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"Half Breed" Tract History, Claimants and Court Decision


Before any permanent settlement had been made in the Territory of Iowa, white adventurers, trappers and traders, many of whom were scattered along the Mississippi and its tributaries, as agents and employees of the American  Fur Company, intermarried with the females of the Sac and Fox Indians, producing a race of half-breeds, whose number was never definitely ascertained. There were some respectable and excellent people among them, children of men of some refinement and education. For instance: Dr. Muir, a gentleman educated at Edinburgh, Scotland, a surgeon in the United States Army, stationed at a military post located on the present site of Warsaw (Illinois), married an Indian woman, and reared his family of three daughters in the city of Keokuk. Other examples might be cited, but they are probably exceptions to the general rule, and the race is now nearly or quite extinct in Iowa.

A treaty was made at Washington, August 4, 1824, between the Sacs and Foxes and the United States, by which that portion of Lee County was reserved to the half-breeds of those tribes, and which was afterward known as "The Half-Breed Tract." This reservation is the triangular piece of land, containing about 119,000 acres, lying between the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers. It is bounded on the north by the prolongation of the northern line of Missouri. this line was intended to be a straight one, running due east, which would have caused it to strike the Mississippi river at or below Montrose; but the surveyor who run it took no notice of the change in the variation of the needle as he preceded eastward, and, in consequence, the line he run was bent, deviating more and more to the northward of a direct line as he approached the Mississippi, so that it struck that river at the lower edge of the town of Fort Madison. "This erroneous line," says Judge Mason, "has been acquiesced in as well in fixing the northern limit of the Half-Breed Tract as in determining the northern boundary line of the State of Missouri." The line thus run included in the reservation a portion of the lower part of the city of Fort Madison, and all of the present townships of Van Buren, Charleston, Jefferson, Des Moines, Montrose and Jackson.

Under the treaty of 1824, the half-breeds had the right to occupy the soil, but could not convey it, the reversion being reserved to the United States. But on the 30th day of January, 1834, by act of Congress, this reversionary right was relinquished, and the half-breeds acquired the lands in fee simple. This was no sooner done, than a horde of speculators rushed in to buy land of the half-breed owners, and, in many instances, a gun, a blanket, a pony or a few quarts of whisky was sufficient for the purchase of large estates. There was a deal of sharp practice on both sides; Indians would often claim ownership of land by virtue of being half-breeds, and had no difficulty in proving their mixed blood by the Indians, and they would then cheat the speculators by selling land to which they had no rightful title. On the other hand, speculators often claimed land in which they had no ownership. It was diamond cut diamond, until at last things became badly mixed. There were no authorized surveys, and no boundary lines to claims, and, as a natural result, numerous conflicts and quarrels ensued.

To settle these difficulties, to decide the validity of claims or sell them for the benefit of the real owners, by act of the Legislature of Wisconsin Territory, approved January 16, 1838, Edward Johnstone, Thomas S. Wilson and David Brigham were appointed Commissioners, and clothed with power to effect these objects. The act provided that these Commissioners should be paid six dollars a day each. The commission entered upon its duties and continued until the next session of the Legislature, when the act creating it was repealed, invalidating all that had been done and depriving the Commissioners of their pay. The repealing act, however, authorized the commissioners to commence action against the owners of the Half-Breed Tract, to receive pay for their services, in the District Court of Lee County. Two judgments were obtained, and on execution the whole of the tract was sold to Hugh T. Reid, the Sheriff executing the deed. Mr. Reid sold portions of it to various parties, but his own title was questioned and he became involved in litigation. Decisions in favor of Reid and those holding under him were made by both District and Supreme Courts, but in December, 1850, these decisions were finally reversed by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Joseph Webster, plaintiff in error, vs. Hugh T. Reid, and the judgment titles failed. About nine years before the "judgment titles" were finally abrogated as above, another class of titles were brought into competition with them, and in the conflict between the two, the final decision was obtained. These were the titles based on the "decree of partition" issued by the United States District Court for the Territory of Iowa, on the 8th of May, 1841, and certified to by the Clerk on the 2d day of June of that year. Edward Johnstone and Hugh T. Reid, then law partners at Fort Madison, filed the petition for the decree in behalf of the St. Louis claimants of half-breed lands. Francis S. Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner, who was then attorney for the New York Land Company, which held heavy interests in these lands, took a leading part in the measure, and drew up the document in which it was presented to the court. Judge Charles Mason, of Burlington, presided. The plan of partition divided the tract into one hundred and one shares and arranged that each claimant should draw his proportion by lot, and should abide the result, whatever it might be. The arrangement was entered into, the lots drawn, and the plat of the same filed in the Recorder's office, October 6, 1841. Upon this basis the titles to land in the half-Breed Tract are now held.

On page 531 of the same book, it tells pretty much the same thing, just going into the legal and financial aspects a little more. The only additional that might help you is this: "A Member of the Bar" prepared a very full and concise history of the legal contest, and the status of the titles as they existed at the time, which was published in the Keokuk "Register" in December, 1848, where it is preserved, and where it may be reviewed if any of the points involved ever become subjects of controversy or dispute."

From The History of Lee County, Iowa, 1879, transcribed and submitted by Mary Sue Chatfield




In attempting to address you on this occasion, it may be well to take at least a cursory view of the principal mooted points, which have contributed to the disquiet the titles, to the Sac and Fox Half Breed Lands; and which still remain to be settled by the operation of law, or by the action of the parties themselves.  In order, therefore, to a thorough understanding of the subject, we will first examine the treaty between the United States and the Sac and Fox tribes of Indians, concluded at Washington city on the 4th day of August 1824; and secondly, the Act of Congress relinquishing the reversionary interest of the United States in said lands, to said Half Breeds.

First.  In the last clause of the first article in the treaty above referred to, we fine the following provisions, to wit “It being understood, that the small tract of land lying between the rivers Des Moines and Mississippi, and the section of the above line between the Mississippi and the Des Moines in intended for the use of the half breeds belonging to the Sac and Fox nations, they holding it, however, by the same title, and the same manner, that other Indian titles are held.”  Ratified, 18th January 1825.  It would seem that the above provision must necessarily be regarded as the foundation and origin of all title which ever can be obtained to this property.  The Congress of the United States have recognized it as the origin of the tenure by which those land must ever be held, as will be seen by the following act, to wit:

“An Act to relinquish the reversionary interest of the United States in a certain Indian reservation lying between the rivers Mississippi and Des Moines.

Sec. 1st  By it enacted by the Senate and House of representative of the United States of America in Congress assembled.  That all the right, title, and interest, which might accrue or revert to the United State to the reservation of land lying between the rivers Des Moines and Mississippi, which was reserved for the use of the half breeds belonging to the Sac s and Fox nations, now used by them, of some of them, under a treaty made and concluded between the  United States, and the Sacs and Fox tribes, or nations of Indians at Washington, on the Fourth day of August, in the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty four, be and the same are hereby relinquished and vested in the said half breeds of the Sacs and fox tribes or nations of Indians, who at the passage of this act, are under the reservation in the said treaty entitled by the Indian title to the same; with full power and authority to transfer their portions thereof, by sale, devise, or descent, according to the laws of the State of Missouri.

June 30 1834  Approved”

Having now before us the only authoritative documents, which are entitled to our regard, in determining our opinions upon the several questions, which have hitherto distracted the public mind in reference to the rightful ownership of this estate, we will now proceed to examine some of those mooted points, in relevance to the treaty and law, already recited.


First.  The assumption “that this reservation was intended for the exclusive benefit of that class of half breeds who reside among the white people, and who are necessarily precluded any participation in the annuities arising from the sales of other portions of the natural territory; and therefore, that this tract was act apart to them, in lieu of their portion of those annuities,”  has contributed much towards fixing an opinion favorable to the exclusive claims of civilized Half Breeds, as well as extravagant notions in relation to the speculation to be made, by the purchase of those claims.  But should it be admitted, that the above position is in accordance with the original intention of the Sac and Fox deputation at the time of making said treaty, does it follow that this mental design or intention, which is not even hinted, in the remotest manner, in the treaty can be assumed as of sufficient authority to determine this point?  I will here, however, advert to a circumstance which seems to be the issue in point of fact, on this question, viz: several of the identical individuals who composed the Indian deputation at Washington city on the 4th of August 1824, have, in repeated instances, sworn to and subscribed affidavits, declaring the right of uncivilized half breed to share in this reservation.  Who can convict them of mental equivocation?  And if ever that could be done, can parol testimony to admitted to prove, that both the treaty and act of Congress do not mean what they say?  As the exclusive claims of civilization have been entirely lost sight of, by the framers of the documents now before us we shall be compelled to take this matter as it is, and not as we might with to have it.

Secondly.  The next question  which seem to present itself to our consideration _____- other by the treat and act of Congress, those persons among the Sac and fox Indians, who are literally “Half breeds belong to said tribes or nations of Indians,”  but whose composition does not partake of the white man, are entitled to participate in this reservation?

The treat expressly declares that this property was “intended for the use of the half breeds belonging to the Sac and fox nations,” without any other qualification, as to birth or blood; but under the following expressed condition, to wit: They holding it, however by the same title, and in the same manner that other Indian titles are held.” In accordance with this condition of the treaty, the act of Congress seems to restrict the grant to a certain description of half breeds, not of cast, class, birth or blood, but “Half Breeds, who, at the passage of this act, are under the reservation in the said treaty entitled by the Indian title to the same,” &c.  From this description of the persons to whom Congress relinquished this land, it appears that the essential prerequisite is not that the individuals should be one half white, or that they should be civilized or uncivilized, or that they should be clothed in a blanket, or broad cloth, calico or linen, buffalo or deer skins; but they shall not only be Half Breeds belonging to the Sac and Fox nations, but they shall likewise “at the passage of this act” be “entitled by the Indians title to the same.” Hence those Half Breed who used or occupied this tract in the usual Indian mode of occupying land at the date of the passage of the aforesaid act, would seem to have some claim to priority.  Having now before us three classes of half Breeds, the Sac and fox Indians, some of whom, out of each class were, and some were not, holding this land “in the same manner that other Indian titles are held,” at the passage of the act of Congress aforesaid; the questions therefore, is not whether she was clad in a scarlet blanket, a silk gown or a gingham frock, nor whether he wore boots, shoes or moccasins; but where did he or she reside?

And did he or she hold any part of this tract in actual or constructive possession, as required by the Treaty at the date of the relinquishment by Congress?

The Treat not only defines the character of the tenure by which this land should be held, but also the manner of holding it.  Nearly ten years had elapsed, between the date of the treaty and the act of Congress, affording people time to all individuals concerned, to take at least an Indian like possession of this property, it would seem, therefore, that those Half Breeds who did not hold this tract of land “in the same manner that other Indian titles are held” on the 30th day of June 1834, could not be “entitled by the Indian title to the same.”

Thirdly.  Many persons whose pinions are entitled to the highest respect, are under a firm conviction, that these Half Breeds of whatever class they may be, who died prior to the relinquishment by Congress while the land was held by Indian tenure, could vest in their heirs, or legal representatives, no estate or interest, by descent, but that such estate passed to the survivors.  There are many other debatable points, which have been, or may hereafter be raised, such for the instance as the following, to wit:

1st.  Does not the act of Congress relinquishing these land, contemplate that the Half Breed for whose use it was intended, had taken possession thereof, and were using the same “under the reservation in the said treat?”

2d. Was this tract intended for civilized Half Breeds exclusively?

3d. Was it intended for the use of the uncivilized half breeds exclusively, as they were to hold “it by the same title, and in the same manner that other” uncivilized “Indian titles are held?”

4th Whether should the civilized or uncivilized Half Breed be regarded as most correctly “belonging to the Sac and Fox nations?”

5th Was not this reservation intended for the use of all the half breeds of the Sac and Fox nations, independent of all other circumstances?

Impressed with the opinion that this reservation was vested exclusively in the civilized Half breeds, and aware that there were only about forty persons of this class the first purchases were made, in many instances at high prices, and all cases with a view to extensive speculation.  But at it became a matter of increasing interest, it was also subjected to closer examination; which resulted in the present general opinion, that neither the Treaty or the law of Congress have given any preference to civilized Half Breed above others.  Influenced by this view of the subject, the “Blanket claims” (as they have been styled.) have also be brought into market, and purchased up, though generally at reduced prices in the first instance.   Among this class of Half Breed here denominated “blanket claimants,” we have a third cast, viz. such persons as have already been referred to as not partaking of the ways of white men, but being descended from parents of whom only one was Sac or Fox, the other being Ottoway, Pottowattamie, Winnebago, & c. & c.  These are, therefore, half breed belonging to the Sac and Fox nations; and the Chiefs and head men had swore, that they also, are entitled to share in this reservation.  And under a conviction, that there is nothing in the treaty or law of Congress, which precludes them from a participation in this property, their portions or shares have also been purchased, and are now matters of record.  By this process the secret is disclosed, how, and in what manner the original forty claimants have been multiplied, first, to about a hundred, and last to more than ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY PERSONS.  It is by no means strange that men should adopt those views, which appear most favorable to the pretensions, of that particular class of Half Breeds under whom they claim.  And whilst they regard themselves as the fortunate few, who are to acquire by this enterprise an immense fortune, they have often deemed it necessary to invalidate and decry the pretensions of others. 

Fourthly.  We will now examine the present condition of this estate, in relation to its present and future prospects.  For the last ten years, the timber upon this tract has been esteemed as common booty, and within that time, more that Fifty thousand dollars damage has been sustained by the owners of the property, in the loss of its most valuable timber; and it is to be regretted, that this system of plunder is still increasing – if the present state of things continue, a few years more, this beautiful tract of country will be stripped of all its valuable timber. The ineffectual efforts already made to quiet the titles to this property, has only confirmed public opinion in the absolute uncertainty of ever accomplishing this object.  And distrust among the claimants themselves, has excited a public apprehension, that a compromise will never be effected, and the consequent uncertainty of title, has, both repelled emigrants, and invited trespassers.

It has already been suggested, that the difficulties in relation to the ownership of this property, still remain to be settled by the operation of law, or by the section of the action of the parties themselves.  And first, of the operations of law, it would seem that we have had more than enough, already.

Many had turned all their hopes of success to the late Act of Wisconsin legislature, believing that if the provisions of that law could be carried into effect, the numerous vexed questions which had long disturbed the titles to this estate, would be fairly and finally settled.  The valid claimants ascertained, and the land partitioned amongst them or sold, and the proceeds divided under the direction of the district Court.  But how disappointed have been the expectations, of even the warmest friends to this measure.  Every step that was taken, to carry out the provisions of that law, was obstructed by accumulating obstacles.  It was urged that the legislature had no right to interfere – That the Judiciary of the Territory had exclusive, and sole jurisdiction of not only making up a judgment upon all those points of controversy, but likewise the exclusive right of superintending the progress of every minutiae, in the course of these investigations.  Together with many other objections, which it is useless to enumerate.  This law therefore being unavailing not from any real defect therein, but from the squeamishness of some, who were charged with its administration, it was thought best to repeal it, which has been done accordingly, by the late legislative assembly of Iowa Territory.  We are now told that the late legislature of Iowa, have enacted another law, under the title of a general partition law, which is intended to afford the desired relief.  So far as I am capable of judging, it is infinitely inferior, to the one repealed, and possesses no adaptation whatever to the case in question, unless the presumption can be established; that the owners of the Half Breed Lands, are Infants, idiots, and Lunatics, and in that event the law is a good one, provided the friends of [those not of sound mound] are pleased with the judge of the District Court, in his super-added relation as Guardian.

I am fully persuaded that if any law not existing in the Territory, or any law hereafter to be enacted, with every possible fitness to the subject, was attempted, to enforce the adjustment of the present difficulties it would result in consuming more than the whole estate is worth, in Court charges, Attorney’s fees,  &c. &c.  Many who had commenced their legal career, with the strongest probabilities of success, would be disappointed; while others, who were almost despairing at the outset, would find themselves to be the successful party, but not until they have paid well, the second time, for their property, or being unable so to do; those who had fought the battle, must take the spoils.

We might advert to the lawless character of that extraordinary tax sale, in December last, as evidence, that the existing authorities in this Territory, do not desire, an adjustment of this matter, advantageous to the present proprietors, but would rather lay the foundation for a new enterprise, in the form of tax-titles.  And if we may be permitted to infer, from the extraordinary character of their recent legislation in other matters; we should not be disappointed if the next legislative assembly, should declare the fee simple to be duly vested, in such tax claimant.

It is true that the tax sale alluded to, is unconstitutional, and unlawful, in reference to the very law under which it was pretended to be sold.  But if we are not robbed, It is not because an effort for that purpose has been wanting.  Another cloud is thrown over this, already abstruse affair; and the projectors of this new scheme of speculation, doubtless contemplate security in the density of the cloud, to which this pretended sale is designed to contribute.  And now, after two years legislating what has been accomplished?  Instead of relief from our former troubles; our embarrassments have been increased, and our property rendered almost worthless.  Shall we suffer ourselves any longer to be thus inveigled, by the fallacious protections of those, who, while they affect to assist us, will ride our pockets, and run away with the spoils? Or shall we abandon those golden notions which were conceived at an early period in the history of this operation; and acting generously towards each other, make such reasonable concessions to one another, as may at least afford an indemnity to all?  When we reflect on the almost endless appeals which, inevitably, will be taken from one court to another; and the reversed decisions which may be anticipated with certainty: who that wishes to realize even a dollar, from his investments in this property, can, for a moment hesitate, between, the operations of law and the compromising action of the parties themselves?  Should we however, continue, to entertain such overweening notions of our own exclusive pretensions, as to reject the proposed compromise, we must not be disappointed if we should entail to our posterity, a fruitful source, of law suits and ruin.  In conclusion, we will next enquire what the parties can do for themselves.

Fifthly.  Surrounded as this affair has been, with each a mass of accumulated embarrassments, I should long since, have abandoned it, as a hopeless case, but I have always been accustomed to confide in the people themselves: and I still believe that they will act prudently and wisely, as soon as they can act understandingly.  The first step necessarily to be taken, in order to affect a union, and concert of action among the whole body of claimants; will be for those who have hitherto regarded themselves, as exclusive owners of this property to pare down, their extravagant expectations; and abandoning these golden dreams, act justly and generously, toward those claimants, whose pretensions they have been disposed to disallow. A union upon equitable terms, to all the parties interested may be regarded as advantageous, as much to one class of claimants as to another.  But it is urged by some, that by this plan, of admitting the claims of all who have a fair appearance of title, upon the public records, we shall greatly diminish the quantity of land, to which each individual will be entitled. This is true; but it is an easy matter to determine, who are the losers?  If we can readily ascertain this point, our object is already attained, we need proceed no further.   This question would again involve, the reconsideration of the entire subject; and leave us where we began.  If indeed, the quantity of land to which each individual may be entitled, should be hereby diminished; it is equally true that this disadvantage will be more than counterbalanced, by the increased value of the property, arising from the security of the titles and the severalty of the ownership.  This property has never been esteemed as valuable, at any other period of its history as it was in the summer of 1837; when an effort, similar in its general character to the one now contemplated was attempted, and might have succeeded, had it been incumbered with fewer heads and less jealousy.  I hope to be excused, for saying, that I have always attributed the failure of that effort, in a great measure, to the circumstance of having committed the management of these affairs, to persons unacquainted with the local difficulties, which incumbered the subject.  And those gentlemen with whom I endeavored to act, at that time, will do me the justice, to say, that it was with extreme reluctance, that I relinquished the scheme of a compromise, for a resort to legislation.  This property has been rapidly depreciating in value, during the last two years; hence the interests of all the parties concerned, as well as the peace of society, and prosperity of that valuable section of the Territory, require that these causes of disquietude should be speedily and efficiently removed.  And to this end, a respectable proportion of the persons interested, have already agreed to associate themselves; and through the agency, of one or more, general grantees, to effect a partition, but sale or otherwise, of  so much of the land as the parties so united, may seem, from the public records, to be entitled; assuming that there are one hundred and sixty original claimants, to one hundred and nineteen thousand acres of land, to be equally divided, quantity and quality, relatively considered.  All persons therefore, claiming interest in this property are respectfully invited to call at the office of the subscriber in Montrose, Lee County, I. T. at as early a day as may be convenient, for the purpose of adopting such measures, as may be thought most advisable to secure the interest of all the parties concerned.

I am gentlemen, very respectfully &c.

Transcribed from the Library of Congress and contributed by Sue Simonich



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.”


Transcribed from microfilm and contributed by Sue Simonich

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