Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County in case of Harold E. Miller v. Emanuel S. Leopold, No. 158 March Term, 1953; and Harold E. Miller v. Ardie J. Dillen and Isaiah Scheeline, Jr., Trustees for the Baker Estate, No. 40 June Term, 1960.
John E. Eberhardt, Jr., with him Emanuel S. Leopold, Isaiah Scheeline, and Scheeline & Leopold, for appellants.
Richard G. Kotarba, with him Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, for appellees.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Mencer.
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Harold E. Miller (Miller) commenced an action against Emanuel S. Leopold (Leopold) to quiet title to an 18-acre tract in which his claim of title was founded upon a county treasurer's sale.*fn1 Leopold filed an answer containing new matter in which he averred that his title to the land in question was based upon the foreclosure of a mortgage which had not been divested by the tax sale proceedings.
Some 7 years later Miller commenced a second action against Ardie J. Dillen and Isaiah Scheeline, Jr., Trustees for the Baker Estates, to quiet title to a 4.6-acre tract. This action was based on the same tax title as that involved in the earlier proceeding.
Both actions were referred to a master, and the parties stipulated that they be consolidated for the purpose of trial. Miller amended the pleadings to designate Donald M. Geesey and Phil Klevan as additional plaintiffs, pursuant to the provisions of a declaration of trust wherein Miller purportedly held title to the land in
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question, inter alia, for himself and the additional plaintiffs. After a hearing, the master filed his report recommending the entry of judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. The Court of Common Pleas of Blair County confirmed the report nisi, and defendants filed exceptions thereto which were dismissed, and judgment was entered in favor of the plaintiffs. This appeal followed.
The issues raised necessitate the setting forth of the facts in some detail.
Elias Baker was one of the famous ironmakers in Pennsylvania history. During his lifetime, he acquired vast holdings of real estate both by patent and by purchase in what was first designated as Huntingdon County and later included in the newly formed Blair County. He maintained a limestone quarry which has been inactive for almost a century but which is still visible upon the land in dispute in this appeal. He operated an ore furnace on land on the present site of the Altoona Women's Club. Several hundred feet further west of this property he erected his large home or mansion which is now the headquarters of the Blair County Historical Society and one of the most famous landmarks in Blair County history.
The land in dispute in this appeal was owned by Mr. Baker over a century ago. At the time of his death, all his real estate was devised to his widow and children. Upon the death of his widow, title to the lands then remaining, including the land in dispute in this appeal, became vested in his heirs where it remained until 1920. In 1920, the title was vested in his heir, Louise Woods Beckman. By deed dated December 15, 1920, Louise Woods Beckman and Ernst Beckman, her husband, conveyed title to F. Woods Beckman and John Cree, as trustees under a certain declaration of trust. One of the properties thus conveyed was described therein as "398 acres Mansion or Furnace Tract." No further legal description for this land appears in the records of Blair County. Many valuable improvements have since been
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erected upon various areas of this tract, the title to which stems from this simple legal description.
In 1914 and prior thereto, the portion of the Mansion or Furnace tract in dispute was located in the Second District of Logan Township in Blair County. There were two assessments in this district in 1914. One assessment was "128 acres Mansion Farm". The other assessment was "160 acres clear Brush Run" and "80 acres timber Brush Run" for a total of 240 acres.
In 1915, the Fifth District of Logan Township was formed and extracted from the Second District. That portion of the Second District bounded by the City of Altoona and the Seventh District of Logan Township on the north, by Plank Road and the new Pleasant Valley Boulevard on the east, by the Logan Valley and Burgoon Roads on the south, and by the Third District of Logan Township on the west was transferred into the Fifth District. Lands on the northwest side of the new Pleasant Valley Boulevard were in the Fifth District while those on the southeast side of the new Pleasant Valley Boulevard were in the Second District. The land in dispute lies to the northwest of the new Pleasant Valley Boulevard and accordingly was located in the Fifth District of Logan Township from 1915 to date.
Assessment records for 1915 show that the entire 128-acre Mansion Farm assessment was transferred into the Fifth District. Only 80 acres of the Brush Run Farm assessment were transferred into the Fifth District, and the other 160 acres of the Brush Run Farm assessment were retained in the Second District. The Mansion Farm assessment in the Fifth District remained the same until 1924 when it was reduced by 20 acres to reflect a conveyance to the Altoona School District for its athletic field.
In 1926, 51 acres of the Mansion Farm assessment were plotted as "Allegheny Furnace", and accordingly the assessment records were reduced from 108 acres to 57 acres. ...