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decided: February 21, 1916.



Author: Pitney

[ 240 U.S. Page 285]

 MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the court.

This was an action by the United States against the Union Naval Stores Company for the conversion during the years 1904 and 1905 of spirits of turpentine and rosin alleged to have been taken by defendant from certain Government lands in the County of Mobile, in the State of Alabama, known as the Freeland Homestead, and thus and otherwise more particularly described in the complaint.

The facts, as they appeared at the trial, were as follows: Freeland had made an application for a homestead entry under ยง 2289, Rev. Stat., but never perfected it. Being the owner of other lands in the same neighborhood, Freeland agreed with one Rayford to give him a turpentine lease for a lump sum upon all of his timber, not including the homestead. A third party having been employed to reduce the agreement to writing, Freeland discovered that the homestead had been included, and he called Rayford's attention to this and tendered back the

[ 240 U.S. Page 286]

     check given for the consideration money, on the ground that if the homestead was included in the lease he would be in danger of losing his entry. Rayford replied: "There is no law against turpentining a piece of homestead land as long as you are on it." And so Freeland made no further objection.

Rayford, during the years in question, conducted turpentining operations upon the Freeland homestead and a large number of other tracts in its vicinity. Under date December 21, 1903, he had entered into a "shipping contact" with the Union Naval Stores Company, by which he undertook to cut and box at least 10 crops of 10,500 boxes each from lands described in a deed of trust or mortgage of even date given by him to one Wade as trustee of the company, and to manufacture the crude turpentine into spirits of turpentine and rosin, and deliver the manufactured product at Mobile, Alabama, or other points selected by it. By the same agreement plaintiff in error undertook to advance moneys to be used by Rayford, and that it would receive the manufactured turpentine and rosin and sell it for Rayford's account at stipulated charges and commissions. The mortgage was given to secure the advances and the performance of the shipping agreement. It covered Rayford's turpentine leases, and also all crude and manufactured spirits of turpentine, and other products owned or in any manner secured by Rayford during the continuance of the contract. The crude turpentine taken by Rayford from the homestead was mixed with that taken from his other properties at or before it reached the still; and the manufactured products were shipped from time to time to plaintiff in error at Mobile, bills of lading being sent by mail, and accounts of sales being returned by plaintiff in error to Rayford.

It was admitted that, during the years 1904 and 1905, spirits of turpentine and rosin were received by plaintiff in error from Rayford, under the contract and mortgage refrred

[ 240 U.S. Page 287]

     to, in quantities greater than those claimed for in the suit. There was evidence as to the market values of these products during the period in question, but none as to the market value of crude turpentine. A verdict and judgment having gone in favor of the United States for $2,447.55, defendant appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was directed that so much of this as represented interest prior to the Commencement of the action should be remitted, and the judgment otherwise affirmed. 202 Fed. Rep. 491.

There are numerous assignments of error, based upon exceptions taken at the trial, one of them to the refjsal to direct a verdict in favor of defendant, the others to instructions given or refused to be given. Without reciting these in detail, we will express our views upon the principal questions for law that are raised.

Neither the complaint nor the evidence is fatally defective or uncertain. The claim is for spirits of turpentine and rosin taken from certain described lands. That it was the crude and not the manufactured product that was in a literal sense taken from the land is of no consequence. The land is referred to only identify the chattels, conversion of which is alleged. Whether there was an error in the particular description of the lands, as is insisted, is a matter of no serious consequence, for they were otherwise described as the "Louis I. Freeland Homestead," and there was uncontradicted evidence that the lands referred to, and no others, were known by this description. That the evidence did not show precisely what quantities of turpentine spirits and rosin, manufactured from the crude turpentine taken from the homestead, were received by the plaintiff in error, was not ground for a ...

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