58 U.S. 47 (1855), Wickliffe v. Owings

Citation:58 U.S. 47, 15 L.Ed. 44
Case Date:January 03, 1855
Court:United States Supreme Court

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58 U.S. 47 (1855)

15 L.Ed. 44




United States Supreme Court.

January 03, 1855


THIS was an appeal from the circuit court of the United States for the district of Kentucky, sitting as a court of equity.

It was a bill filed by Wickliffe, under a statute of Kentucky, to quiet the title to sundry tracts of land of which the complainant was in possession, and to which he alleged that he had the legal title. Owings, it was averred, had removed to Texas, and become a citizen of that State; but had visited Kentucky, and set up a claim to the lands, threatening to institute suits against the complainant.

Owings, in his answer, denied the jurisdiction of the court, upon the ground that he was not a citizen of Texas; denied that the complainant had any title to the land, or, that if he had one, asserted that it was obtained by fraud; and alleged, that prior to the institution of this suit, he, himself, had filed a bill against Wickliffe, in the Bath circuit court of Kentucky, and relied on the priority of his bill in bar of Wickliffe's suit.

The district judge, who tried the cause in the court below, dismissed the bill, from which decree Wickliffe appealed to this court.


It was argued for the appellant by Mr. Preston, and a brief was also filed upon the same side by Mr. Charles A. Wickliffe. No counsel appeared for the appellee.

The arguments consisted chiefly in examinations of the testimony respecting the citizenship of Owings, in Texas, and of the various muniments of the title of Wickliffe to the lands; and also of a comparison of the dates of the institution of the respective suits in the state court and in the circuit court of the United States. As these involved no general principles of law, it is unnecessary to introduce them into the report of the case.

Mr. Justice CAMPBELL delivered the opinion of the court.

The plaintiff filed his bill in the circuit court of the United

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States for Kentucky, against Thomas Deye Owings, by which he assumes to be the owner, and in the lawful possession, of a number of tracts of land, lying in different counties of that State, which had at one time been the property of the defendant, but of which he had been legally divested, and notwithstanding claims, by the instigation and advice of other persons, to the prejudice and vexation of the plaintiff. The object of the bill is to establish the title and to quiet the possession of the plaintiff.

The facts disclosed by the record are: that, in the years 1817 and 1818, the defendant was possessed of a very large estate in lands, but was indebted beyond his means of payment. During those years, two of his creditors (Luke Tiernan and Samuel Smith) respectively recovered, in the circuit court of the United States for Kentucky, judgments for the aggregate sum of twenty-five thousand dollars and upwards; the one by default, the other by confession. Immediately thereafter, the defendant adopted a system of legal proceedings, to postpone the day of payment of those judgments, which terminated in the augmentation of the debt, and the introduction of other persons, in the character of sureties, to share in the entanglements of the debtor. By the interposition of injunctions, replevin, and stay bonds, and for the want of bidders at execution sales, the defendant withstood his creditors until 1824.

In November, 1824, Tiernan purchased a number of the tracts in dispute, and others in 1827 and 1834, under the executions, and for which he has the deeds of the marshal.

In 1820, Samuel Smith assigned his judgment to Ellicott and Meredith, in trust for creditors, and these persons, between 1826 and 1829, purchased nearly, if not all, of...

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