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CONNOYER V. SCHAEFFER, 89 U. S. 254 (1874)

U.S. Supreme Court

Connoyer v. Schaeffer, 89 U.S. 22 Wall. 254 254 (1874)

Connoyer v. Schaeffer

89 U.S. (22 Wall.) 254


1. Under proceedings before the boards of commissioners appointed under the Act of March 2, 1805, for ascertaining and adjusting the claims to land embraced in the Louisiana Purchase, and the several subsequent acts on the same subject, where a claimant presents not only the evidence of original concession, but that also which purports to be the evidences of title to himself, the confirmation, though made to the original grantee (or "concessionee," as he is sometimes styled), "and his legal representatives," operates as a grant to the claimant, although the name of the claimant be omitted in the form of confirmation. Bissell v. Penrose, 8 How. 317, decides this, and that case is here affirmed.

2. In a suit for recovery of land under the Act of Congress of July 4, 1836, the plaintiff offered in evidence a written request to the recorder of lands in and for the Territory of Missouri to record all registered concessions found in certain books named then in his office. But it did not appear that those under whom the plaintiff claimed had any agency in giving the notice, nor that any signer of the paper was interested in the lands in question, nor that any of them represented those who were or professed to be so interested. The notice named no claimant and described no land, and did not intimate that anyone was in fact claiming under the concessions referred to. Held that the paper was not such notice of the claim as the act contemplated.

An Act of the 2d March, 1805, [Footnote 1] for enabling claimants of land in the territory acquired by us from France in the year 1803 (within which territory the present State of Missouri is included) to have their incomplete titles to lands confirmed and perfected enacts that the claimant of such land shall file within a certain time, with the register or recorder of land titles of the district, his notice in writing, together with every grant, "order of survey, deed, conveyance, or other written evidence of his claim," and that unless he shall so file "such written evidence," all his right shall be void. "Nor shall any grant, . . . deed of conveyance, or other written evidence," says the act,

"which shall not be so recorded as above directed ever be considered or admitted in evidence

Page 89 U. S. 255

in any court of the United States, against any grant derived from the United States."

The act then provides for the appointment of commissioners, who were to hear and decide in a summary manner "all matters respecting such claims."

By a subsequent act, one of 21st April, 1806, [Footnote 2] the time for filing the "notices in writing and written evidences of claims" was extended, but with a similar provision, as to all claims not so presented being barred, and the evidence of them not admitted in evidence if not so filed. The act enacts that oral testimony may be heard in support of or opposition to such claims.

Under these acts, many old French and Spanish tiles in Missouri were examined and confirmed. But the acts expired before all that were filed could be disposed of. Accordingly new acts were passed, one July 9, 1832, and one March 2, 1833, [Footnote 3] providing "for the final adjustment of land claims in Missouri." These acts provided for a board of commissioners to "examine all unconfirmed claims to lands in that state heretofore filed in the office of said recorder according to law," and enacted that in examining these claims heretofore filed, they "shall proceed in the examination in a summary manner, with or without any new application of claimants." Under these acts, therefore, no new claim could be filed before the board; the commissioners were only to pass upon the claims already filed.

These statutes being on the statute book, Louis Labeaume, on the 27th of June, 1808, gave notice to the old board of commissioners -- that is to say, the board proceeding under the acts of 1805 and 1807 -- of his claim to a lot of land -- a common field lot -- in the City of St. Louis. The tract had been conceded in 1772 by the acting lieutenant governor of the Spanish government to a certain Francoise, widow Dodier, Labeaume, of course, claiming by conveyances under her.

The conveyance to Labeaume, as filed before the boards

Page 89 U. S. 256

as evidence of his title, showed two different conveyances on the same paper. One conveyance was from eight persons named, who purported to be the right heirs of the widow Dodier, and was dated 18th August, 1806, one of the eight persons being a certain Joseph Hortez, who signed the conveyance in behalf of Margaret Bequette, his wife, as one of the heirs of the said widow. The other conveyance was from the same Hortez, and in this conveyance he conveys the tract as having been acquired by him, at a judicial sale, as the property of the said widow, made and ordered by the lieutenant governor, but the proces verbal (or record, to use the English term) of which sale and adjudication, the deed recites had been lost in the secretary's office. This deed was dated the 23d August, 1806, was acknowledged, and with the acknowledgments appended thereto was recorded in the recorder's office of St. Louis County.

The board before which Labeaume appeared and presented the concession and his derivative title papers -- that is to say, the board acting under the acts of 1805 and 1807 -- did not confirm his title.

Labeaume himself died in 1821, having made a will by which he devised all his estate to his widow.

After the passage of the acts authorizing the appointment of a board to examine claims previously filed according to law but not confirmed, a son of Labeaume appeared before the new board and presented in behalf of his mother as now representing the original claimant the claim originally filed by Labeaume. And in June, 1835, this board reported "that this claim ought to be confirmed to the said widow Dodier or her legal representatives," and it was so confirmed accordingly, by Act of Congress of July 4, 1836.

In this state of things, a certain Schaeffer (A.D. 1860) being in possession and now confessedly vested with whatever title was vested by these proceedings in Labeaume, Connoyer, and others (who it was equally admitted was, as to a part of the premises in controversy, vested with whatever title passed to the heirs of the widow Dodier by virtue of the confirmation) sued him in ejectment.

Page 89 U. S. 257

On the trial, the plaintiffs, already mentioned as heirs of the widow Dodier, relied on the confirmation as being to her, and to her legal representatives, contending that from defective execution the deeds upon which Labeaume founded his derivative title could pass no title, and therefore that there could have been no confirmation to him made upon them.

The defendant, who had put in evidence the original deeds set out in the proceedings of the first board, relied much more on the confirmation, he contending that the history of these confirmations of land claims under the already-mentioned acts of Congress showed that there were two classes of cases which came before the boards:

1st. Where the claimant exhibited only the original concession and did not attempt to show any title out of the person to whom the concession had been made originally.

2d. Where, with the original concession, there were exhibited mesne conveyances, which the claimant relied on as bringing the title down to himself.

And that while in the former class of cases nothing was established on a confirmation to the original grantee and his representatives but the title of that grantee, in the second, under the decision of this Court in Bissell v. Penrose, [Footnote 4] both the title of the original grantee and the derivative title to the claimant were established.

The defendant therefore insisted that the regularity of the papers accompanying Labeaume's claim could not be inquired into, as the confirmation when made inured to Labeaume, if living, and if dead, to his legal representatives.

The court in which the ejectment was brought held that the confirmation of the lot sued for inured to Labeaume, and those claiming under him, and not to the widow Dodier and her heirs. As the plaintiffs claimed as such heirs, that ruling of the court decided the whole case. The holding being affirmed in the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri, the plaintiffs brought the case here.

Page 89 U. S. 258

The question, of course, was to whom did the confirmation inure? If to Labeaume, then it was an unimportant inquiry whether the title papers produced by him were imperfectly executed or not. If to the legal representatives of the widow Dodier, the inquiry was important.

It may be here added, though the thing is scarce worth reporting, that for the purpose of showing that those from whom he sought to deduce title were claimants before the land commissioners, the plaintiff sought to introduce, in connection with the Dodier claim, a certified copy of a request in writing, as found of record in the office of the recorder of land titles in and for the Territory of Missouri, signed by one T. B. Reddick and twelve others, in which these thirteen requested the recorder, "for the benefit of all parties interested, to record the registered concessions in Livre Terrein, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, on file" in his office. It did not appear that those under whom the plaintiffs claimed had any agency in giving this notice. No evidence was offered connecting them with the transaction, nor did it appear that any signer was interested in the lands or represented anyone who was.

The court in which the ejectment was brought rejected this evidence, and the supreme court, adverting to the characteristics of it just mentioned, confirmed its action, adding

"that the paper pointed to a mass of books, and asked that certain records should be made, but named no claimant, described no lands, and did not intimate that anyone was in fact claiming under any of the concessions referred to. "

Page 89 U. S. 260

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