Taylor v. Mayo

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation110 U.S. 330,28 L.Ed. 163,4 S.Ct. 147
PartiesTAYLOR and another, Trustees, etc., v. MAYO, Adm'x, etc
Decision Date04 February 1884

The defendant in error, administratrix, devisee, and legatee of Charles Davis, deceased, was plaintiff in the court below. The declaration alleged that on October 4, 1861, the defendants, S. Staats Taylor and Edwin Parsons, trustees of the Cairo city property, executed and delivered to Charles Davis, then in life, but since deceased, a contract in writing, of which the following is a copy:

'Whereas Charles Davis, late one of the trustees of the Cairo city property, has agreed to transfer to the present trustees of said property, S. Staats Taylor and Edwin Parsons, at their request, all of said property remaining in his hands, without requiring previous payment of his demands against said property: Now, in consideration of the premises, and of one dollar to us in hand paid, we, S. Staats Taylor and Edwin Parsons, trustees of the Cairo city property, hereby promise and agree to and with the said Charles Davis, his executors, administrators, or assigns, that we will apply, from time to time, to the payment of all the just claims and demands of said Charles Davis against said Cairo city property, including the sum of $7,382.60, audited October 1, 1860, until the same shall be fully paid, all the moneys which shall come and remain in our hands as trustees as aforesaid, after first paying therefrom all taxes and current expenses of said property and trust actually imposed or incurred. But said claims and demands of said Davis, his executors or administrators, shall not be preferred to like claims of his co-trustee, John H. Wright.

'October 4, 1861.



'Trustees of the Cairo City Property.'

The declaration further alleged that at the date of the execution and delivery of the contract there was due to Davis on just claims and demands against the Cairo city property, which had been audited and allowed, the sum of $7,382.60; that on March 1, 1867, Davis departed this life, leaving a last will and testament, which was afterwards duly proven, whereby he devised and bequeathed all his estate to the plaintiff; that afterwards, on September 30, 1867, the defendants, in consideration of the premises, executed and delivered to the plaintiff another contract, whereby they renewed and confirmed the contract of October 4, 1861, between them and Davis, and agreed to pay the plaintiff, as his administratrix, the amounts due his estate in the same manner and form as in the instrument of October 4, 1861, is particularly set forth, and that although large sums of money had come into the hands of the defendants as such trustees, over and above the amounts necessary to pay all the taxes and current expenses of the property and trust actually imposed or incurred, they had neglected and refused to pay said sum of money or any part of it. The defendants pleaded non-assumpsit. The parties waived a trial by jury, and submitted the issues of fact, as well as of law, to the court, which mode a special finding of facts, upon which it rendered judgment against the defendants in the sum of $12,957.67, that being the principal sum due Davis from the Cairo city property on October 4, 1861, with interest from that date. To reverse that judgment the present writ of error is prosecuted.

Wager Swayne, for plaintiffs in error.

J. Hubley Ashton, for defendant in error.


The findings of the circuit court show the following facts: The contracts of October 4, 1861, and of September 30, 1867, were executed and delivered by the plaintiffs in error, as averred in the declaration; that said Charles Davis and one Thomas S. Taylor had, previous to the execution of the first-mentioned instrument, been trustees of the Cairo city property under and by virtue of a declaration of trust dated September 29, 1846. That instrument, after reciting the conveyance to Taylor and Davis of about 9,000 acres of land situate in the state of Illinois at and near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, declared that the property was held in trust by them to, for, and upon the terms, conditions, uses, interests, and purposes therein pointed out. The fourth section of the instrument defined the powers of the trustees as follows: 'The said Taylor and Davis and their successors shall have the general management and control of all the property aforesaid, and of the proceeds thereof, pay the taxes thereon when in funds, and all the expenses incident to the creation and execution of the trust hereby declared. They may make such contracts, execute such instruments and obligations, employ such agents and laborers, make such erections and improvements on said lands, and such purchases and sales of real and personal estate, leases, donations, and investments as may be necessary and expedient to promote the interests of the shareholders,' etc. The principal object of the co-owners of the land described in the declaration of trust was to build a city thereon. In the exercise of their powers the trustees caused 'the erection of levees of sufficient size and height to protect the city to be commenced; the old hotel was repaired; river bank protected from abrasion; roads were cut through the timber; part of the land cleared; a new hotel built at an expense to the trust of about twenty thousand dollars, and grounds were laid out for a cemetery; a steam-boat was bought and run on the business of this trust; a quarry operated, also a ferry; newspapers were established; the city and additions were platted lots were donated as compensation to persons who assisted in protecting the property from adverse legislation; wharves were constructed and improved; all these expenses were paid out of the trust fund.' About September, 1, 1860, the plaintiffs in error were, by regular conveyances, made the successors of Taylor and Davis as trustees. By virtue of the powers expressed in the fourth clause of the declaration of trust they executed the agreement of October 4, 1861, in order to obtain from Davis a transfer of the trust estate. On order to carry out the purposes of the trust, the plaintiffs in error, on October 1, 1863, borrowed $75,000, and on October 1, 1867, $50,000, to secure which they executed mortgages on all the real estate of the trust, which were afterwards foreclosed and the property sold, and the proceeds of the sale were insufficient to pay the amount due on the mortgage by $47,572.27. During the trusteeship of the plaintiffs in error they faithfully applied all the moneys received by them to the purposes of the trust, and in discharging what, in their opinion, were the current expenses of the trust and in the exercise of a fair and reasonable judgment therein. Between September 1, 1860, and the year 1874, the plaintiffs in error expended in improvements on the trust property, including the fire-proof office mentioned in the eighth finding, the sum of $298,226.91, and during the same period the additional sum of $343,226.94 in building levees on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and in protecting the Mississippi river bank, and, as appears from the accounts made part of the findings, much the greater part of these sums were expended after October 4, 1881. On September 30, 1867, the time of the execution of the obligation to the defendant in error, and at the commencement of this suit, they had no money of the trust fund in their hands, but the fund was indebted to them in a sum exceeding $8,000.

The eighth finding established the following fact: About the winter of 1863 and spring of 1864 the plaintiffs in error, as trustees, erected, at a cost of about $35,000, a fire- -proof office, which they deemed to be absolutely necessary for the safe keeping of the valuable papers and the transaction of the...

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