2 N.W. 550 (Wis. 1879), Mills v. Evansville Seminary

Citation:2 N.W. 550, 47 Wis. 354
Opinion Judge:ORSAMUS COLE, J.
Party Name:MILLS and wife v. THE EVANSVILLE SEMINARY and others
Attorney:For the appellants, there was a brief by John R. Bennett and John Winans, and oral argument by Mr. Bennett and David L. Mills. For the respondents, there was a brief by Cassoday & Carpenter, and oral argument by Mr. Cassoday.
Case Date:October 14, 1879
Court:Supreme Court of Wisconsin

Page 550

2 N.W. 550 (Wis. 1879)

47 Wis. 354

MILLS and wife



Supreme Court of Wisconsin

October 14, 1879

APPEAL from the Circuit Court for Rock County.

In September, 1859, the plaintiffs executed and delivered to the Evansville Seminary (a corporation under the laws of this state) an absolute, unconditional deed, with full warranties, of a parcel of land in the village of Evansville, in Rock county, known as "Seminary Park," the consideration named in the deed being $ 500. This action was brought in 1876 against the Evansville Seminary and the Evansville Boot & Shoe Manufacturing Co. The specific relief demanded in the complaint was, that the deed above described be reformed so as to express the intention of the parties, by inserting therein a provision that in case of nonuser of the land for a seminary it should revert to the grantors, their heirs and assigns; that a certain deed of said land, executed by the president and secretary of the board of trustees of the Evansville Seminary to the other defendant company, dated January 19, 1876, might be adjudged void; that the Evansville Seminary might be required to reconvey said land to the plaintiffs, as reversionary owners; that both defendants might be restrained from otherwise disposing of or interfering with said property; and that the Evansville Seminary might be adjudged dissolved by its own acts.

The charter of the Evansville Seminary, and its amendments, were put in evidence on the trial of the action. The original charter was granted in 1856. It empowered the corporation, among other things, "to acquire, hold and convey real estate and personal property;" and "to erect the necessary buildings, and conduct and continue, on the plat of ground marked and known as 'Seminary Park,' and such other grounds as said corporation may [might] acquire in the village of Evansville, . . . a seminary of high order for the education of youth of both sexes." It further provided that "all funds and property received by the board of trustees for seminary purposes, by gift or otherwise," should be "faithfully applied by them to the best of their judgment, for the benefit of the seminary, in the purchase or rent of grounds, the construction, purchase or rent of the necessary buildings, procuring library and apparatus, furniture and fixtures, creating endowments for the payment of professors and teachers, and in payment of the necessary expenses of the said corporation;" with a proviso, that "every donation or bequest made for particular purposes in accordance with the design of said corporation" should be applied "according to the wishes of the donor and the terms of the bequest." It also contained the following provision: "The library, apparatus, buildings, and lands not exceeding six acres, belonging to the said corporation, shall be exempt from taxation, provided that said lands shall not be used for any other than seminary purposes." None of these provisions appear to have been repealed or modified.

The circuit judge found the following facts: That at the time of the organization of the Evansville Seminary under the aforesaid act, the plaintiff David L. Mills was owner in fee of the land here in question; that, for the purpose of aiding said corporation, and to furnish it a site for the erection of buildings necessary for its objects, and solely as a gift or donation, said plaintiff gave to the corporation said land, and, by an instrument in writing by him executed and delivered, he agreed to convey the land to it upon condition that a seminary building should be erected thereon within two years from that time, the land to be conveyed for the purpose of a site for said seminary, and to revert to said Mills whenever it should cease to be used for that purpose; that a seminary building was erected on the said site within the time named, and thereupon a seminary of learning of the kind contemplated by the charter was established therein, under the charter, and continued until the spring of 1874; that on the 14th of September, 1859, plaintiffs conveyed said land to the seminary corporation in pursuance of the aforesaid agreement, without any consideration paid or agreed to be paid therefor, and solely for the purpose of donating the site to said corporation for seminary purposes; that the buildings erected on said site, and all other improvements thereon, were paid for with money donated to the corporation in aid of its general objects by a large number of persons residing in different parts of the country; that in the spring of 1874, said corporation wholly ceased to maintain a school in said building or use it for seminary purposes, and the use of the buildings and site for such purposes has been wholly abandoned since that time; that the conveyance to the Boot & Shoe Manufacturing Co. was made without the consent of plaintiffs and against...

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