Erhardt v. Boaro , 113 U.S. 527 ( 1885 )

  • 113 U.S. 527 (1885)

    BOARO & Others.

    Supreme Court of United States.

    Argued January 14, 1885.
    Decided March 2, 1885.

    *532 Mr. Elihu Root for plaintiff in error.

    Mr. C.S. Thomas and Mr. T.M. Patterson for defendants in error.

    *533 MR. JUSTICE FIELD, after stating the case in the above mentioned language, delivered the opinion of the court:

    As seen by the statement of the case, the court below, in its charge, assumed that the notice on the stake, placed by Carroll at the point of his discovery, contained no specification or description of the ground claimed by the locators, because it did not designate the number of feet claimed on each side of that point, or in any direction from it. The court accordingly instructed the jury that the notice was deficient, and under it the locators could not claim any more than the very place in which the stake was planted, and that elsewhere on the same lode beyond the point of discovery any other citizen could make a valid location.

    In this instruction we think the court erred. The statute allows the discoverer of a lode or vein to locate a claim thereon to the extent of fifteen hundred feet. The written notice posted on the stake at the point of discovery of the lode or vein in controversy, designated by the locators as "Hawk Lode," declares that they claim fifteen hundred feet on the "lode, vein, or deposit." It thus informed all persons, subsequently seeking to excavate and open the lode or vein, that the locators claimed the whole extent along its course which the law permitted them to take. It is indeed indefinite in not stating the number of feet claimed on each side of the discovery point; and must, therefore, be limited to an equal number on each side, that is, to seven hundred and fifty feet on the course of the lode or vein in each direction from that point. To that extent, as a notice of discovery and original location, it is sufficient. Greater particularity of description of a location of a mining claim on a lode or vein could seldom be given until subsequent excavations have disclosed the course of the latter. These excavations are to be made within sixty days after the discovery. Then the location must be distinctly marked on the ground, so that its boundaries can be readily traced, and, within one month thereafter, that is, within three months from the discovery, a certificate of the location must be filed for record in the county in which the lode is situated, containing the designation of the lode, the names of the locators, the date of the location, the *534 number of feet claimed on each side of the centre of the discovery shaft, the general course of the lode, and such a description of the claim, by reference to some natural object or permanent monument, as will identify it with reasonable certainty. Rev. Stat. § 2324; Gen. Laws of Colorado, §§ 1813-1814.

    But during the intermediate period, from the discovery of the lode or vein and its excavation, a general designation of the claim by notice, posted on a stake placed at the point of discovery, such as was posted by Carroll, stating the date of the location, the extent of the ground claimed, the designation of the lode and the names of the locators, will entitle them to such possession as will enable them to make the necessary excavations and prepare the proper certificate for record. The statute of Colorado requires that the discoverer, before a certificate of location is filed for record, shall, in addition to posting the notice mentioned at the point of discovery, sink a shaft upon the lode to the depth of at least ten feet from the lowest part of such shaft under the surface, or deeper, if necessary, to show a defined crevice and to mark the surface boundaries of the claim. Before this work could be done by the plaintiff and his collocator, the ground claimed by them was taken possession of by the defendants, the stake at the point of discovery, upon which the notice was posted, was removed, and Carroll was thereby, and by threats of violence, prevented from re-entering upon the premises and completing the work required to perfect the location and, prepare a certificate for record — at least, the evidence tended to establish these facts. If they existed, and this was a question for the jury, the plaintiff was entitled to recover possession of the premises. To the extent of seven hundred and fifty feet on the course of the lode on each side from the point of discovery, he and his co-locator were entitled to protection in the possession of their claim. They did not lose their right to perfect their location, and perform the necessary work for that purpose, by the wrongful intrusion upon the premises, and by threats of violence if they should attempt to resume possession. As against the defendants, they were entitled to be reinstated into the possession of their claim. They could not be deprived of their inchoate rights by the tortious *535 acts of others; nor could the intruders and trespassers initiate any rights which would defeat those of the prior discoverers.

    The government of the United States has opened the public mineral lands to exploration for the precious metals, and, as a reward to the successful explorer, grants to him the right to extract and possess the mineral within certain prescribed limits. Before 1866, mining claims upon the public lands were held under regulations adopted by the miners themselves in different localities. These regulations were framed with such just regard for the rights of all seekers of the precious metals, and afforded such complete protection, that they soon received the sanction of the local legislatures and tribunals; and, when not in conflict with the laws of the United States, or of the State or Territory in which the mining ground was situated, were appealed to for the protection of miners in their respective claims, and the settlement of their controversies. And although since 1866 Congress has to some extent legislated on the subject, prescribing the limits of location and appropriation and the extent of mining ground which one may thus acquire, miners are still permitted, in their respective districts, to make rules and regulations not in conflict with the laws of the United States or of the State or Territory in which the districts are situated, governing the location, manner of recording, and amount of work necessary to hold possession of a claim. Rev. Stat. § 2324. In all legislation, whether of Congress or of the State or Territory, and by all mining regulations and rules, discovery and appropriation are recognized as the sources of title to mining claims, and development, by working, as the condition of continued ownership, until a patent is obtained. And whenever preliminary work is required to define and describe the claim located, the first discoverer must be protected in the possession of the claim until sufficient excavations and development can be made, so as to disclose whether a vein or deposit of such richness exists as to justify work to extract the metal. Otherwise, the whole purpose of allowing the free exploration of the public lands for the precious metals would in such cases be defeated, and force and violence in the struggle *536 for possession, instead of previous discovery, would determine the rights of claimants.

    It does not appear, in this case, that there were any mining regulations in the vicinity of the "Hawk Lode," which affect in any respect the questions involved here. Had such regulations existed they should have been proved as facts in the case. We are therefore left entirely to the laws of the United States and the laws of Colorado on the subject. And the laws of the United States do not prescribe any time in which the excavations necessary to enable the locator to prepare and record a certificate shall be made. That is left to the legislation of the State, which, as we have stated, prescribes sixty days for the excavations upon the vein from the date of discovery, and thirty days afterwards for the preparation of the certificate and filing it for record. In the judgment of the legislature of that State this was reasonable time.

    This allowance of time for the development of the character of the lode or vein does not, as intimated by counsel, give encouragement to mere speculative locations, that is, to locations made without any discovery or knowledge-of the existence of metal in the ground claimed, with a view to obtain the benefit of a possible discovery of metal by others within that time. A mere posting of a notice on a ridge of rocks cropping out of the earth, or on other ground, that the poster has located thereon a mining claim, without any discovery or knowledge on his part of the existence of metal there, or in its immediate vicinity, would be justly treated as a mere speculative proceeding, and would not itself initiate any right. There must be something beyond a mere guess on the part of the miner to authorize him to make a location which will exclude others from the ground, such as the discovery of the presence of the precious metals in it, or in such proximity to it as to justify a reasonable belief in their existence. Then protection will be afforded to the locator to make the necessary excavations and prepare the proper certificate for record. It would be difficult to lay down any rules by which to distinguish a speculative location from one made in good faith with a purpose to make excavations and ascertain the character of the lode or vein, so as to determine whether *537 it will justify the expenditures required to extract the metal; but a jury from the vicinity of the claim will seldom err in their conclusions on the subject.

    This case, as appears by the record, is brought in the name of one of the locators, Erhardt, who owns only four-fifths of the claim. But as a tenant in common with Carroll, he can maintain an action of ejectment for the possession of the premises, the recovery being not merely for his benefit but for that of his co-tenant, who is equally entitled with him to the possession.

    It follows from what we have said that

    The judgment of the court below must be reversed and the case remanded for a new trial; and it is so ordered.

Document Info

DocketNumber: 158

Citation Numbers: 113 U.S. 527, 5 S. Ct. 560, 28 L. Ed. 1113, 1885 U.S. LEXIS 1701

Judges: Field, After Stating the Case in the Above Mentioned Language

Filed Date: 3/2/1885

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 4/15/2017

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Ranchers Exploration and Development Co. v. Anaconda Co. , 248 F. Supp. 708 ( 1965 )

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