MR. JUSTICE FIELD, after making the above statement, delivered the opinion of the court.
It was conceded in the court below that the premises, to remove the cloud from which the present bill is filed, were at the time "pueblo lands" of San Francisco; that is, that they were part of the lands claimed by the city as successor of a Mexican pueblo of that name; that they are within the limits of the city of San Francisco as prescribed by the charter of 1851, and are within the four square leagues described in the decree of the United States Circuit Court for the District of California, entered May 18, 1865, by which the claim of the city as such successor was confirmed and its boundaries established, and also within the lines of the patent of the United States for the pueblo lands, issued to the city in 1884.
It was also stipulated that the decree of the Circuit Court and the patent of the United States should be considered as in evidence, and that all the statutes of California and of the United States affecting the pueblo lands of San Francisco might be referred to, in the consideration of the case, as though formally introduced in evidence.
The testimony, documentary and otherwise, produced in the case, gives a very clear as well as accurate account of the origin, nature and extent of the title claimed by the city of San Francisco, or the city and county of San Francisco, to its municipal lands, as successors to the rights of the former pueblo. This history has been related in several cases in this court, notably in Trenouth v. San Francisco, 100 U.S. 251; Palmer v. Low, 98 U.S. 1; Grisar v. McDowell, 6 Wall. 363; and Townsend v. Greeley, 5 Wall. 326. A brief statement of the principal facts only will be necessary to an intelligent disposition of the questions presented for consideration.
When California was occupied by the forces of the United States in 1846 there was a Mexican pueblo at San Francisco, that is, a settlement or town under the Mexican government, with alcaldes and other officers, for the administration of its municipal affairs. It was the law of Mexico that pueblos or towns, when once recognized by public authority, became entitled, for their benefit and that of their inhabitants, to the use of lands constituting the site of such pueblos or towns, and adjoining territory, to the extent of four square leagues, to be measured off and assigned to them by officers of the government. Townsend v. Greeley, 5 Wall. 326, 336. Under those laws the pueblo of San Francisco asserted a claim to four square leagues, to be measured off from the northern portion of the peninsula on which the present city is situated. The alcaldes, or officers of the town, under the Mexican government, exercised the power of distributing the lands in small parcels to the inhabitants, for building, cultivation and other uses, the remainder being generally held for commons and other public purposes. When our forces took possession of San Francisco citizens of the United States were appointed by
In April, 1850, San Francisco was incorporated by the state government as a city. She at once claimed the lands of the pueblo as its successor, and, after the Board of Land Commissioners to settle private land claims in California was created by act of Congress in March, 1851, prosecuted her claim to this land for confirmation. 9 Stat. c. 41, p. 631. In December, 1854, that board confirmed her claim to a portion of the four square leagues and denied it for the balance. The city appealed to the District Court of the United States from that decision, and the appeal remained there for some years undisposed of. In September, 1864, the case was transferred from that court to the Circuit Court of the United States, under the authority of the act of Congress to expedite the settling of titles to lands in the State of California, 13 Stat. 333, c. 194, § 4; and in October following its claim was confirmed to four square leagues, subject to certain reservations. The decree of final confirmation, in its present form, was not entered until the 18th of May, 1865. That decree confirmed the claim of the city to a tract of land embracing so much of the upper portion of the peninsula which is situated above the ordinary high-water mark of 1846, as would contain an area of four square leagues, the tract being bounded on the north and east by the bay of San Francisco, on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and on the south by a due east and west line drawn so as to include the area designated, subject to certain deductions which it is unnecessary to mention here. The confirmation was to San Francisco in trust for the benefit of lot-holders under grants from the pueblo, town or city of San Francisco, or
In April, 1851, the charter of San Francisco was repealed and a new charter adopted. Pending the appeal of the pueblo claim in the United States District Court, the Van Ness ordinance, above mentioned, was passed by the common council of the city, by which the city relinquished and granted all its right and claim to land within its corporate limits as defined by its charter of 1851, with certain exceptions, to parties in the actual possession thereof by themselves or tenants on or before the first of January, 1855; provided such possession was continued up to the time of the introduction of the ordinance into the common council, which was in June, 1855, or, if interrupted by an intruder or trespasser, had been or might be recovered by legal process; and it declared that for the purposes contemplated by the ordinance persons should be deemed possessors who held titles to land within those limits by virtue of a grant made by any ayuntamiento, town council, alcalde or justice of the peace of the former pueblo before the 7th of July, 1846, or by virtue of a grant subsequently made by the authorities, within certain limits of the city previous to its incorporation by the State, provided the grant, or a material portion of it, had been recorded in a proper book of records in the control of the recorder of the county previous to April 3, 1851. The city among other things, reserved from the grant all the lots which it then occupied or had set apart for public squares, streets, and sites for school houses, city hall, and other buildings belonging to the corporation, but what lots or parcels were thus occupied or set apart does not appear.
Subsequently, in March, 1858, the legislature of the State ratified and confirmed this ordinance, (Stats. of Cal. of 1858, c. 66, p: 52,) and by the fifth section of the act of Congress to expedite the settlement of titles to lands in the State of California, the right and title of the United States to the lands claimed within the corporate limits of the charter of 1851 were relinquished and granted to the city and its successors for the uses and purposes specified in that ordinance. 13 Stat. 333, c. 194, § 5.
Whilst these appeals were pending, Congress passed the act of March 8, 1866, to quiet the title to the land within the city limits. 14 Stat. c. 13, p. 4. At that time the limits of the city were coincident with those of the county, and embraced the whole of the four square leagues confirmed. By that act all the right and title of the United States to the land covered by the decree of the Circuit Court were relinquished and granted to the city, and the claim to the land was confirmed, subject, however, to certain reservations and exceptions, and in trust that all land not previously granted to the city should be disposed of and conveyed by the city to the parties in the bona fide actual possession thereof, by themselves or tenants, on the passage of the act, in such quantities and on such terms and conditions as the legislature of the State of California might prescribe, excepting such parcels as might be reserved and set apart by ordinance of the city for public uses. In consequence of this act the appeals pending were dismissed. Townsend v. Greeley, 5 Wall. 326. The title of the city, therefore, rests upon the decree of the court recognizing its title to the four square leagues, and establishing the boundaries, and the confirmatory acts of Congress. Grisar v. McDowell, 6 Wall. 363.
The trust upon which the city held the municipal lands it had acquired as successor of the Mexican pueblo, as declared in the decree of confirmation, was a public and municipal trust, to be exercised chiefly in the distribution of the lands to occupants and settlers and in the use of the remainder for the public purposes of the city; and the exercise was subject to the supervision and control of the legislative authority either of the State or of the United States, and it does not matter which, inasmuch as its exercise, as directed by the Van Ness
The claims of the grantors of the plaintiffs to the title to the lands, through conveyances from Kissling, and from Thorne and Center, are fully sustained by the evidence. Kissling settled upon a parcel of the land in relation to which this suit is brought, in March, 1849. He was at the time a native of Denmark, but had declared his intention to become an American citizen, and in the notice which he recorded of his claim he represented it as a preëmption right to one hundred and sixty acres of land in the district of San Francisco. That claim of itself was of no value whatever, as the lands were not subject to preëmption, not being lands of the United States, nor would they have been even if owned by the United States,
The same may be said of the claim taken up by Thorne and Center on the 5th of August, 1850, and which purported to cover sixty acres. Of itself, it was, like the other, of no validity, and conferred no rights, for the land was not public land open to acquisition in that way. But these parties enclosed the land, occupied and cultivated it, and exercised acts of ownership over it, until the 15th of July, 1854, when they sold four and one-half acres of it to one Charles V. Stewart. They continued, however, to exercise ownership over the residue during all the period required by the Van Ness ordinance to obtain its benefits and the transfer of title from the city. As to the four and one-half acres sold, the grantee continued in the possession and use of that portion also, during the period required by the ordinance.
The title to the lands thus claimed by Kissling, and by Thorne and Center, and by Stewart as a purchaser from them of four and a half acres, became, by operation of that ordinance and the confirmatory legislation mentioned vested in those parties, and by their conveyance passed to William J. Shaw, and was by him conveyed to Eugene L. Sullivan, and thence to the plaintiffs in this suit. All the right, title, and interest which the city held, and which could be conveyed under the Van Ness ordinance, had therefore passed to Shaw when the suit to quiet his title was commenced and carried to judgment in the District Court of the Twelfth Judicial District Court of the State, and whatever benefit Shaw had acquired by that decree in his favor enured to the benefit of his grantees, the public rights reserved by the Van Ness ordinance
We do not attach any importance, upon this question of reservation, to the deed of the tide-land commissioners, executed to Sullivan on the 3d of December, 1870, for the State did not at that time own any tide or marsh lands within the limits of the pueblo as finally established by the Land Department. All the marsh lands, so called, which the State of California ever owned, were granted to her by the act of Congress of September 28, 1850, known as the Swamp-land Act, by which the swamp and overflowed lands within the limits of certain States, thereby rendered unfit for cultivation, were granted to the States to enable them to construct the necessary levees and drains to reclaim them. 9 Stat. c. 84, p. 519. The interest of the pueblo in the lands within its limits goes back to the acquisition of the country, and precedes the the passage of that act of Congress. And that act was never intended to apply to lands held by the United States charged with any equitable claims of others, which they were bound by treaty to protect. As to tide-lands, although it may be stated as a general principle — and it was so held in Weber v. Board of Harbor Commissioners, 18 Wall. 57, 65, — that the
The decree should therefore be modified by adding the declaration that nothing therein shall be deemed to impair in any respect the rights reserved in the Van Ness ordinance to the city of San Francisco, or to its successor, the city and county of San Francisco, over lands that had then been occupied or set apart for streets, squares and public buildings of the city, and as thus modified be affirmed; and it is so ordered.
Van Ness Ordinance.
"SEC. 2. The city of San Francisco hereby relinquishes and grants all the right and claim of the city to the lands within the corporate limits, to the parties in the actual possession thereof, by themselves or tenants, on or before the first day of January, A.D., 1855, and to their heirs and assigns forever; excepting the property known as the slip property, and bounded on the north by Clay Street, on the west by Davis Street, on the south by Sacramento Street, and on the east by the water-lot front. And excepting, also, any piece or parcel of land situated south, east, or north of the water-lot front of the city of San Francisco, as established by an act of the Legislature of March 26, 1851; Provided, such possession has been continued up to the time of the introduction of this ordinance in the common council; or, if interrupted by an intruder, or trespasser, has been, or may be, recovered by legal process; and it is hereby declared to be the true intent and meaning of this ordinance, that when any of the said lands have been occupied and possessed under and by virtue of a lease or demise, they shall be deemed to have been in the possession of the landlord or lessor under whom they were so occupied or possessed; Provided, that all persons who hold title to lands within said limits by virtue of any grant made by any ayuntamiento, town council, alcalde or justice of the peace of the former pueblo of San Francisco, before the 7th day of July, 1846; or grants to lots of land lying east of Larkin Street and northeast of Johnston Street, made by any ayuntamiento, town council or alcalde, of said pueblo, since that date, and before the incorporation of the city of San Francisco by the State of California; and which grant, or the material portion thereof, was registered, or recorded in a proper book of record deposited in the office, or custody or control of the recorder of the county of San Francisco, on or before the 3d day of April, A.D., 1850; or by virtue of any conveyance duly made by the commissioners of the funded debt of the city of San Francisco, and recorded on or before the first day of January, 1855, shall, for all the purposes contemplated by this ordinance, be deemed to be the possessors of the land so granted, although the said lands may be in the actual occupancy of persons holding the same adverse to the said grantees.
"SEC. 3. The patent issued, or any grant made by the United States to the city, shall inure to the several use, benefit, and behoof of the said possessors, their heirs and assigns, mentioned in the preceding section, as fully and effectually, to all intents and purposes, as if it were issued or made directly to them individually and by name.
"SEC. 4. The city, however, as a consideration annexed to the next two preceding sections, reserves to itself all the lots which it now occupies, or has already set apart for public squares, streets, and sites for school-houses, city-hall, and other buildings belonging to the corporation; and also such lots and lands as may be selected and reserved for streets and other public purposes, under the provisions of the next succeeding sections."
This ordinance was ratified by the legislature of California on March 11, 1858, (Stat. of California of 1858, chap. 66, p. 52).
And on July 1, 1864, Congress passed an act, entitled "An act to expedite the settlement of titles to land in the State of California," by the fifth section of which all the right and title of the United States to the lands within the corporate limits of the city of San Francisco, as defined in its charter passed April 15, 1851, was relinquished and granted to the city and its successor for the uses and purposes specified in the ordinance, with some exceptions not necessary to be here mentioned. (13 Stat. chap. 194, sec. 5, p. 333.)
The following is the decree of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of California, entered May 18, 1865, confirming the claim of the city of San Francisco to its pueblo lands: THE CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO | vs. > THE UNITED STATES. |
The appeal in this case, taken by the petitioner, the city of San Francisco, from the decree of the Board of Land Commissioners, to ascertain and settle private land claims in the State of California, entered on the twenty-first day of December, 1854, by which the claim of the petitioner was adjudged to be valid, and confirmed to lands within certain described limits, coming on to be heard upon the transcript of proceedings and decision of said board, and the papers and evidence upon which said decision was founded, and further evidence taken in the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of California pending said appeal — the said case having been transferred to this court by order of the said District Court, under the provisions of section four of the act entitled "An Act to expedite the settlement of titles to lands in the State of California," approved July 1st, 1864, — and counsel of the United States and for the petitioner having been heard, and due deliberation had, it is ordered, adjudged and decreed that the claim of the petitioner, the city of San Francisco, to the land hereinafter described is valid, and that the same be confirmed.
The land of which confirmation is made is a tract situated within the county of San Francisco, and embracing so much of the extreme upper portion of the peninsula above ordinary high-water mark (as the same existed at the date of the conquest of the country, namely, the seventh day of July, A.D. 1846,) on which the city of San Francisco is situated as will contain an area of four square leagues; said tract being bounded on the north and east by the Bay of San Francisco; on the west by the Pacific Ocean; and on the south by a due east and west line drawn so as to include the area aforesaid, subject to the following deductions, namely: such lands as have been heretofore reserved or dedicated to public uses by the United States, and also such parcels of land as have been, by grants from lawful authority, vested in private ownership and have been finally confirmed to parties claiming under said grants by the tribunals of the United States, or shall hereafter be finally confirmed to parties claiming thereunder by said tribunals in proceedings now pending therein for that purpose; all of which said excepted parcels of land are included within the area of four square leagues above mentioned, but are excluded from the confirmation to the city. This confirmation is in trust for the benefit of the lot-holders under grants from the pueblo, town or city of San Francisco, or other competent authority, and as to any residue, in trust for the use and benefit of the inhabitants of the city.
SAN FRANCISCO, May 18th, 1865.
The following is the act of Congress of March 8, 1866, also confirming said claim, and relinquishing all interest in the lands covered by that decree of confirmation not relinquished by the act of 1864.
"An act to quiet the title to certain lands within the corporate limits of the city of San Francisco," approved March 8, 1866.
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all the right and title of the United States to the land situated within the corporate limits of the city of San Francisco, in the State of California, confirmed to the city of San Francisco by the decree of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of California, entered on the eighteenth day of May, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five, be, and the same are hereby, relinquished and granted to said city of San Francisco and its successors, and the claim of said city to said land is hereby confirmed, subject, however, to the reservations and exceptions designated in said decree, and upon the following trusts, namely: that all the said land, not heretofore granted to said city, shall be disposed of and conveyed by said city to parties in the bona fide actual possession thereof, by themselves or tenants, on the passage of this act, in such quantities and upon such terms and conditions as the legislature of the State of California may prescribe, except such parcels thereof as may be reserved and set apart by ordinance of said city for public uses: Provided, however, That the relinquishment and grant by this act shall not interfere with or prejudice any valid adverse right or claim, if such exist, to said land or any part thereof, whether derived from Spain, Mexico, or the United States, or preclude a judicial examination and adjustment thereof." 14 Stat. 4.
The patent issued by the United States to the city of San Francisco upon the survey of her claim is dated June 20, 1884, and described the lands as bounded on the bay by ordinary high-water mark, as it existed July 7, 1846, the line of which crosses the mouth of all creeks entering the bay.