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RUHAMA AND REBECCA WHITAKER.
[To accompany bill H. R. No. 723.]
FEBRUARY 2, 1855.
Mr. HILLYER, from the Committee on Private Land Claims, made the
The Committee on Private Land Claims, to whom was referred the
memorial of Ruhama Whitaker and Rebecca Whitaker, praying the confirmation of title to two tracts of land in Louisiana, have had the same under consideration, and report :
That the following letter addressed by the Commissioner of the General Land Office to the Hon. John Perkins, of the House of Representatives, fully explains the nature of the claim, and embraces the views of the committee thereon. They therefore adopt it as their report:
“GENERAL LAND OFFICE, September 20, 1854. “SIR: I have the honor to return herewith the memorial and accompanying papers of Ruhama Whitaker, widow of the late Aquilla Whitaker, and of Rebecca Whitaker, her daughter.
“This memorial represents that Aquilla Whitaker went to Louisiana in the year 1806, and in 1809 (1st) purchased of John Brown a tract of land containing 560 arpens, that upon this tract he immediately settled with his family, and continued to reside on it until his death ; (2d,) that in 1814 the said Aquilla Whitaker, at the probate sale of Michael and Edward O'Conner, purchased a tract of 310 arpens, adjoining the lands of John Brown; that these two tracts constituted the plantation of the husband and father, and were all the lands he owned in Louisiana; that he resided upon this plantation from 1809 until his death, in 1824,
“It is further represented, in the memorial, that the aforesaid Ruhama, at the probate sale of her husband, bought the two tracts forming his plantation; that with the exception of about three years spent with her sons, she has ever since lived on and cultivated the place, and raised there nine children to be men and women; that the said plantation, by process of law, having been seized and sold as the property of the memorialists, was bought by Colonel David J. Fluker and Robert Perry, who resold the same to the aforesaid Rebecca, the daughter, vesting at the same time in the said Ruhama the usufruct of the land and plantation during her natural life.
“The memorialist Ruhama represents that she is seventy-eight years old ; that forty-five of them she has lived on this land; that now she learns the tract is the property of the United States, &c.; and she prays Congress to examine the papers and affidavits, and pass an act confirming to her the titles to the aforesaid two tracts of land.
“ The return of survey for the John Brown tract, for 560 arpens, as certified by the Spanish surveyor general in 1799, was made at the time when Spain had the power to grant. (See Spanish papers under A, in the memorial.)
“The other tract, viz: that of 310 arpens, under Edward O'Conner, appears to have had its origin in 1806, (see papers under B, in the memorial,) when the Spanish authorities had de facto, but not de jure, possession of the country embracing the land in question, and consequently then had not the power lawfully to grant.
“Further, I find this latter claim entered as No. 47, in favor of the heirs of Edward O'Conner, in his right, in James O'Cosby's register D of 'claims to land in the district west of Pearl river, in Louisiana, founded on orders of survey, (requettes,) permission to settle, or other written evidence of claim, which, in the opinion of the commissioner, ought not to be confirmed.' (See American State Papers, D. Green's edition, volume 3, page 57, and the remarks on page 62.)
"From the papers it appears that the land was long held in possession by A. Whitaker and those claiming under him.
“Indeed, the case of the memorialist, as one of great hardship, addresses itself to the liberal consideration of Congress. Pursuant to your oral request, I enclose a bill which would meet the application in the memorial. “With great respect, your obedient servant,
JOHN WILSON, Commissioner, - Hon. JOHN PERKINS,
“ House of Representatives." The committee report the accompanying bill for their relief.
JOHN ERVIN-LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES OF.
[To accompany bill H. R. No. 724.]
FEBRUARY 2, 1855.
Mr. HILLYER, from the Committee on Private Land Claims, made the
The Committee on Private Land Claims, to whom was referred the petition
of the legal representatives of John Ervin, report : That they have had the same under consideration and beg leave to report a bill. Your committee find that at the 32d Congress a bill and report were introduced into the Senate, in response to a petition of John Ervin, deceased, by Mr. Downs, from the Committee on Private Land Claims, which report your committee adopt as a statement of the case :
“ The petitioner represents, and the evidence sustains bis averment, that iwenty-three years since he settled on and improved a tract of land in the Bastrop claim, in Louisiana, and has resided on and cultivated it ever since; that long previously to his settlement this land had been sold by the grantee to Ballinger, who, after having made some improvements on it, abandoned it and left the country, and has not been heard of since, nor has any agent or heirs appeared or been heard of to act for him; that in consequence of this absence petitioner has not been able, as he intended to do, to purchase the title of said Ballinger, but that he has held peaceable and uninterrupted possession of it long enough to give him a title by prescription against all claimants, except the United States, under the laws of Louisiana ; that an act of Congress passed at the last session, (3d March, 1851) intended, among other things, to give a donation claim to such settlers for over twenty years, as he is, but that it has been decided not to embrace his case, because he has not a written title from Ballinger, holding under the original grantee ; that he was a pioneer in the wilderness when he settled this place, on which, by his own labor and that of his family raised on it, he has made considerable improvements; that he is now old and infirm, and poor, and not able to make other improvements if he fails to secure this, and prays that he may be confirmed in his title to said land, to the extent of six hundred and forty acres, the quantity granted by the act of 3d March, 1851, to other claimants under the grant who have occupied and cultivated the land for more than twenty years.
" The committee are of opinion that his case comes within the spirit of the act of 3d of March, 1851, referred to in the petition, and other acts allowing donation claims to early settlers in remote frontier districts of country, and report a bill accordingly, and recommend its passage, guarded in such a manner as not to affect the rights of others.
“ STATE OF LOUISIANA,
Parish of Morhouse. Personally came and appeared before me, David Stewart, of the parish of Union, State of Louisiana, who being duly sworn according to law, saith : That he has resided within the old parish of Onacbitee, or in some of the new parishes which have been formed from its territory, for about fifty-two years ; that deponent is well acquainted with John Ervin, who resides in the parish of Morhouse, (formerly part of the parish of Onachitee,) and has known him for twenty-nine years past ; deponent is well acquainted with the place where said Ervin lives on the Bayou Bartholomew. Deponent well remembers a person named Joseph Ballinger, having formerly lived at the same place some fifty years ago. Ballinger had an improvement there. About forty years ago Ballinger left the country, and has never, to the knowledge of deponent, returned to this country since, nor has deponent ever heard what has become of him; no one, to the knowledge of deponent, has ever claimed to be his heir, nor has deponent ever heard of any one pretending to act in his behalf as agent or legal representative. Depo nent is one of the oldest remaining inhabitants in the country, and was acquainted with most, if not all the old inhabitants. Deponent further saith, that John Ervin has been settled and living upon the Ballinger tract aforesaid for upwards of twenty years; has made a considerable improvement there, and has raised a respectable family, and has always been esteemed and looked upon by his neighbors as an honest and meritorious man.
bis DAVID X STEWART.
mark. " Sworn to and subscribed before me, on the 20th day of October, A. D. 1851.
A. McIVER, Justice of the Peace.
"To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States of America in Congress assembled. “ The undersigned, inhabitants of the parish of Morhouse, in the State of Louisiana, respectfully beg leave to represent to your honorable bodies, that they are well acquainted with John Ervin, of the said parish and State, who has applied to Congress for an act of relief under ihe provisions of the act of the third day of March, 1851, relating to cer
tain classes of private land claims in the Bastrop grant. Your memorialists have understood that by the rule of construction of the said act, adopted by the commissioners appointed by law to carry the same into effect, the claim of Mr. John Ervin would not be embraced.
“Your memorialists knowing the claim of Mr. Ervin to be meritorious; that he has, from the best intormation in their possession, actually resided upon and cultivated the tract ot land where he now resides for upwards of twenty years; that he has in all respects fulfilled the provisions of the act of third March, 1851, where the same has been in his power, and that the only deficiency which exists in his claim is the absence of a chain of proper title from the Baron de Bastrop or his vendees, which, from the absence of Joseph Ballinger and all his representatives from the country, and the total abandonment of the land by him and them, without the existence of any agent for near thirty years, from whom the same could be obtained ; joined to the fact that, by the existing laws of the State of Louisiana, Mr. Ervin has acquired a title by prescription, perfect against the said Ballinger and his heirs, and which in a legal contest with any, save only the government of the United States, would be held paramount, presents, in the opinion of your memorialists, a case for the liberal exercise of the power of Congress in the furtherance of his wishes. Your memorialists believing that the act of the third of March was intended to be liberal in effect, and to provide a home, by donation, to the respectable and hard-working pioneers of the country, and believing also that, under so general an act, cases of merit must necessarily occur which are not embraced in its provisions, respectfully recommend the passage of an act to enable Mr. John Ervin to be admitted to make proof of occupation and cultivation of the tract of land on which he lives, before the register and recorder of the land office at Monroe, Louisiana, for twenty years preceding the date of the said act of Congress of March 3, 1851, and that the production of paper title be dispensed with upon proof of a title by prescription against all other claimants than the government of the United States, and for such and further relief as your honorable bodies may deem proper and just.
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