Adams v. Hoskins

CourtSupreme Court of Oklahoma
Citation259 P. 136,126 Okla. 57,1927 OK 101
Docket Number16572.
PartiesADAMS v. HOSKINS et al.
Decision Date12 April 1927

Rehearing Denied June 7, 1927.

Application to File Second Petition for Rehearing Denied July 26, 1927.

Syllabus by the Court.

Where plaintiff pleads that she inherited an interest in certain real estate from her deceased husband, and is therefore the owner of the legal and equitable title thereto, but that her interest is adversely held by the defendants, and prays for possession thereof, plaintiff pleads a cause for recovery of specific real property or ejectment, and this is true, even though plaintiff joins an additional prayer that her title be quieted. Where a jury is waived and the issues of fact in such an action are tried to the court, the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain its verdict and findings, when questioned on appeal, is controlled by the rule in law actions.

Where plaintiff pleads the invalidity of certain deeds, made and delivered by her husband from whom she claims to have inherited real estate, because of his minority, although the answer of defendants may be ambiguous as to whether it admits or denies the minority plaintiff pleaded, yet, where counsel for plaintiff and defendant try the issue of minority, this is such an interpretation of the pleadings as binds both parties on appeal.

When a Creek freedman executes and delivers a deed to his surplus allotment in October, 1907, admittedly after he arrives at majority, which deed recites a good and sufficient consideration, it may be adjudged void, under the provisions of section 19 of the Act of Congress of April 26, 1906 (34 Stat. L. 137), if executed in pursuance of a contract made during minority; but, where it is sought to have such a deed so adjudged, the party asserting its invalidity on this ground has the burden of proof, and the evidence offered to sustain same must be such as to overcome the presumption which clothes the deed with validity to pass the title. In the absence of proof of such character, a finding by the trial court to the effect that the deed was not invalid by reason of the inhibition of said section 19 cannot be disturbed by this court.

Appeal from District Court, Okmulgee County; James Hepburn, Judge.

Ejectment by Cora Adams against Annetta Hoskins and another. From a judgment for defendants, plaintiff appeals. Affirmed.

James M. Hays, of Okmulgee, for plaintiff in error.

E. T Noble, S. L. O'Bannon, and Cochran & Ellison, all of Okmulgee, for defendants in error.

BRANSON C.J.

Herein is presented error for reversal from the district court of Okmulgee county. Cora Adams, formerly Coleman, sued Annetta Hoskins and Bertie De Steiguer. Judgment went for the defendants. The plaintiff's action is for the recovery of specific real property, or ejectment. Her petition alleges that she, as owner of the legal and equitable title to half the land described, is entitled to the immediate possession thereof, as against the defendants, by reason of this state of facts, to wit: That on December 7, 1909, she was the wife of one March Coleman, who departed this life on said last-named date, leaving surviving him his mother, Dolly Stidham, and the plaintiff, as his sole heirs at law; that she inherited an undivided one-half of 120 acres of land which is referred to as the surplus allotment of March Coleman; that her said husband, March Coleman, was a citizen of the Creek Nation, duly enrolled upon the final rolls of said tribe, as a freedman (Supplemental Creek Agreement, June 30, 1902; 32 Stat. L. 500); that March Coleman, on the 9th day of September, 1905, executed and delivered to W. E. Wood and J. G. Elred a warranty deed to said land; that two other deeds were executed to different grantees on different dates prior to the 29th of October, 1907; that said deeds so made prior to the 29th of October, 1907, were executed while her said husband was a minor, and that they were absolutely void by virtue of the provisions of the said Supplemental Agreement of 1902; that her said husband arrived at the age of majority on the said date, October 29, 1907, and on said date he executed and delivered a deed to the De Steiguer Investment Company, a corporation, which recited a consideration of $2,040; that the De Steiguer Investment Company subsequently conveyed to the defendants herein; that these transactions occurred prior to her marriage to the said March Coleman; that she married the said March Coleman on the 8th day of December, 1908, or about a year prior to his death.

Plaintiff further pleads that the deed made October 2, 1907, although made after majority, was itself void, in that it was executed in pursuance of an agreement theretofore made, and fell in the inhibition of that part of the act of the national Congress of April 26, 1906 (34 Stat. L. 137), which provides:

"And every deed executed before, or for the making of which a contract or agreement was entered into before the removal of restrictions, be and the same is hereby, declared void."

Having pleaded as herein set out, the plaintiff prayed possession of a half interest in the land, for damages, and that her title thereto be quieted. The defendants plead the general issue, except certain admissions. They admit that March Coleman was allotted the land in question, as a citizen of the Creek Tribe, and was a duly enrolled freedman; that they were in possession of the land; and assert that they and those through whom they claimed had been in the adverse possession thereof since about November, 1907.

Since certain phraseology in the defendants' pleadings are drawn in question in the briefs, such portions are set out at this point. They are:

"Defendants admit that on the 29th day of October, 1907, the said March Coleman was of full legal age, and on said day, after he had reached his majority, the said March Coleman conveyed the real estate and premises hereinabove described to the De Steiguer Investment Company."

And, further, in that part of the answer designated "cross-petition" we find:

"Defendants allege that after the said allottee, March Coleman, reached his majority, to wit, on October 29, 1907, he conveyed all of the said real estate and premises to the De Steiguer Investment Company by a good and sufficient warranty deed."

It is further pleaded by the defendants that, on the death of the said March Coleman, he left surviving his mother, Dolly Stidham, enrolled as a citizen of the Creek Nation, on the freedmen roll $375, and that she was the sole and only heir of March Coleman, by reason of the proviso to section 6 of the Supplemental Creek Agreement of 1902 (32 Stat. L. 500).

The record discloses that, when this case was called for trial, plaintiff waived a jury, and tried the cause to the court. In this connection, a contention is made that this is a suit of purely equitable cognizance. We cannot agree with this position of counsel for plaintiff. There is nothing cognizable under any equitable principle drawn in issue by the pleadings, or the answer. Plaintiff asserts her ownership to a half interest in the land by inheritance from her husband. In order to prevail, she asserts that the three deeds made by her deceased husband prior to October 29, 1907, were made during his minority. If this assertion is correct, these deeds were void as a matter of law; the acts of the national Congress governing these allotments making all such conveyances by minors absolutely void. Their validity could not be tested by any equitable principle. To prevail, plaintiff found it necessary to get rid of the conveyance made after the allotee reached majority. In order to do this, she pleaded and undertook to prove that it was void, because it was made in pursuance of a contract entered into between the grantee and the grantor during the minority of the grantor, and that the said provision of the said Act of April 26, 1906, made it void. If this were true, it was void by reason of the express provisions of the law, and not susceptible of being vacated and set aside by reason of any relief known to equitable principles. If all of these deeds were swept away, being the wife of the allottee at the time he died intestate, her right came to her by reason of the law of succession, if in fact she, being a noncitizen of the Creek Nation, could inherit from a citizen thereof. Provision of section 6, Supplemental Creek Agreement 1902. Having made these allegations as the basis of her right, she pleaded an action for the recovery of specific real property, and, if the facts showed she was entitled to recover, the instruments set up should have been adjudged to be of no validity, not upon any equitable principle, but because they were void as a matter of law.

We must therefore consider the questions here in the light of the rules governing judgments in law actions, which is to the effect that, if there is evidence reasonably supporting the verdict of a jury, or the verdict and findings of a court, where a jury is waived, the same will not be disturbed by this court. This brings us to the verdict and findings of the trial court. Plaintiff's brief recites:

"Of the separate findings of fact made by the court, only two are material. The others are incidental to these two. These two are: '(2) That the said March Coleman, to whom the said land was allotted as aforesaid, was also known as Buddie Coleman; that he was born in the month of August, 1884, and reached the age of 21 years in the month of August, 1905, and died on December 7, 1909'; and '(10) On October 29, 1907, said March Coleman made, executed, and delivered to the De Steiguer Investment Company a general warranty deed, conveying said lands, and that said deed was not made in pursuance of any prior contract or
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