Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron Co. v. Lollar

Citation54 So. 272,170 Ala. 239
CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Decision Date20 December 1910

Appeal from Chancery Court, Walker County; A. H. Benners Chancellor.

Suit by L. W. Lollar against the Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron Company. From a decree dismissing the bill, as also the cross-bill of defendant, both parties appeal. Reversed and rendered.

Tillman Grubb, Bradley & Morrow, for appellant.

Bankhead & Bankhead, for appellee.


From a final decree of the chancellor, rendered on a submission of the cause on the pleadings and proof, the present appeals direct and cross, are taken. The Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron Company, hereinafter designated as the Sloss Company, was respondent in the original bill and the complainant in the cross-bill. L. W. Lollar was complainant in the original and respondent in the cross bill.

L. W. Lollar filed his bill under the statute (section 5443 et seq., of the Code of 1907) for the purpose of quieting title and compelling a determination of claims to the land described in the bill. The lands, the title and claims to which are sought to be quieted and determined, consist of the minerals in the following described land: S.W. 1/4 of S.E. 1/4, section 22, and S. 1/2 of N.W. 1/4 and W. 1/2 of N.E. 1/4 and S.E. 1/4 of N.E. 1/4 and N. 1/2 of S.E. 1/4, section 27 all in township 15, range 7, and situate in Walker county, state of Alabama. The bill contained all of the necessary averments under the statute. The Sloss Company answered the bill, setting forth in its answer, pursuant to the requirements of the statute (section 5445), its title and claim to the lands in question. The answer of the respondent contained other averments as a predicate for affirmative relief, and to that end was made a cross-bill with appropriate prayer.

Both parties claim title through a common source. It appears that some time prior to the year 1876 Edmund I. Adcock entered the land in question, it being United States government land, and died in possession of it, leaving surviving him his widow, K. E. Adcock, and three children--William Adcock, a son, and two daughters, F. A. Adcock and A. J. Adcock. The two daughters subsequently married, and are known in the record here as Mrs. F. A. Miller and Mrs. A. J. Holcomb; the latter sometimes called Mrs. Whitley, the husband's name by her second marriage. The complainant, Lollar, claims title under deeds made to him by the three children, heirs at law of Edmund I. Adcock, deceased, namely, William Adcock, Mrs. F. A. Miller, and Mrs. A. J. Whitley, formerly Mrs. A. J. Holcomb, and which said deeds were executed in January, 1907, a month or two before the institution of this suit. The respondent, complainant in the cross-bill, claims under a deed from K. E. Adcock, William Adcock, F. A. Miller, and A. J. Holcomb to Benjamin M. Long, of date January 14, 1878, and from said Long through a connected chain of title to itself.

The deed to Long of January 14, 1878, is attacked by the complainant, and its validity as a deed contested and denied, upon the asserted ground that at the time of its execution it was signed in blank, not containing the name of the grantee, nor a description of the property conveyed; furthermore, that the grantors, heirs at law of E. I. Adcock, who signed the deed, are not named in the body of the deed as grantors, the description in the deed of the grantors being Kessiah E. Adcock and her heirs, of Cullman county. It is also asserted by complainant that William Adcock did not in fact sign the deed, and that F. A. Miller, one of the grantors who signed the deed, was at the time a married woman, and that her husband did not join with her in its execution.

The deed in question was attested by two witnesses, and there was also an acknowledgment taken before one D. P. Vickery, a notary public and ex officio justice of the peace, and, though irregular, certifying that "K. E. Adcock and her heirs, whose name is signed to the foregoing conveyance and who is known to me, acknowledged," etc. This deed was filed for registration in the office of the probate judge of Walker county on the 4th day of June, 1897. The deed, when offered in evidence in this case, was more than 30 years old; but the question of its admissibility in evidence as an ancient document is of no importance, as its execution was duly proven by each of the attesting witnesses, who testified in the case. It may be said, however, in passing, that its great age, and coming from the proper custody, without any mark of suspicion attaching to it, in connection with the fact that Long and those claiming under him had looked after the land and paid taxes on it, "acts referable to the title," as was said in White, McLane & Morris v. Farris, 124 Ala. 461, 27 So. 259, was sufficient to admit the deed in evidence upon the doctrine of ancient documents, with further proof of actual possession by the Sloss Company or its predecessors in title under the deed.

The deed on its face is by Mrs. Adcock and "her heirs," and it is contended that, as the parties signing it, other than Mrs. Adcock, are not named as grantors in the body, it is ineffectual to convey their title. While it is true that the body of the deed must show who are the grantors, the rule does not require the names of the grantors to be inserted in the body of the deed. The requirement of the rule is met if, from the deed in its entirety, enough is shown from which, by the aid of extrinsic evidence, the names of the grantors can be made certain. As was said in Madden v. Floyd, 69 Ala. 221: "The description is sufficiently certain if the identity of the party can be worked out through a proper application of the maxim, 'Id certum est quod certum reddi potest.' " To the same effect is Jones v. Morris, 61 Ala. 518, wherein, quoting from Shaw v. Loud, 12 Mass. 447, it is said: "A deed made to the heirs at law of a deceased person is good, because the persons who are to take can be ascertained by extrinsic testimony." It is evident that the words " her heirs," as used in the deed in the present case, meant her children--was intended to designate her children. The living have no heirs--"non hæres est viventis." The children of Mrs. Adcock signed the deed with her, which of itself shows what was understood by all of them in the use of the words "her heirs" as employed in the body of the deed. Applying the principle laid down in the above-cited cases of Madden v. Floyd and Jones v. Morris, we have no hesitancy in upholding the deed against this attack on its validity.

Was the deed signed in blank? This is an issue of fact, in which the burden of proof rests upon the attacking party. The testimony here is in conflict. The deed is regular on its face, and after the lapse of 30 years it comes within that class of instruments with reference to the execution and genuineness of which it was said, in Bernstein v. Humes, 75 Ala. 241-244: "The dust of years has settled on the transactions brought in view in the testimony, and human memory is not infallible. Some of the witnesses must be mistaken; for they are in conflict. Be the true facts as they may, we hold that the rulings of the circuit court, in receiving the ancient deeds and copies in evidence, are free from error." In Wilson v. Holt, 83 Ala. 528-540, 3 So. 321, 327, 3 Am. St. Rep. 768, a suit to establish an interest in land, dependent upon the validity of a decree of divorce rendered some 23 years before, when legislative sanction was required to render the decree of divorce effectual, there being no evidence in the case of such legislative sanction, it was said: "It will be presumed, therefore, in view of this great lapse of time, that the requisite sanction was given by the General Assembly to the decree of divorce granted by the chancery court. Almost any reasonable presumption of fact will be conclusively indulged, in order to sustain the rights asserted under a decree which is 20 years old." Wilson v. Holt, 83 Ala. 528-540, 3 So. 321, 3 Am. St. Rep. 768; Clemmons et al. v. Cox et al., 116 Ala. 567-572, 23 So. 79.

In 16 Cyc. p. 1075, the principle is thus stated: "Upon proof of a fact so ancient as to suggest inherent difficulty in proving preliminary or attendant facts, all circumstances necessary to its legal validity will be assumed to exist." In a case like the one under consideration after so great a lapse of time, in order to overcome the reasonable presumptions to be indulged in favor of the due execution and genuineness of the deed, the evidence should be clear, satisfactory, and convincing. Such is not the state of the complainant's evidence. Three of the principal actors participating in the transaction of the making of the deed, namely, Mrs. Adcock, one of the grantors and the mother of the other three whose names are signed as grantors, and who it is admitted negotiated the sale of the land, and B. M. Long, the named grantee in the deed, and D. P. Vickery, the justice of the peace who took the acknowledgment and in whose handwriting the writing in the body of the instrument is admitted to be, have long since been silenced in death. These three, if living, could no doubt by their testimony explain some things material, that are left wholly in inference by the...

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26 cases
  • McMillan v. Aiken
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • November 18, 1920
    ...deed was relevant and material evidence. It was admissible under the authorities (White, McLane & Morris v. Farris, supra; S.-S.S. & I. Co. v. Lollar, supra), and the recitals, being free from suspicion, are evidence of the facts purported thereby (Jordan v. McClure Lbr. Co., 170 Ala. 289, ......
  • Chestang v. Tensaw Land & Timber Co.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 8, 1960
    ...v. Prestwood, 153 Ala. 443, 45 So. 251; Vandegrift v. Southern Mineral Land Co., 166 Ala. 312, 51 So. 983; Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron Co. v. Lollar, 170 Ala. 239, 54 So. 272; Rucker v. Jackson, 180 Ala. 109, 60 So. 139. In the opinion in each of the last four cited cases, this court made ......
  • Ex parte Green, No. 1071195 (Ala. 4/9/2010)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • April 9, 2010
    ...45 So. 251 [(1907)]; Vandegrift v. Southern Mineral Land Co., 166 Ala. 312, 51 So. 983 [(1909)17; Page 59 Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron Co. v. Lollar, 170 Ala. 239, 54 So. 272 [(1910)]; Rucker v. Jackson, 180 Ala. 109, 60 So. 139 [(1912)]. In the opinion in each of the last four cited cases,......
  • Ex Parte Johnnie Mae Alexander Green Et Al.(in Re Frank Stokes
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • April 9, 2010
    ...[58 So.3d 159] Vandegrift v. Southern Mineral Land Co., 166 Ala. 312, 51 So. 983 [ (1909) 17]; Sloss–Sheffield Steel & Iron Co. v. Lollar, 170 Ala. 239, 54 So. 272 [ (1910) ]; Rucker v. Jackson, 180 Ala. 109, 60 So. 139 [ (1912) ]. In the opinion in each of the last four cited cases, this c......
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