserved by the United States for any purpose whatever, then it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Interior to cause to be selected for the purposes aforesaid, from the public lands of the United States nearest to tiers of sections above specified, so much land in alternate sections, or parts of sections designated by odd numbers as shall be equal to such lands as the United States have sold, reserved, or otherwise appropriated, or to which the rights of preemption of homestead settlements have attached as aforesaid, which lands, thus indicated by odd numbers and selected by direction of the Secretary of the Interior as aforesaid, shall be held by the State of Kansas for the use and purpose aforesaid."

The fourth section is as follows:

"That as soon as the said company shall file with the Secretary of the Interior maps of its line designating the route thereof, it shall be the duty of the said Secretary to withdraw from the market the lands granted by this act in such manner as may be best calculated to effect the purpose of this act and subserve the public interest. "

Page 103 U. S. 428

The sixth section is as follows:

"That the right of way through the public lands be, and the same is hereby, granted to said Saint Joseph and Denver City Railroad Company, its successors and assigns, for the construction of a railroad as proposed, and the right is hereby given to said corporation to take from the public lands adjacent to the line of said road, material for the construction thereof. Said way is granted to said railroad to the extent of one hundred feet in width on each side of said road where it may pass through the public domain; also, all necessary ground for station buildings, workshops, depots, machine shops, switches, side tracks, turn tables, and water stations."

When the grant was made by Congress, the land claimed by Baldwin was vacant and unoccupied land of the United States. But the line of the road over it was not definitely located until October, 1871. He acquired whatever rights he possession in October, 1869. The defendant contends that the plaintiff took the land subject to its right of way. He contends that the grant of the right of way took effect only from the date at which the company filed its maps designating the route with the Secretary of the Interior. The district court of the state agreed with him and gave judgment in his favor. The supreme court affirmed it, and to review it the cause is brought here.


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