Ex parte Jones

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtMADDOX
Citation669 So.2d 161
PartiesEx parte Nathaniel Bruce JONES and Florence C. Jones. (Re Nathaniel Bruce JONES and Florence C. Jones v. James L. LANE). 1940066.
Decision Date23 June 1995

Page 161

669 So.2d 161
Ex parte Nathaniel Bruce JONES and Florence C. Jones.
(Re Nathaniel Bruce JONES and Florence C. Jones
James L. LANE).
Supreme Court of Alabama.
June 23, 1995.
Rehearing Denied Aug. 18, 1995.

Charles Edmondson, Montgomery, for Petitioners.

Jesse M. Williams III and N. Wayne Simms, Jr., Montgomery, for Respondent.

MADDOX, Justice.

This case presents an issue that we believe is one of first impression, the ownership of a railroad bed upon the termination of a right-

Page 162

of-way that was granted more than 100 years ago.

The petitioners, Nathaniel and Florence Jones, and the respondent, James L. Lane, own property that abuts the disputed tract, which, prior to this dispute, was part of a railroad company's right-of-way. During the mid-1980s, the successor in interest of the original grantee ceased operation and abandoned its interest in and to the right-of-way.

The material facts are undisputed or are contained in various deeds of conveyances. They show that in 1870, the subject property, located in southeast Montgomery, was part of a tract consisting of two whole sections 1 that were then owned by Jason G. Jones. The petitioners and the respondent in this case each derived their interest in the property on either side of the right-of-way through mesne conveyances from Jason G. Jones, the original grantor of the right-of-way. 2

On or about March 21, 1870, Jason G. Jones executed and delivered to the Montgomery & Eufaula Railroad Company an instrument creating a right-of-way over and across his land, for the construction of a railroad; the right-of-way extended 100 feet on each side from the center of the railway. The right-of-way instrument recites:

"To have and to hold the said right-of-way to the said company and their assigns for the use and benefit of said road forever. Upon conditions nevertheless, and it is expressly agreed and understood that should the said road not be located and built on or along said tract of land above intentioned, then all benefit from this deed shall cease, determine and become void."

It is undisputed that the grantee of the right-of-way did, in fact, erect its tracks and that the railroad company, or its successors and assigns, did use the right-of-way for more than 100 years, and until the mid-1980s, when the Central of Georgia Railroad Company, the successor in interest, ceased operation of the track and abandoned its interest in and to the right-of-way.

Upon the death of Jason G. Jones, his lands descended by will and by intestate succession. The first conveyance we find in the record that makes any reference to a right-of-way was a deed from W.G. Jones and his wife to Jesse Lee Jones, the description reading as follows:

"South 1/2 of the NW 1/4; ten (10) acres south of the railroad in the NE 1/4 of the NW 1/4; thirty-five (35) acres south of the railroad in the NW 1/4 of the NW 1/4, all in Section seven (7); township fifteen (15), range nineteen (19); also the NE 1/4 of the SE 1/4 and the SE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section twelve (12); township fifteen (15); range eighteen (18)."

The record contains no warranty deeds in Lane's chain of title that make reference to the railroad right-of-way, but in a trial court brief filed by Lane, which is in the record, there is a statement that "[t]he [trial judge] examined the deeds to the lands which adjoined the abandoned right-of-way on the north side and on the south side and found that the deeds either used the railroad right-of-way boundary as a property line, or conveyed a platted lot which abutted the railroad right-of-way."

This case was commenced when Lane filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, requesting a judgment declaring that Nathaniel and Florence Jones owned no interest in the abandoned railroad right-of-way. Lane contended that the original owner/grantor, Jason G. Jones, had reserved unto himself the land subject to the railroad right-of-way and that when the railroad abandoned the right-of-way in the mid-1980s it reverted to the heirs of the original owner/grantor. Lane did not, and does not, claim ownership of the right-of-way as an adjoining landowner, but claims it because he had acquired an interest in the right-of-way as a grantee from one of the heirs of the original owner/grantor. Lane, therefore, also requested that the trial court determine that the property used as the right-of-way could not be equitably divided among the joint owners and tenants in common and that it is in the best interest of all parties that the

Page 163

property be sold and the proceeds of the sale divided and distributed among the joint owners.

The trial judge, after a nonjury trial, issued an order providing in pertinent part:

"Nathaniel Bruce Jones and Florence C. Jones own no interest in the property in question, i.e., that portion of the abandoned railroad right-of-way easement which lies adjacent to their property and to which they have filed a claim of ownership.

"Upon consideration of this matter, the court is of the opinion that the Plaintiff [Lane] is entitled to the relief prayed for in the complaint."

The Joneses filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied. They then appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals; that court, applying the ore tenus rule of review, affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Jones v. Lane, 669 So.2d 159 (Ala.Civ.App.1994). That court stated that the trial court's order was supported by the following evidence:

"(1) the testimony of a historian hired by Lane to locate the heirs of the original owner/grantor; (2) the testimony of Nathaniel Bruce Jones, who admitted that the survey and legal description to the property which he purchased show that his north property line is the south right-of-way line of the railroad's easement and that when he purchased his property, he did not think that he was acquiring an ownership in the right-of-way; and (3) the deeds themselves."

Jones v. Lane, 669 So.2d at 161.

The Joneses contended in the trial court and in the Court of Civil Appeals, and they contend in...

To continue reading

Request your trial
8 cases
  • Asmussen v. United States, Supreme Court Case No. 12SA96
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • July 1, 2013
    ...courts that have addressed the issue have held that the centerline presumption is applicable to railroad rights-of-way. Ex Parte Jones, 669 So.2d 161, 163–65 (Ala.1995); Abbott v. Pearson, 257 Ark. 694, 520 S.W.2d 204, 207 (1975); Center Bridge Co. v. Wheeler & Howes Co., 86 Conn. 585, 86 A......
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • August 6, 2004
    ...underlying fee title of the right of way passes to the abutting landowners to the centerline of the former right-of-way. Ex parte Jones, 669 So.2d 161 (Ala.1995). The Alabama Supreme Court expressed the applicable rule as "`It is a general rule that a private conveyance of land bounded by o......
  • Moss v. Williams
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • November 21, 2001
    ...of way, then Williams and the Coakers take title to the center line of the abandoned right of way that abuts their land. Ex parte Jones, 669 So.2d 161 The 1904 deed from the Tombigbee Lumber Company to Valley Railroad ("Deed 1") stated, in pertinent part: "State of Alabama Washington County......
  • Ex parte Powell
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • October 29, 1999
    ...on the evidence de novo, indulging no presumption in favor of the trial court's application of the law to the facts.'" Ex parte Jones, 669 So.2d 161, 163 (Ala. 1995), quoting Justice v. Arab Lumber & Supply Inc., 533 So.2d 538, 542 (Ala.1988), citing Stiles v. Brown, 380 So.2d 792 (Ala. 198......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT