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LOWNDES V. HUNTINGTON, 153 U. S. 1 (1894)

U.S. Supreme Court

Lowndes v. Huntington, 153 U.S. 1 (1894)

Lowndes v. Huntington

No. 117

Argued December 18-19, 1893

Decided April 16, 1894

153 U.S. 1


The grant to the Town of Huntington, made by the Governor General under the Duke of York on the 30th of November, 1666, and confirmed by Governor General Dongan in 1688, and again confirmed, with a change in description, by Governor General Fletcher in 1694, operated to convey to the grantee the lands under tidewater in Huntington Bay, as defined by a line drawn from Lloyd's Neck to Eaton's Neck, and any title to such lands under water which came to the State of New York, was ceded to the trustees of the town by the state, by the act of its legislature of May 10, 1888, c. 279.

In reaching this conclusion, this Court follows the settled rules of decision in the courts of New York relating to the form of the action, the title to the submerged lands, and the special defenses set up in this case.

On September 1, 1888, the defendant in error commenced an action in the Supreme Court of the State of New York for the County of Suffolk. Its complaint alleged that "the trustees of the freeholders and commonalty of the Town of Huntington and their successors" were a body corporate, created and incorporated by and under three charters granted -- the

Page 153 U. S. 2

first by Richard Nicolls, Governor General under James, Duke of York, of all his territories in America, and dated November 30, 1666; the second by Thomas Dongan, Governor General of the Province of New York under James the Second, King of England, and dated August 2, 1688, and the third by Benjamin Fletcher, Governor General under William and Mary, and dated October 5, 1694.

It also alleged that the plaintiff was the lawful successor of the said trustees, etc., and as such, and by virtue of said patents and charters, and the laws of the State of New York, was the lawful owner and seised in fee, subject to the right of navigation, of a certain described tract of land of about three hundred acres lying underwater in Huntington Bay, in the Town of Huntington, and that as such owner it was entitled to the exclusive possession and use thereof for oyster cultivation.

The complaint further charged that the defendant had theretofore exercised, and still exercised, acts of ownership upon said lands, and claimed title thereto and a right to the exclusive possession thereof; that he had planted, or caused to be planted, oysters thereon, and unlawfully withheld the lands from the plaintiff.

There was also an allegation of notice to quit, and a prayer for judgment against the defendant for the immediate and exclusive control of the premises. The defendant, who was a citizen of the State of Connecticut, having been brought in by publication, removed the case to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of New York. In that court, he filed an answer denying plaintiff's title, and pleading possession since 1866. Thereafter, on the 14th of November, 1889, the case was tried before a jury, and at the close thereof the court directed a verdict for the plaintiff. On the verdict a judgment was duly rendered, and to reverse such judgment this writ of error was sued out.

In addition to the grants from the Governors General (the language of the description in the first of which is set forth in the opinion, infra), the plaintiff claimed under a grant from the State of New York, made by the Act of May 10, 1888,

Page 153 U. S. 3

c. 279, which is also more fully set forth in the opinion of the court. The map below shows the locality of the disputed premises. The defendant's oyster bed is marked A.


Page 153 U. S. 18

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