Lee County Iowa Genealogy

Half-Breed Lands – Decision of the Courts

The Keokuk Register
Keokuk, Lee County, Iowa, Thursday, December 14, 1848

Transcribed by Sue Simonich  May 2003 from microfilm.

As many persons have a desire to ascertain the situation of the title to what is called the “Half Breed Tract” in Lee County, and the progress of judicial decision in settling the questions respecting the title, the following statement and remarks are made to inform such as may be unacquainted on the subject.

 The Half Breed Tract was reserved by treaty for the Half Breeds to be held as an act of Congress to the Half Breeds whereby they became the fee simple owners with power to sell or dives the same.  A suit was instituted in the district court of Lee County, then in the Territory of Iowa praying partition among the proprietors of the lands and the same was divided into shares in severalty.  Prior to the partition just mentioned, judgment had been recovered in the same Court under a special law authorizing the plaintiffs to sue the owners of the Half Breed Tract, by that designation to recover their demands for services rendered to them and expenses incurred while sitting as Commissioners to take proof respecting their claims; and making the judgments a lien on the Half Breed Tract.  After the partition had been made executions issued upon those judgments upon which the Half Breed Tract was sold and conveyed by the sheriff to Hugh T. Reid The Half Breed Tract before the partition was made had been settled upon by squatters who generally claimed no title to the land but many of the united with those who sat up claims which had not been allowed at all or allowed for as much land as was expected in condemning the partition as unjust and fraudulent.  A Bill in Chancery therefore was filed in Lee District court impeaching the Decree for fraud the venue of which was changed to the County of Muscatine but a compromise among the parties taking place during its pendency a decree in consequence was made, dismissing the suit.  There still being others alleging claims not included in the partition nor in the compromise, two other Bills in Chauncery to set aside the partition were filed in the district Court of Lee County to which demurrers were filed and sustained by the Court, and the suits being taken to the Supreme Court, were dismissed by the complainants without prejudice to any other suits that might be brought by the complainants.  Still another Bill was filed in the same Court to impeach the partition for fraud which was removed to Muscatine County, owing to the Judge of the Lee district Court (Judge Williams) having been connected with it as counsel where on demurrer heard and decided by Judge Grant the suit was dismissed.  Various Actions of Right have been commenced in the District Court of Lee County on the partition title commonly called the ‘Decree title’ and on trial of one of them before Judge Williams the validity of title was assailed; but the title was sustained and from that decision a writ of error has been prosecuted to the Supreme court of Iowa which has not been decided. Another action of Right was tried before Judge Olney holding court for Judge Williams at the November Term of the District court of Lee County 1848 based on the ‘Decree Title’ which was assailed again as invalid but was held again by Judge Olney to be valid.  The case decided by Judge Olney as well as the case decided by Judge Grant can be taken up to the Supreme Court as the period allowed by law for that purpose has not expired.  These are the decisions that have been made on the validity of the partition or “Decree title.”

            The title of Reid commonly called the “Judgment title” has also undergone judicial investigation.  First a motion was made in the District court of Lee County to set aside the sale made by Sheriff to Reid which was overruled.  Next Reid brought an Action of Right against Joseph Webster in the Lee District Court on his title and recovered judgment before Judge Mason then Judge of the Court and on the trial of which Reid’s title was opposed on the ground of invalidity from the decision of the Court a write of error was prosecuted to the Supreme Court of the Territory of Iowa, where the alleged defects of Reid’s title were presented, but his title was held valid by the unanimous decision of the Supreme court composed of Judges Mason, Williams and Wilson and from their decision attempts have been made to prosecute a write of error to the Supreme Court of the United State but the case has not yet been brought before that Court for their decision.

            After Iowa became a State, Judge Williams decided in an Action brought in the lee District Court, and on the “judgment title” that the same was invalid; holding that he was not bound to regard the decision of the Supreme Court of the Territory in the case of Webster against Reid as binding authority, from which decision Reid prosecuted a write of error to the Supreme court of Iowa, but no decision of that Court since the adoption of the State Constitution has been rendered.  At the November Term of the District Court of Lee County in 1848 in an Action of Right based on the title of Reid or “judgment title” Judge Olney decided that the same was valid; holding that the decision in the case of Webster against Reid was binding authority.  From this decision a write of error may be prosecuted to the Supreme Court of the State.

            From the foregoing statement it will be seen that what is called the “Decree title” has received the judicial decision sanctioning its validity by the following Courts. First, by the District Court of Lee County that made the partition Judge Mason then presiding. Second on two Bill & impeaching the Decree or fraud --- in the Lee District Court on demurrer also by Judge Mason.  Third --- an Action of Right decided in the district Court of Lee County by Judge Williams.  Fourth in another Bill impeaching the Decree for fraud, decided on demurrer in the district Court of Muscatine County, by Judge Grant.  And fifth, in an Action of Right decided by Judge Olney in the district Court of Lee county. All of which decisions wee pronounced upon full and able arguments made by the court when the partition was made.  The title of Reid or “judgment title” as it is called, has also received judicial sanction by the following Courts. First in the case of Reid against Webster tried as mentioned before in the district Court of Lee Co. before Judge Mason.  Second on a write of error before the Supreme Court of Iowa Territory.  Third, in an Action of Right tried in the District court of Lee Co. at the November Term 1848 before Judge Olney.  So that what is called the Decree title has just been decided by five Courts in different suits and every time has been sustained while what is called the judgment title has undergone judicial investigation in different Courts four times and has been sustained every time except one decision before Judge Williams in the District Court of Lee Co.  The Decree title has been sustained by the decision of four judges viz Mason, Grant, Williams and Olney siting as Judges of District courts.  The judgment title has been sustained by four Judges also, vix by Judges Mason and Olney istting as judges of the District Court and by Judges Williams & Wilson sitting with Judge Mason as Judges of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Iowa.  Both titles have the sanctions of the same number of Judges but they different in these particulars to wit; that no Judge has decided against the Decree title, whereas one has decided against the judgment title:  2nd that all the decision given on the Decree title were pronounced by the District Court a subordinate Court whereas one of the three decisions given in support of the judgment title was rendered by the Supreme Court of Iowa Territory having the power, to affirm or reverse the decisions of the District Court.  If there was one decision against the judgment title by Judge Williams, this is more than compensated by the superior authority of the decision of the Supreme court of Iowa respected by Judge Olney, but disregarded by Judge Williams which decision was in sanction of the judgment title.  If we may infer what will be the future from the past decisions, the reasonable conclusion is that both what is called the “Judgment title” to the lands and lots on the Half Breed Tract will be held valid by  the final decision of the Supreme Court and that both are good.  It may be inquired as it is often asked how can both be good?  It is answered that they are both good and valid as links and different links in the chain of title which was originally in the United States next in Half Breeds, then in those whom Decree give it by the partition.  Thus far the chain is good according to the decisions which have affirmed the legality of the partition and what is meant by the Decree title being good is that the partition cannot be set aside by any decreeing a new partition against the parties to the partition or any one claiming under them and relying on the partition as a link in the chain of his title.

            So Reid’s title or the “Judgment title” is good and is derived as follows viz, first that the title was in the Half Breeds as before spoken of, then judgments were obtained against the owners of the Half Breed Tract (which was a lien on the Tract) and a deed from the Sheriff to Reid as purchaser of the Half Breed Tract under the executions which issued on those judgments – And this title is also good to any person claiming under it as showing a valid title to the land derived from the United State by a regular chain of title.  Both titles are good standing alone before the Court, as the basis of adjudications, and a person owning both or claiming under both can recover in an Action of right against any person in this respect both are legal and valid.  But in a contest between those claiming under the “Decree title” and “Judgment title” one plaintiff and the other defendant, where the Court will have to decide which is superior, the Decrees title or the Judgment title, in that case the Judgment title will be superior, because the two titles stand in the same relation as the title of a defendant to judgment after his land has been sold and conveyed under execution on judgment by the Sheriff, and the title of the purchaser of his land under Sheriff’s sale and deed and in such case, the purchasers title will be superior because the Sheriff & deed transferred all the title the defendant in the judgment had to the purchaser.

            So the title of Reid or “Judgment title” is superior to the “Decree title” in a contest between them, because the Sheriff’s deed to Reid conveyed to him the Half Breed Tract on an execution against all the owners of the Half Breed Tract (after the Decree of partition was rendered.)and it makes no difference who owned it whether they were half Breeds or others, or whether they were I one out of the Decree or whether there had been a partition or not, or whether if a partition had been made of it , was fraudulent or not, for b the deed, no matter who ever had the title to the land, the same was transferred o Reid.  It follows then that with both titles or either of them a settler may be ejected; if the Decree title is invalid, then on the Judgment title he may be ejected; if the Judgment title is invalid and the Decree title is valid, then on the decree title he may be ejected if both are valid, and the question Is which is superior, in a contest between them then Reid’s or the Judgment title is best.  If both are united unless both are invalid the title will be indisputable.

            Another illustration of the comparative strength of the Decree title and the Judgment title was given in a suit between Hugh T. Reid and John M. Young tired at the November Term of the District Court of Lee Co. 1848 in which Reid relied on his judgment title alone. After Reid had closed his evidence Young gave the Decree title in evidence to show that Reid’s title was barred by the Decree, because the Judgment as incumbrances were not allowed in the Decree, and the Judgment title, invalid, thereby opposing the Decree title to the Judgment title, directly, and requiring the court to decide which was superior and the jury gave a verdict which was to depend on that question if decided in favor of the Judgment title by the Judge, then judgment for Reid, if in favor of the Decree title, then judgment to be rendered for Young.

            Judge Olney, after taking time to carefully examine the subject and after hearing argument on both sides, decided that the Judgment title was superior to the Decree title and was “The title.”


Return to Lee Co IaGenWeb