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DOHERTY v. NORTHERN PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY.

decided: April 16, 1900.

DOHERTY
v.
NORTHERN PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF WISCONSIN.

Author: Shiras

[ 177 U.S. Page 428]

 MR. JUSTICE SHIRAS, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

It is conceded that Doherty, the plaintiff in error, owns the southwest quarter of section 4, township 47 north, of range 11 west, in Douglas County, Wisconsin, having made a homestead entry thereof November 8, 1882, and obtained a patent therefor February 6, 1890.

The Northern Pacific Railway Company, the defendant in error, claims a right of way four hundred feet in width over and across this quarter section, and has constructed and is operating its railroad thereon. It is not claimed that this right of way was acquired by purchase or condemnation, but it is claimed by virtue of the terms of the act of Congress, approved July 2, 1864, c. 217, 13 Stat. 365, incorporating the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, and granting to it, among other rights and privileges, a right of way through the public lands of the United States. This act authorized the corporation, thereby created, to construct a railroad "beginning at a point on Lake Superior in the State of Minnesota or Wisconsin" westward to "some point on Puget's Sound," and the controlling question in this case is whether the eastern terminus of the railroad constructed under the act is at Duluth, Minnesota, or at Ashland, Wisconsin. If at Duluth, then the company acquired no right of way over any public land in Wisconsin; but if at Ashland, then it did acquire a right of way over public lands in Wisconsin, including the land in question.

[ 177 U.S. Page 429]

     It is conceded that on August 2, 1884, the directors of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company adopted a resolution fixing the eastern terminus of the railroad at Ashland; that this resolution was transmitted to the Commissioner of the General Land Office; that thereafter the Commissioner prepared a diagram showing the final eastern terminus of the line at Ashland, and sent the same to the district officers at Bayfield, Wisconsin, with instructions to adjust the grant on this basis; that a continuous line of railroad from Ashland to Puget's Sound in all respects in accordance with the act of incorporation, and as depicted upon its map of definite location has been constructed, and has been accepted as such by the President of the United States. Such concessions would seem to warrant a conclusion that the defendant in error is entitled, as matter of right, to maintain and operate its road upon a right of way over the land in dispute, and we are led to inquire why it is that such a conclusion is disputed.

And, first, it is claimed by the plaintiff in error that the Northern Pacific Railroad Company definitely located its eastern terminus at Duluth, January 1, 1872, when it purchased one half of the track and right of way of the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad Company from Thomson Junction to Duluth, and made a contract for operation of the line in common.

In reply to this claim the company denies that, by purchasing an interest in the line from Thomson Junction to Duluth, it was ever intended by the company to make Duluth the eastern terminus, or that the arrangement with the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad operated, as a matter of law, to fix and determine Duluth as the eastern terminus; and attention is called to the fact that it is provided in the act of July 2, 1864, that before the Northern Pacific Railroad Company could commence the construction of its road it should obtain the consent of the legislature of any State through which any portion of its line might pass. Such consent was obtained from the States of Wisconsin and Minnesota; and in the act of the latter State, granting consent, it was in terms provided "that should the company elect to make the eastern terminus of said line east of the eastern boundary of the State of Minnesota, then, and in

[ 177 U.S. Page 430]

     that case, they shall construct, or cause to be constructed, a line of railroad from the said main line to the navigable waters of Lake Superior, within the State of Minnesota, of the same gauge as said main line, for which purpose, the same powers, rights and privileges are hereby granted to said company as they have or may have to construct said main line in the State of Minnesota."

Evidently it was not intended by the legislature of Minnesota by this enactment to compel the railroad company to make its eastern terminus within the limits of that State. Indeed, the act recognizes the right of the company to elect to make its eastern terminus east of the limits of Minnesota.

It was, then, in compliance with the condition imposed by Minnesota, namely, that in case the railroad company elected to make its eastern terminus in Wisconsin, that the arrangement was made whereby the line from Thomson Junction on the main line to Duluth became, as to one half thereof, the property of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company.

We agree with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin in so regarding this transaction, and also in its holding that the arrangement between the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad Company and the Northern Pacific Railroad Company did not constitute a consolidation of the companies in any legal sense, so as to make the short line ...


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