Messner v. Giddings

Decision Date22 January 1886
Docket NumberCase No. 1643
CourtTexas Supreme Court

APPEAL from Washington. Tried below before the Hon. J. B. McFarland.

The opinion states the case.

Sayles & Bassett, for appellants, that the district court was without jurisdiction in the suit of McJilton v. Wilson, and its judgment rendered therein was void, cited: Const. of 1886, art. 14, secs. 6, 16; P. D., arts. 1226, 3908, 3916; Rogers v. Kennard, 54 Tex. 30; Const. of United States, amendments arts. 5, 14, sec. 1; Const. of Texas, 1866, art. 1, sec. 16; Withers v. Patterson, 27 Tex. 491-499; Cooley on Const. Lim. 397, 398; Jones v. Perry, 10 Yerg. 59;People v. Platte, 17 Johns. 195;Bradshaw v. Rodgers, 20 Johns. 103;Milam Co. v. Robertson, 47 Tex. 222;Murchison v. White, 54 Tex. 78;French v. Grenet, 57 Tex. 273.

That the want of authority in the district court to render the decree in McJilton v. Wilson may be inquired into collaterally, they cited: Rogers v. Kennard, 54 Tex. 30;Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 457;Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U. S., 198, and authorities therein cited; Pana v. Bowler, 107 U. S., 545; Winston v. Winston, Galveston term, 1882.

Breedlove & Ewing and C. C. Garrett, for appellees, on the question of jurisdiction, cited: Pas. Dig. art. 1423; Battle v. Carter, 44 Tex. 486;Wright v. Ragland, 18 Tex. 289;Ward v. Lathrop, 11 Tex. 290; Story's Conflict of Laws, secs. 539, 551, et seq.; Const. 1866, art. 4, sec. 6; Pas. Dig., art. 1405; Lane v. Howard, 22 Tex. 7;Gibson v. Moore, 22 Tex. 611.

That the district court having had jurisdiction of the suit of McJilton v. Wilson, its decree rendered therein cannot be impeached or inquired into in a collateral proceeding, they cited: McAnear v. Epperson, 54 Tex. 220;Fitch v. Boyer 51 Tex. 344;Murchison v. White, 54 Tex. 78;Tennell v. Breedlove, 54 Tex. 540;Treadway v. Eastburn, 57 Tex. 209;Crane v. Blum, 56 Tex. 329; Robertson v. Johnson, 1. Tex. Law Rep. 336; Wilson v. Wright, 1 Tex. Law Rep. 341; Fleming v. Seeligson, 57 Tex. 524;Brockenborough v. Melton, 55 Tex. 493; Walker v. Hunt, Tyler term, 1883.

Counsel for both parties also cited numerous authorities on propositions not discussed in the opinion.


This action was brought by J. D. Messner, Ella M. Messner, and Willis S. Messner, to recover from the appellees the land described in the petition. The plaintiffs' title rests upon the following admitted facts:

“1. On, and prior to, April 7, 1862, the land in controversy in this suit, with the improvements then on the same, was the property of D. Messner and Marietta Messner, his wife, and the same was their community property.

2. On April 2, 1862, D. Messner died intestate, and his estate was insolvent.

3. Messner and his wife had three children, who are the plaintiffs in this suit. The oldest child, J. D. Messner, was born June 25, 1845; Ella M. Messner was born January 24, 1857, and Wm. M. Messner was born August 16, 1860.

4. At the date of D. Messner's death, the land in controversy was the homestead of Messner and his family.

5. Mrs. Marietta Messner and the above named children were the sole surviving heirs of D. Messner, deceased.

6. The widow and children continued to occupy the land in controversy as their homestead until about September 12, 1864, when Mrs. Messner and her children removed to the state of New Jersey, where they have ever since continued to reside.

7. On September 12, 1864, Mrs. Messner, by her deed of gift of that date, conveyed to her three children, the plaintiffs, all her right, title and interest in the property in controversy. The deed was duly recorded in the records of Washington county, September 19, 1864.”

The plaintiffs proved the value of the improvements and rents of the premises in controversy, but a further statement of the evidence in relation thereto is unnecessary, as the court held that the defendants' title, as hereafter stated, was the superior title.

The defendants claimed title to the premises, under the pleadings and judgment in the cause entitled M. M. McJilton et al. v. John Wilson, No. 3916, on the docket of the district court of Washington county, as follows:

1. Plaintiffs' petition, filed April 2, 1869, as follows:

                ¦THE STATE OF TEXAS,  ¦)¦                                     ¦
                ¦                     ¦)¦In district court, Spring term, 1869.¦
                ¦COUNTY OF WASHINGTON.¦)¦                                     ¦

To the Honorable G. R. Scott, Judge of the Third Judicial District:

Your petitioner, Marietta McJilton, joined by her husband Wm. T. McJilton, for herself, and as mother and natural guardian of Dagobert Messner, W. M. Messner and Ella Messner, minors, all residents of the county of Union and state of New Jersey, represent unto your honor, that, as the widow and children of D. Messner, deceased, late of Washington county, Texas, they are possessed of a tract of about twenty-eight acres of land near to and adjoining the town of Brenham, which was the homestead of your petitioner and her children, and is the same that was conveyed to D. Messner by A. G. Compton, and was formerly in four lots, and is described in the deed as follows:

[The field notes describe the property claimed by the plaintiffs in this suit, and are omitted as being unnecessary to an understanding of the case.]

That on September 12, 1864, your petitioner, being a widow, and having no means of educating her children, resolved to return to her father in the state of New York, but, being fearful that the proper authorities of the Confederate government would, in the event of her leaving, confiscate her homestead, she made a deed of gift of her interest in the property to her children above named, which is recorded in book T, p. 111, records of Washington county, but is unstamped; that, after her arrival in the north, she traded with her father, John Wilson, of Dutchess county, New York, for one hundred and twenty-six acres of land in the village of Springfield, Union county, New Jersey; that the land was valued, in the trade, at the sum of $22,500; that your petitioner conveyed a house and lot in the city of Newark, New Jersey, for $4,000 of the purchase money; that her mother being old and infirm, and desiring to live with her, she was allowed, in the trade, the sum of $5,000 for taking care of her; that the Brenham property, hereinbefore described, was to be taken at the sum of $7,000, and there was a mortgage on the place of $6,500, which your petitioner had to lift.

Petitioner avers, that, at the date of the trade with her father, the property in New Jersey was really worth the sum of $35,000, and that it is now even more valuable; that the place is finely improved, consisting in part of two good dwelling houses, two good barns that cost at least the sum of $15,000; that the property is five miles from Elizabeth city, and six miles from Newark; that $7,000, the price agreed upon for the Brenham property, is its just and fair value; that it will be greatly to her advantage and to the advantage of her children to make the trade, but that she has been unable to consummate the matter, in consequence of the deed of gift executed as aforesaid. She therefore prays that John Wilson may be made a party defendant hereto, and that she be permitted to prove the value of each of the places, and the benefits resulting, and likely to result, to her and her children from the trade, if permitted to complete the same. She prays that a decree might be rendered divesting the title to the Brenham property from her children and vesting the same in John Wilson; that in lieu of the property, her children may have a mortgage on the New Jersey property for the sum of $7,000, the price and value of the same, and for such other and further relief as to equity belongs and her case requires.

2. The answer of John Wilson, filed April 22, 1869:

                ¦M. M.     ¦)¦                                                                ¦
                ¦MCJILTON  ¦ ¦                                                                ¦
                ¦v.        ¦)¦No. 3916.--Suit pending in the district court of Washington     ¦
                ¦          ¦ ¦county, Spring term, A. D. 1869.                                ¦
                ¦JOHN      ¦)¦                                                                ¦
                ¦WILSON    ¦ ¦                                                                ¦

Now, at this term of the court, comes the defendant John Wilson, in person, and accepts service of the petition, waives the necessity of citation and a copy of plaintiff's petition, and, for answer, admits that the allegations of plaintiff are true. He says that he is father of plaintiff, M. M. McJilton, and grandfather of the Messner children; that he believes, fully, that the trade will be greatly to the advantage of the plaintiffs; that he would not have made such a trade, except with his own children and for their benefit.


3. Second answer of John Wilson, filed April 23, 1869:

                ¦M. M. MCJILTON¦)¦                                 ¦
                ¦v.            ¦)¦No. 3916.--In the district court.¦
                ¦JOHN WILSON   ¦)¦                                 ¦

And now comes the defendant and saith, that, in order to aid the...

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