Richards v. Wilson

CourtSupreme Court of Indiana
Citation112 N.E. 780,185 Ind. 335
Docket NumberNo. 22283.,22283.
PartiesRICHARDS et al. v. WILSON et al.
Decision Date22 May 1916

185 Ind. 335
112 N.E. 780

RICHARDS et al.
v.
WILSON et al.

No. 22283.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

May 22, 1916.


Appeal from Circuit Court, Hendricks County.

Suit by Medford B. Wilson and others, as trustees, against the Winona Agricultural and Technical Institute and others. William J. Richards and others appeared and answered, and from an adverse judgment appealed. Affirmed.

[112 N.E. 782]


Samuel Ashby, Scott & Scott, and Charles A. Dryer, all of Indianapolis, Geo. C. Harvey, of Danville, L. C. Walker and Miller, Shirley, Miller & Thompson, all of Indianapolis, and Geo. W. Brill, of Danville, for appellants. F. Winter, A. C. Harris, Albert Baker, William Bosson, and Gavin, Gavin & Davis, all of Indianapolis, for appellees.

COX, C. J.

This action was brought by appellees, Medford B. Wilson, John Perrin, Alfred A. Barnes, Charles Latham, and Frank E. Gavin, as trustees, against the Winona Agricultural and Technical Institute, the Winona Technical Institute, Charles A. Bookwalter, receiver, and many others, to have determined the character and purpose of the trust under which they had, as such trustees, acquired and then held title to a tract of land in the city of Indianapolis known as the “United States Arsenal Grounds.” The purpose to buy the ground from the federal government to preserve it intact as a site for a manual labor school, and to raise a fund by popular subscription to cover the purchase price, was averred in the complaint. The proposal of a certain group of men known as the “Winona Group” to establish, liberally endow, and maintain a school for the education of boys and girls in trades and handicrafts on the site if the public would so buy it was shown. They were to incorporate the Winona Agricultural and Technical Institute to conduct the school. The raising of the amount necessary for the purchase by popular donations and subscriptions from many persons for the purpose of keeping the grounds intact as a site for such a school was set forth at length. It was then averred that when the donations and subscriptions had reached the amount necessary to make the purchase, it was learned that the Winona group had failed to provide any endowment; that then the appellees named, as trustees of the fund, called a meeting, on January 8, 1903, of the larger subscribers, representatives of the proposed Winona corporation, and others interested, to consider the matter of making the purchase from the federal government at the sale which was to occur shortly. At this meeting it was arranged that the trustees should buy the tract, take the title to themselves, and hold it until an endowment of at least $154,000, a sum equal to the probable purchase price should be provided by the Winona corporation; and it was then determined that the grounds should be forever devoted to and held in trust for educational purposes in the city of Indianapolis, and that no conveyance should be made to the institute until such endowment should be provided. Pursuant to the conclusion reached at that meeting, the trustees, on January 15 1903, sent a letter through the mails, which subsequently became known as the “Blue Letter,” to each subscriber, stating substantially the arrangement made at that meeting, and requesting payment. The collection of the money, the purchase of the tract, the conveyance by the federal government to appellees trustees as trustees of the Winona Agricultural and Technical Institute, were all averred in detail. It was then shown that the promised endowment failed, but that the trustees granted to the institute permission to occupy the premises, but to have no title, and to surrender possession upon the demand of the trustees; that it went into possession and had so continued, but was insolvent and in the hands of a receiver for that reason, owing debts to many people in a large sum. It was further shown in the complaint that the number of donors to the purchase fund was so great that it would be impossible to make them all parties to the suit; that the number of creditors of the institute was so great that it was impracticable to make them all defendants. Finally it was stated in the complaint that the trustees, without desiring to espouse the cause of anybody making claims to any interest in the property the title to which was held by them as trustees, did desire to maintain and uphold the trust and see that its purpose was carried out. And they prayed the court to ascertain and determine the trust and the rights of all the parties, the duty of the trustees with reference to the property so held by them, and in case a deed should be made to any one, the provisions to be stated therein for the protection of the trust and its preservation for educational purposes in the city of Indianapolis.

Many others than those named in the complaint came in as parties and many pleadings of great length were filed, mainly in the nature of answers to the complaint, and cross-complaints between the many parties defendant. Three of the donors of large sums, Fletcher S. Hines, William E. Hayward, and Edward C. Fletcher, by their answers and cross-complaints took the position that as the Winona group had failed to raise either a promised endowment of $2,000,000 and provide an annual income of $50,000, as originally contemplated when the subscriptions were made, or to raise $154,000, as provided when the subscriptions were paid in response to the “blue letter” the trust was never consummated, but had failed, and that the property held by the trustees should be sold by the court and the proceeds divided among the donors, who were about 4,000 in number, to the exclusion of the creditors of the institute, in the ratio that the gift of each should bear to any sum for which the property might sell. The creditors of the Winona

[112 N.E. 783]

Technical Institute made up in the main of those who had loaned it money to fit the buildings and carry on the schools after it had entered into possession claimed through that corporation as their common debtor; that the property stood charged in equity with their several demands, and they asked that it be sold and the proceeds applied to the payment of their several debts against the insolvent corporation. Mr. Addison C. Harris, a donor to the fund of a large sum, in behalf of himself and those like him desiring to establish the trust as a public charitable trust and to protect and preserve it against all those parties who were antagonistic, filed an answer and a cross-complaint in which facts were averred on which it was maintained that the purpose in securing the donations to the fund and the purchase of the tract from the federal government was to keep those grounds intact like a public park, and to be used as a site for a trade school for boys and girls and held for uses in Indianapolis as a public educational charity. Other attorneys in the case, among them Mr. Ferdinand Winter representing Hugh McGowan and other large donors, and Mr. William Bosson representing Dr. R. C. Light, appeared and adopted the pleadings of Mr. Harris. And Andrew J. Brunt, a contributor of a large sum, personally appeared and did the same. The board of school commissioners of the city of Indianapolis was made a party and answered.

As no question is made in this appeal as to the sufficiency of any pleading, none need be more particularly set out than as above stated.

The court found the facts specially, and stated conclusions of law thereon favorable to the position taken by Mr. Harris and others and against the contentions of the donors Hines, Fletcher, and Hayward and the creditors of the institute, and, following motions for a new trial, rendered judgment accordingly. From that judgment the three donors last mentioned and the creditors have brought this appeal.

The errors assigned and relied on for reversal by the donors who have appealed and also the creditors are: (1) That the court erred in overruling their respective motions for a venire de novo; (2) in overruling their motions for a new trial; and (3) that it erred in its conclusions of law.

The vital questions in the case make it essential to set out the facts in substance as the court found them to be established by the evidence to the extent that they are involved in the questions raised by the assignments of error.

In 1902 the United States government owned, and for many years theretofore had owned, a tract of land, much of it wooded and substantially in a primeval state, which comprised slightly less than 80 acres in the city of Indianapolis. It had been devoted to use by the government as an arsenal site and small military post, and at the time named there were on it a small number of old, but substantial, buildings which had been erected for that use. During the years of the government's ownership the city in its growth had completely surrounded the tract, so that in 1992 it lay near the heart of the city. It then became known that the government proposed selling the tract. Thereupon a concerted movement was initiated by the press, civic and educational organizations, public officials and public spirited citizens to procure the tract by purchase from the government and to hold and preserve it intact for park and educational uses in the city. While this movement was gathering force and taking shape, a group of men of large means who were connected with or interested in the Winona Assembly & Summer School Association, a corporation conducting a chautauqua and summer school at Winona Lake, Ind., proposed that they would endow and manage a technical institute to be located on the arsenal grounds if the citizens of Indianapolis and vicinity would secure for them those grounds and buildings, the management of the proposed technical institute to be largely in the hands of a local committee of the citizens of Indianapolis. These men possessed large fortunes, and were well able to endow such a school in a manner to insure its success, which fact was well known to the...

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14 cases
  • Richards v. Wilson
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Indiana
    • May 22, 1916
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    ...... exercised in this State under the Act of April 18, 1853, P. L. 503.'" In the case of Richards vs. Wilson, 185 Ind. 335, 400, 112 N.E. 780, the court said:. "Gifts of land to charity, because of their public. purpose, are regarded as ......
  • St. Vincent's Hosp. v. Stine
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    ......Patrol v. Boyd, 120 Pa. 650, 15 Atl. 553, 1 L. R. A. 422, 6 Am. St. Rep. 745.        It was held by this court in the case of Richards v. Wilson (1916) 185 Ind. 335, 112 N. E. 780, which was a case to determine the character of the Winona Technical Institute, that an institution ......
  • Hobbs v. Bd. of Educ. of N. Baptist Convention, 28721.
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    ......The exercise of this power over charitable trusts has been attributed to what has been termed the judicial cy pres doctrine. Richards v. Wilson, 185 Ind. 335, 386, 112 N. E. 780;In re Estate of Nilson, 81 Neb. 809, 817, 116 N. W. 971, citing Crerar v. Williams, 145 Ill. 625, 34 N. ......
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