60 U.S. 130 (1857), Meegan v. Boyle

Citation:60 U.S. 130, 15 L.Ed. 577
Case Date:January 20, 1857
Court:United States Supreme Court

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60 U.S. 130 (1857)

15 L.Ed. 577




United States Supreme Court.

January 20, 1857


THIS case was brought up, by writ of error, from the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Missouri.

Boyle, who was a citizen of Kentucky, brought an action of ejectment against Meegan, to recover a lot within the present limits of the city of St. Louis, in Missouri, which was particularly described in the declaration. There was no dispute about location, and both parties claimed under the title of Francis Moreau. The lot was recommended for confirmation by Recorder Bates, in 1815, and confirmed to Moreau's representatives (he being then dead) by the act of Congress passed on the 29th of April, 1816.

Boyle alleged that a portion of the title remained in Moreau's descendants until 1853, when it was levied upon under a judgment, and sold to him at a sheriff's sale. On the other hand, it was the effort of Meegan to show that these descendants had parted with their title by deed, or that Moreau had willed away the property a long time before the sheriff's sale. The portion of the title which Boyle claimed was the entire share of Angelique, one of Moreau's daughters, who married Antoine Mallette, about 1804 or 1805; the shares of two of Moreau's grand-daughters, being the children of his daughter Helen, who had married Pierre Cerré, said grand-daughters having married, one of them Pierre Willemin, and the other Felix Pingal. Boyle also claimed the derivative share which these persons were entitled to as the heirs of two of Moreau's children, whose title was alleged to have remained vested in them at their deaths, without issue. One of these deceased children was Marie, who had married Collin.

The judgment under which Boyle claimed was recovered, in 1852, against Angelique Mallette, then a widow, (the daughter of Moreau,) Pierre Willemin and Melanie Cerré, his wife, (a grand-daughter of Moreau,) and Felix Pingal and Josephine Cerré, his wife, (another grand-daughter of Moreau.)

Upon the trial, Boyle offered in evidence the certificate of the recorder of land titles in Missouri, the survey, the confirmation, and the pedigree of Moreau's family, with the dates of the deaths which had taken place. He then gave in evidence the sheriff's deed to himself, and proved that Meegan had been in possession of the premises since 1839.

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The line of defence was to show that the title had passed out of Moreau's heirs to a person named Chouteau, and from him to Mullanphy, who had been in possession since 1820. For this purpose, a paper was offered in evidence, purporting to be a deed from Moreau's heirs to Chouteau, dated September 3d, 1818. It had attached to it the names of three of the daughters of Moreau, (amongst other signatures,) viz: Marie Collin, Angelique Moreau, and Ellen Moreau. It had also the signatures of the husbands of the two last, viz: Antoine Mallette, the husband of Angelique, and Pierre Cerré, the husband of Ellen or Helen. Marie Collin's name was written; the others made their marks. It was proved that her name was in the handwriting of her husband, Louis Collin; the names of Antoine Mallette and Pierre Cerré were in the handwriting of Guyol, and that of Ellen Moreau, the wife of Pierre Cerré, was in the handwriting of Hawley. John O'Fallon testified that he became the executor of Mullanphy in 1833, and that this deed was received by him amongst the other title-papers of Mullanphy. The defendant then offered to read the deed in evidence.

To the admission of which the plaintiff objected, because the deed was not signed or acknowledged by Marie Collin, Angelique Mallette, and Helen Cerré, under whom he claims, and because there was no proof that it had been executed by them under whom he claimed, and because the deed did not convey or pass the title of Mrs. Collin, Mallette, and Cerré, under whom he claims; which objections were sustained by the court, and the same was not admitted in evidence; to which ruling of the court the defendant excepted.

The defendant was allowed to read in evidence a deed from Chouteau and wife to Mullanphy, dated 30th October, 1819, to which the plaintiff did not object, because, if Chouteau had no title, he could convey none to Mullanphy.

The defendant then offered a certified copy of the deed from Moreau's heirs to Chouteau, to the admission of which the plaintiff objected, for the same reasons urged against the original deed. The objection was sustained, the copy excluded, and the defendant excepted.

The defendant then offered a paper purporting to be the will of Francis Moreau, executed on 2d of August, 1798, before sundry official persons, by which he made his son, Joseph Moreau, his universal legatee.

To the admission of which the plaintiff objected, because the will had not been probated or proved in any lawful manner; because the conditions were not proved to have been complied with; because the Spanish law authorized no such disposition

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of property as therein made; and because there was evidence before the court to show that the devisee had not accepted the estate under the will, but had renounced it, which objections to the will were sustained by the court, and the will was not admitted in evidence, to which ruling of the court the plaintiffs then and there excepted. At the same time the will was offered, sundry deeds and documents were read in evidence, the purport of which was to show that the estate of Francis Moreau was treated, after his death, as if he had died intestate.

The defendant then prayed the court to give the following instructions to the jury:

1. If the jury find that Francis Moreau, in his lifetime, was the owner of the lot in controversy, that he died prior to 1804, and that his two daughters, Mrs. Mallette and Mrs. Cerré, took their husbands prior to 1804, then the several interests of said daughters in said lot became, upon their marriage, and was their paraphernal property.

2. If the jury find as mentioned in instruction No. 1, and further find that, in the year 1818, Mallette and Pierre Cerré, husbands of said daughters, made the deed read in evidence by the defendants, then, under the evidence in this cause, the jury may presume that said daughters gave the administration of said paraphernal property to their husbands, and that the same was alienated with their consent.

3. If the jury find as mentioned in instruction No. 1, and further find that the defendants and those under whom they claim have had open and continued possession of the lot in question for thirty years and more before the bringing of this suit, claiming to own the same, then the plaintiff cannot recover any interest in said lot, derived by Mrs. Mallette or Mrs. Cerré from their said father.

If Mrs. Pingal was dead, leaving a child, at the time of the sheriff's sale, under which plaintiffs claim, and during all the time of the coverture of said Mrs. Pingal, the lot in controversy was in the possession of the defendants, and those under whom they claim holding the same adversely to Mrs. Pingal and her husband, and there never was any entry on the part of the wife or husband, then the plaintiff derived no title to the lot in controversy, under Mrs. Pingal or her husband.

The court gave the instruction No. 1, and refused the others, whereupon the defendant excepted.

The jury found the following verdict:

'We find the defendant guilty of the trespass and ejectment complained of, as to two-fifths undivided of all the block of land, part of the premises demanded, lying in the city of St.

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Louis, bounded north by the north line of the Moreau arpent, being survey No. 1,480; south by the south line of said survey, 1,480; east by Seventh street; west by Eighth street, excepting only the two lots No. 7 in said block, as shown by the proceedings in partition between the heirs of John Mullanphy, deceased; and we assess the plaintiff's damages, sustained by the plaintiff by the said trespass and ejectment, at the sum of ten dollars, and find the monthly value thereof to be one dollar; and the defendant is not guilty as to the residue of the premises demanded.'


The case was argued in this court by Mr. Geyer for the plaintiff in error, and Mr. Williams and Mr. Crittenden for the defendant.

Mr. Geyer made the following points:

The plaintiff in error submits that the Circuit Court erred in rejecting the documentary evidence offered by him at the trial.

1. The instrument, purporting to be the deed of the heirs of Moreau to Chouteau, dated 3d September, 1818, and that offered as the act of Pierre Reaume and wife, dated 6th November, 1819, ought to have been admitted in evidence.

The execution of the last-mentioned deed was fully proved by proof of the death of the subscribing witnesses and their handwriting. (See Sarpy's evidence, p. 17.)

Both instruments were more than thirty years old at the time of the trial, and proved themselves. The bare production of them was sufficient to entitle them to be read as the deeds of the parties whose acts they purport to be. (1 Greenl. Ev., sec. 21, p. 142.)

The presumption of the due execution of these instruments is moreover corroborated by the facts and circumstances in evidence at the trial: 1. It is proved that several of the parties collected at St. Louis from other places, for the purpose of making a conveyance of their interest in the land, at about the time of the date of the first instrument, and afterwards declared that they had sold to Pierre Chouteau. 2. The existence of the deed soon after is established by the official certificates appended. 3. The title of...

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