Catron v. Scarritt Collegiate Institute

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Citation175 S.W. 571,264 Mo. 713
PartiesC. C. CATRON et al., Trustees of Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Carthage, Missouri, v. SCARRITT COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE, L. D. RICE, Receiver, and W. J. CATRON et al., Appellants
Decision Date02 April 1915

Appeal from Barton Circuit Court. -- Hon. B. G. Thurman, Judge.


This suit was brought to the January term, 1910, of the circuit court of Jasper county. The petition alleges that the plaintiffs are the board of trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, of Carthage, Missouri; that the defendant Scarritt Collegiate Institute is a corporation of this State, organized as an institution of learning, and subject to the supervision and control of the Southwest Missouri Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South that the other defendants are the board of curators of Scarritt Collegiate Institute; that on the 19th of September 1892, W. E. Hall and wife executed warranty deeds conveying sixteen hundred acres of land situated in the State of Texas to the defendant Scarritt Collegiate Institute, then located at Neosho in Newton county, Missouri.

The petition further alleges that said grantee has sold the land so conveyed to it and realized therefrom the sum of about $ 13,500, evidenced by money and notes secured by deeds of trust; that the grant of the lands described in said deeds was expressed to be "for the use and benefit of said institution of learning, especially for the endowment of the President's Chair in memory of our deceased son, J Winston Hall." And that each of said deeds recited "said land or the proceeds thereof is to be applied by said corporation to the object hereinbefore stated."

The petition further alleges that the defendant Scarritt Collegiate Institute has ceased to exist as an institution of learning at the city of Neosho, Missouri, for several years; that all its furniture and appliances have been removed to other institutions of learning, and that the church conference has directed the holders of the legal title to the Collegiate grounds and buildings to sell and dispose thereof, and that said conference has further ordered and directed that the fund arising from the sale of the Texas lands donated to the Scarritt Collegiate Institute should be paid over by the curators of that corporation to the plaintiffs, trustees, to be used in the erection of a memorial church at Carthage, Missouri. That in 1907, W. E. Hall, one of the grantors of the two deeds, died, leaving his wife and two sons as his only heirs; that these have assigned and transferred to petitioners in writing all of their right, title and interest in and to said fund, on the 20th of September, 1909; that petitioners accepted said assignment and agreed to use the same in the construction of a memorial church in the city of Carthage, Missouri, and have demanded the same from the defendants who have refused and neglected to pay it over to plaintiffs. Wherefore, petitioners pray that the said defendants be required to make a full and complete statement of said fund and a full accounting for the same, and be directed to turn over the money and notes representing it to the plaintiffs. Certain of the defendants, who were curators of the Scarritt Collegiate Institute, filed an answer declining to contest the right of plaintiffs as set forth in their petition, denying that they had possession of the fund in controversy, and asking to be discharged free of costs. The remaining members of the board of curators filed an answer, which so far as material on this appeal, set up in defense to the claims of plaintiffs as set forth in their petition, the following averments in substance: That the Scarritt Collegiate Institute was incorporated in 1888 to conduct an institution of learning for students of both the male and female sex at Neosho, Missouri, under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and not subject to any particular conference of said church. That the deed conveying the Texas lands to said corporation was an unconditional gift under the warranty of the grantors against claims of all persons; that upon sale of said lands its proceeds were safely invested and amounted on the 27th of December, 1909, to about $ 13,625.20, specifying the notes making up that sum. That neither the wife nor the two surviving children of the grantors in said deed had any interest in said fund nor could assign the same to plaintiffs. Issue was taken by reply. The cause was transferred by stipulation to the Barton Circuit Court. On the trial, the plaintiffs introduced in evidence the two deeds conveying the Texas lands, which, though for different tracts, are exactly alike in all other terms and omitting descriptions, are to-wit:


That we W. E. Hall and M. E. Hall, his wife, at City of Carthage, County of Jasper and State of Missouri, parties of the first part, for and in consideration of the love we bear for the cause of Christ and our earnest desire to promote his heritage on earth do give and grant and by these presents convey unto the Scarritt Collegiate Institute, a corporation under the laws of the State of Missouri, located at Neosho, Newton county, Missouri, as party of the second part, for the use and benefit of said institution of learning especially for the endowment of the President's chair in memory of our deceased son J. Winston Hall, the following described real estate in the county of Hardeman, State of Texas, . . . in all 1600 acres of land and more or less which said land or the proceeds thereof is to be applied by said corporation to the object hereinbefore stated and the said corporation is to have and to hold the property aforesaid for the use aforesaid free from the claim or claims of the grantors herein, their heirs or assigns and free from the claims of all other persons whomsoever.

In witness whereof we have hereunto fixed our seals and subscribed our names this 19th day of September, 1892

W. E. Hall


M. E. Hall


(Italics ours).

Some oral testimony was adduced, over the objections of defendants, as to the purpose of the grantors in said deeds, which, and also the documentary evidence, as far as necessary, will be referred to in the opinion.

The defendant Scarritt Collegiate Institute on January 12, 1909, some years after it had practically ceased to conduct its business at Neosho, entered into articles of association with another institution of learning and the two were combined by decree of the circuit court of Polk county, under the name of "Scarritt-Morrisville College," located at Morrisville, Polk county, Missouri. On April 29, 1909, the board of curators of this institution, by resolution, requested the board of curators of the Scarritt Collegiate Institute to return the funds in controversy to the Halls to be used to erect a memorial church at Carthage, Missouri, in memory of their deceased son. The church conference also directed the same disposition of the fund. These requests were refused by the contesting curators of the Scarritt Collegiate Institute. Since the institution of this suit, a decree dissolving the Scarritt Collegiate Institute was rendered at the February term, 1911, by the circuit court of Newton county, in a quo warranto proceeding brought against it by the prosecuting attorney of that county, wherein a receiver was appointed of its assets, who is in charge of the fund in dispute and was admitted to be a party to this action prior to its appeal to this court.

Upon the consideration of the evidence the learned trial court rendered a decree for plaintiffs as prayed in that petition and a personal judgment against the contesting curators from which an appeal has been duly perfected to this court.

Reversed and remanded.

O. L Cravens for appellants.

(1) The whole case turns on the proper construction of the Hall deed conveying the Texas land. State ex rel. v. Adams, 44 Mo. 578; Pomeroy's Equity Jur. (2 Ed.), 1036; Young v. Commissioners, 51 F. 593; R. S. 1909, sec. 2870; 4 Ency. Ev. 194; 17 Cyc. 616; Bobb v. Bobb, 89 Mo 419; Weiss v. Heitkamp, 127 Mo. 23; Henderson v. Henderson, 13 Mo. 151; Sell v. West, 125 Mo. 629; Holocer v. Holocer, 62 Mo. 267; McConnell v. Braymer, 63 Mo. 464; Hickman v. Hickman, 55 Mo.App. 303; 17 Cyc. 670, 646, 619; O'Bryan v. Ash, 169 Mo. 283; Ryder v. Ryder, 244 Ill. 297; Cowherd v. Boyd, 79 S.C. 174; 9 Ency. Ev. 329, 333, 432; Mfg. Co. v. Jaeger, 81 Mo.App. 239. (2) Under the statute the Hall deed passed the fee to the institute. Sec. 2870, R. S. 1909; Gannon v. Allbright, 183 Mo. 238; Yocum v. Siler, 160 Mo. 281; Utter v. Sidman, 170 Mo. 284; Small v. Green, 102 Mo. 104; Ball v. Woolfolk, 175 Mo. 286; Halifax Cong. Soc. v. Stark, 34 Vt. 243; Barre v. Wyoming Hist. Soc., 134 Pa. St. 616; Rines v. Mansfield, 96 Mo. 394; Hunter v. Murphey, 126 Ala. 213. (3) Aside from the statute there can be no reversion to Hall. St. Louis v. Ferry Co., 88 Mo. 615; Garfield Township v. Herman, 66 Kan. 256; Carrol Co. Academy v. Gallatin Academy, 104 Ky. 621; Fuquays v. Hopkins Academy, 58 S.W. 814; Hand v. St. Louis, 158 Mo. 204; M. E. Church v. Gamble, 26 Ohio Cir. Ct. 295; Heaston v. Commrs., 20 Ind. 398; Higbee v. Rodmann, 129 Ind. 244; Raley v. Umatilla Co., 15 Ore. 172, 3 Am. St. 142; Sohie v. Trinity Church, 109 Mass. 1; Episcopal City Miss. v. Appleton, 117 Mass. 326; Thornton v. Trammell, 39 Ga. 202; Antony v. Stephens, 46 Ga. 241; St. Stephens Church v. Church, 114 N.Y.S. 623; Freer v. Sanitarium, 115 N.Y.S. 734; Haydon v. Railroad, 222 Mo. 126; Thompson v. Hart, 133 Ga. 450; Morrell v. Railroad, 96 Mo. 174; Krueger v. Railroad, 185 Mo. 227; Roberts v. Crume, 173 Mo. 572; Ellis v. Kyger, 90 Mo. 600; Studdard v. Wells, 120 Mo. 25; Messersmith v. Messersmith, 22 Mo. 369; ...

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