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SHEIRBURN V. DE CORDOVA, 65 U. S. 423 (1860)

U.S. Supreme Court

Sheirburn v. De Cordova, 65 U.S. 24 How. 423 423 (1860)

Sheirburn v. De Cordova

65 U.S. (24 How.) 423




By a statute of Texas, actions of ejectment, trespass to try title &c., can be maintained upon certificates for head rights or other equitable titles.

But this Court has decided that in the courts of the United States, suits for the recovery of lands can only be maintained upon a legal title.

A plaintiff in the court below who had nothing more than an incipient equity could not, therefore, maintain his action.

The bill of exceptions contained the evidence of the title of Sheirburn, the plaintiff, when the defendants objected to the admissibility of said locations and entries because the same were vague, uncertain, and indefinite and also because surveys thereon were not returned to the General Land Office, but the court overruled said objections and the defendants excepted thereto. The plaintiffs here closed.

The objection made in this Court, viz., that the plaintiff could not maintain the suit upon a head right in the court of the United States, did not appear to have been made upon the trial, but the question seemed to turn upon the validity of the title of the defendants, which was sustained, and upon that ruling the plaintiff brought the case up to this Court.

Page 65 U. S. 425

MR. JUSTICE CAMPBELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This was a suit by the plaintiff to recover a parcel of land in the County of Guadalupe in the State of Texas. The title of the plaintiff consists of certain entries of head rights embracing the land in dispute. One of these is in these words:

"Joseph A. Sheirburn, assignee of Victor Ed. Gaillon, enters one-third of a league of land, situated on a noted island, about six miles above the Town of Walnut Springs and extending on the mainland on the northeast said of the Guadalupe River for quantity; the said location is also a short distance below a very elevated mound on the west of the river. Certificate 222. Harrisburg County, October 16, 1838."

In January, 1953, the plaintiff applied to the District Surveyor of Guadalupe County for the survey of this and other land embraced in the entries, who declined to execute the surveys, but it is admitted that the entries cover the land in controversy. The defendants relied upon a Mexican grant, issued in 1831 in favor of Antonio Maria Esnourizar, for eleven leagues of land, and which embraces the same land. The district court pronounced this grant to be a valid appropriation of the land described in it, and the plaintiff alleges that there is error in that decision.

By a statute of Texas,

"All certificates for head rights, land scrip, bounty warrants, or any other evidence of right to land recognized by the laws of this government, which have been located or surveyed, shall be deemed and held an sufficient title to authorize the maintenance of actions of ejectment, trespass, or any other legal remedy given by law."


Page 65 U. S. 426

art. 3,230. The testimony adduced by the plaintiff, it would seem, would have authorized a suit in the courts of Texas, where rights, whether legal or equitable, are disposed of in the same suit. But this Court has established after full consideration that in the courts of the United States, suits for the recovery of land can only be maintained upon a legal title. It is not contended in this case that the plaintiff has more than an incipient equity. This question was so fully considered by the Court in Fenn v. Holme, 20 How. 481, that a further discussion is unnecessary.

Judgment of the district court affirmed.

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