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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Illinois Central R. Co., 154 U.S. 225 (1894)

United States v. Illinois Central Railroad Company

No. 331

Argued March 29-30, 1894

Decided May 20, 1894

154 U.S. 225


Under the operation of the act of the Legislature of Illinois of February 27, 1833, for the making and recording of town plats, the interest in and control of the United States over the streets, alleys, and commons in the Fort Dearborn addition to Chicago ceased with the record of the plat thereof and the sale of the adjoining lots.

When a resort is made by individuals or by the government of the United States to the mode provided by the statute of a state where real property is situated, for the transfer of its title, the effect and conditions prescribed by the statute will apply, and such operation will be given to the instrument of conveyance as is there designated.

This was an appeal from a decree of the circuit court sustaining a demurrer on the part of the Illinois Central and the Michigan Central Railroad to an information filed by the United States and dismissing the information as to all the appellees. The information sought to restrain the appellees from diverting the public ground marked on the plat of the Fort Dearborn addition to the City of Chicago from the easements to which it was dedicated. On this branch of the case, the information proceeded upon the theory that, the United States being the owners of the land in question, and having dedicated it to certain public purposes, were entitled to enjoin its diversion from those public purposes to private uses. The bill alleged:

That before and on the 7th day of June, A.D. 1839, the United States possessed and owned in fee simple the southwest fractional quarter of section 10, the same being a reservation out of the public domain called the Fort Dearborn reservation, and the then Secretary of War having directed that reservation to be sold, the same was thereupon by this authority laid off into blocks, lots, streets, alleys, and the public ground as an addition to the municipality aforesaid, called the Fort Dearborn chanrobles.com-red

Page 154 U. S. 226

addition to Chicago, and on the day last above mentioned, a plat thereof was made and acknowledged by one Matthew Birchard as agent and attorney of the said Secretary of War, and was thereupon duly recorded in the recorder's office of the said County of Cook, on which plat a part of the ground therein comprised, being all that part between Lake Michigan, on the east, and blocks 12 and 15 (as shown by the plat) on the west, was designated as "public ground, forever to remain vacant of buildings," and there was a further declaration that "the public ground between Randolph and Madison Streets and fronting upon Lake Michigan was not to be occupied with buildings of any description," as by a plat therewith filed more fully and distinctly appeared. And afterward, the several lots designated and shown on that plat were sold and conveyed by the United States to divers persons by and according to the plat and with reference to the same, but the United States never parted with the title to the streets, alleys, and public ground in the said plat designated and marked, and still owns the same in fee simple, with the rights and privileges, riparian and otherwise, pertaining to such ownership, subject to the use and enjoyment of the same by the public.

The bill further alleged a grant of right of way to the Illinois Central Railroad under an Act of the State of Illinois approved February 10, 1851, which provided, however, that nothing in that act contained should authorize the said corporation to make location of its tracks within any city without the consent of the common council of such city.

The bill further alleged that the Common Council of the City of Chicago, by an ordinance dated June 14, 1852, gave the Illinois Central Railroad Company the right to enter upon and use for the purpose of its said railroad and works a space 300 feet wide for the whole length of the public ground shown in the plat of the Fort Dearborn addition, and that the railroad company, having accepted said act of the legislature and said ordinance, by virtue and under color of the same proceeded to and did build its said railroad and extend and complete the same from the southward into said city on the course indicated in the said ordinance, to chanrobles.com-red

Page 154 U. S. 227

a terminus near the Chicago River aforesaid, and the said company has ever since maintained and operated its said railroad, and continues so to do. And the said district attorney for the United States says that no authority or license was ever given by the United States for building or maintaining or operating its said railroad upon or along said public ground shown on said plat of Fort Dearborn addition or any part of those tracts of ground; that the General Assembly of the State of Illinois passed an act on April 16, 1869, whereby it assumed and attempted, among other things, to grant in fee to the said Illinois Central Railroad Company, etc., all the right and title of the State of Illinois in an to the lands, submerged or otherwise, lying north of the south line of Monroe Street and south of the south line of Randolph Street and between the east line of Michigan Avenue and the track and way of the said Illinois Central Railroad, and said pretended act purporting to grant the said grounds for a passenger station and other railroad purposes, and providing that the said railroad companies named as grantees should pay to the City of Chicago the sum of $800,000; that the said Illinois Central Railroad Company, etc., now give out and claim that the said pretended act was and is a legal and binding act, and passed to them respectively a valid title to the property in and by the same attempted to be granted, and the same companies now claim the right and threaten to take possession and exclusive control of the property so in and by the said pretended act attempted to be granted to them respectively.

Thus, the information showed that the railroad companies named claimed title to that portion of the public ground shown on the plat of the dedication of the Fort Dearborn addition lying east of Michigan Avenue, and threatened to take possession and exclusive control thereof for the purpose of appropriating it to a passenger station and other railroad purposes. chanrobles.com-red

Page 154 U. S. 233


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