Appeal, No. 170, March T., 1953, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, in Equity, No. 2479, in case of Harry S. Klingensmith v. Mattie M. Klingensmith and Effie B. Klingensmith. Decree reversed.
Vincent R. Smith, with him Edgar P. Herrington, Jr., for appellants.
Avra N. Pershing, Jr., with him Henry B. Waltz, Jr., for appellee.
Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO
The fact that the plaintiff and defendants in this case are brother and sisters has not lessened the ardent intensity of the legal rivalry between them, nor can it dull the edge of the law called upon to do justice between them.
On March 25, 1919, Mattie M. Klingensmith and Effie B. Klingensmith became owners in fee simple (by deed from their parents) of a farm in Salem Township, Westmoreland County. In that year Harry S. Klingensmith left the farm to go live elsewhere. The two sisters, with their father, managed the farm, working and tilling the soil until 1929 when, the father dying, the girls sought independent employment, one as a housekeeper and the other as a practical nurse. They
continued, however, to live in the farmhouse until 1939 when they took up lodgings closer to their respective places of employment. From 1941 to 1946 inclusive, Harry used the farm for pasture and in compensation for this privilege paid the taxes.
Moving from place to place (achieving change of residence 8 times from 1919 to 1947), the plaintiff, in the latter year, settled on the Salem Township Farm and proceeded to operate it. The defendant sisters returned occasionally to the family homestead in which they still retained many of their personal possessions. In 1950, the Peoples Natural Gas Company entered into an agreement with the defendants for the sinking of gas wells on the land and the construction of a right-of-way over it.
On April 4, 1951, the plaintiff entered a suit in equity against his sisters, demanding of them a deed to the farm because of an oral agreement assertedly entered into between him and them on or about November 1, 1946. The defendants denied any such agreement and eventually the case came to trial before a court of equity in Westmoreland County which decreed specific performance, requiring the defendants to convey to the plaintiff a general warranty deed for the Salem Township farm. This appeal followed.
The celebrated Statute of Frauds*fn* is one of the most formidable and salutary safeguards of property in the entire lexicon of law. Through its application, title to land acquires a firmness and permanence as solid and enduring as the particular piece of earth to which it gives metes, bounds and a name. The plaintiff here claims that the absence of the writing required by ...