MR. JUSTICE BREWER delivered the opinion of the court.
On September 27, 1890, plaintiff in error, as plaintiff, commenced an action to recover possession of lot 7, section 23, (except thirty acres on the north side,) and lots 1 and 2, section 26, all in township 29 south, range 38 east, in the county of Brevard, State of Florida. The defendants answered, denying possession of the property described in the plaintiff's complaint. A trial was had, which resulted, on January 14, 1891, in a verdict for the defendants, upon which verdict, on June 30, 1891, judgment was entered. Thereupon plaintiff brought this writ of error.
But a single question needs consideration. The title of the plaintiff to the property described in his complaint is not challenged, but the contention of the defendants is that the land which confessedly they occupy is not a part of the land so described. In other words, the only question involved is one of description and boundary.
Plaintiff's title rests on a patent from the United States, dated March 20, 1885, conveying "lot numbered seven of section twenty-three, and the lots numbered one and two of section twenty-six, in township twenty-nine south, of range thirty-eight east of Tallahassee meridian in Florida, containing one hundred and seventy acres and forty-two hundredths of an acre, according to the official plat of the survey of the said lands, returned to the General Land Office by the surveyor-general." The official plat of township 29 was in evidence, which showed that sections 23 and 26 were fractional sections bordering on the Indian River. On this plat a meander line runs through the sections from north to south, the Indian River being on the west thereof. The east line of the sections is, so far as these lots are concerned, the ordinary straight line of government surveys. In the south half of the southeast
The contention of the plaintiff is that, inasmuch as this body of land is not shown upon the official plat, and although the boundaries and areas of the three lots are given, the latter aggregating only 170 acres, the patent for the lots conveys all the land to the main body of the river. In other words, a patent for 170 acres conveys over 700. The basis of this contention is the familiar rule that a meander line is not a line of boundary, and that a patent for a tract of land bordering on a river conveys the land, not simply to the meander line, but to the water line, and hence, as claimed in this case, carries it to the water line of the main body of the river. The testimony is apparently not all in the record, nor are all the instructions, but this presents the ruling of the court, "it is the rule that the meander line is not the boundary line; they are run, not as boundaries of the tract, but for the purpose of finding the sinuosities of the bank of the stream. Fractional divisions made so by the water are designated and sold by the numbers attached to and reference is always had to the notes and maps of the survey. The water in the notes is the boundary, and when there exists a difference between the meander line as run and the actual margin of the stream or lake, the water is
Whatever criticisms may be placed upon this instruction, we think that, as applied to the facts of this case, the ruling of the court was substantially correct. It is undoubtedly true that official surveys are not open to collateral attack in an action at law. Stoneroad v. Stoneroad, 158 U.S. 240; Russell v. Maxwell Land Grant Company, 158 U.S. 253. It is also true that the meander line is not a line of boundary, but one designed to point out the sinuosities of the bank of the stream, and as a means of ascertaining the quantity of land in the fraction which is to be paid for by the purchaser. Railroad Co. v. Schurmeir, 7 Wall. 272; Hardin v. Jordan, 140 U.S. 371, 380. It is also true that metes and bounds in the description of premises control distance and quantities when there is any inconsistency between them. Morrow v. Whitney, 95 U.S. 551, 555.
But the question in this case is whether the boundary of these lots is the bayou or the main body of the river. That a water line runs along the course of the meander line cannot, of course, in the face of the plat and survey, be questioned, but that the meander line of the plat is the water line of the bayou rather than that of the main body of the river, is evident from these facts. In the first place, the area of the lots is given, and when that area is stated to be 170 acres, it is obvious that no survey was intended of over 700 acres. In the second place, the meander line, as shown on the plat, is, so far as these lots are concerned, wholly within the east half
These considerations are conclusive that the water line which was surveyed, and made the boundary of the lots, was the water line of the bayou or savannah, and there has been simply an omission to make any survey of the tract west of the bayou, and between it and the main body of the Indian River. It is unnecessary to speculate why it was that it was not surveyed. It may have been a mere oversight, or it may have been because the surveyors thought that the action of the water would soon wash the low land away; but whatever the reason the fact is obvious that no survey was made of that body of land, and the boundary line fixed was the water line of the bayou.
The rule of public surveys, as prescribed by c. 9, sec. 2395, Title 32, Rev. Stat. page 438, and following pages, requires that they be surveyed into townships of six miles square, with subsequent subdivisions into thirty-six sections of a mile square, except where the line of an Indian reservation or of tracts of land theretofore surveyed or patented, or the course of navigable rivers, renders this impracticable, with a proviso that "in that case this rule must be departed from no further than such particular circumstances require." Now, if this tract west of the bayou and between it and the Indian River was intended to be surveyed, obviously all the lines of sections 23 and 26 would have been run along straight lines, and so as to make complete sections and quarter sections. But such lines, at least those on the west side, were not run, and, whatever the reason, the survey stopped at the water line of the bayou, and left this body of land west thereof wholly unsurveyed.
But it is said that because the water mentioned on the plat is called Indian River the boundary must be taken as the water line of the river, and cannot be that of any intermediate bayou. Bates v. Illinois Central Railroad Company, 1 Black, 204, 208, is instructive upon this. In that case a patent had been granted for 102.29 acres lying north of the Chicago River, bounded by it on the south and by Lake Michigan on the east. The contention was that the main channel of the river entered the lake much below the line shown on the plat, and so the patent carried a larger tract than that described therein. It appeared that there were two channels of the river, and the court said in reference to this:
"The mouth of the river being found, establishes the southeast corner of the tract. The plat of the survey, and a call
So, in the case before us, obviously the surveyors surveyed only to this bayou, and called that the river. The plaintiff has no right to challenge the correctness of their action, or claim that the bayou was not Indian River or a proper water line upon which to bound the lots.
We are of the opinion, therefore, that no substantial error was committed by the Circuit Court, and the judgment is