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Carter Oil Co. v. Norman

November 17, 1942

CARTER OIL CO.
v.
NORMAN ET AL.



Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Illinois; Walter C. Lindley, Judge.

Author: Kerner

Before SPARKS, KERNER, and MINTON, Circuit Judges.

KERNER, Circuit Judge.

This is another case involving the ownership of the gas and oil on a tract of land in Fayette County, Illinois. Plaintiff filed a complaint for an injunction to restrain the defendants from entering upon and drilling for oil and gas on the land in question. The defendants answered, claiming ownership of the land in themselves. The court heard the evidence and entered a decree that the defendants had no right, title or interest in and to the lands or in the oil and gas; that the plaintiff was the owner of all the oil and gas in and under the land involved, and permanently enjoined the defendants from asserting any title or interest in and to the premises as against the rights of the plaintiff. To reverse the decree, defendants appeal.

Plaintiff claims title to the gas and oil by virtue of a lease dated September 23, 1936, executed by the First National Bank of Vandalia, whose source of title was the partition of the estate of Adre L. Watson.

The record discloses that on December 5, 1904, Mary E. Watson, afterwards Norman, out of wedlock gave birth to Cletis J. Watson, who from infancy until his death lived with his grandmother. September 16, 1921, his grandparents filed in the County Court of Fayette County, Illinois, their petition - "In the Matter of the Adoption of Cletis J. Watson" alleging that "he * * * is desirous of adopting a child so as to render it capable of inheriting his estate. That the name of the * * * child is Cletis J. Watson * * * . * * * that the father * * * is unknown, but the Mother is still living and cosents to the adoption * * * . * * * that he and his wife, Adre L. Watson are both desirous that said adoption (sic ) shall be made and * * * Cletis J. Watson is also willing * * * ." The petition was signed by George A. Watson and Adre L. Watson and verified by George A. Watson. Attached to the petition was the consent of Mary E. Norman to the adoption. In this consent Mary E. Norman certifies that she is the mother of Cletis, waives service of process, enters her appearance in the case, and consents to the entry of a decree of adoption. On the same day, the court entered a decree finding, inter alia, that the petitioners were desirous of adopting Cletis; that Cletis and his mother both consented to the adoption; that Adre L. Watson, wife of George A. Watson, joined in the petition; and decreed that Cletis J. Watson be the adopted child of George A. and Adre L. Watson.

George A. Watson died on February 4, 1924, and on February 14, 1924, Adre L. Watson filed her verified petition in the Fayette County Court for letters of administration in his estate, alleging that the deceased left surviving him Adre L. Watson, his widow, Mary E. Norman and eight other children by birth, and Cletis J. Watson, an adopted son. February 27, 1924, Adre L. Watson filed in the Fayette County Circuit Court a complaint to partition the land owned by George A. Watson, deceased, in which she averred that the deceased left surviving him the nine children by birth and "Cletis J. Watson, an adopted grandson, a child of a daughter." Mary E. Norman, in her answer to the complaint, admitted that George A. Watson left as one of his heirs at law, the adopted son. On March 21, 1925, the court decreed that the deceased had left surviving him Cletis J. Watson, an adopted son.

On July 1, 1925, when Cletis J. Watson was twenty years of age, Adre L. Watson, by her warranty deed, conveyed to Cletis J. Watson the forty acres involved in this case, reserving, however, a life estate to herself.

On September 16, 1926, Mary E. Norman filed a verified petition in the Shelby County Court averring, and the court found, that Cletis had died intestate on September 4, 1926, leaving surviving him Mary E. Norman, his natural mother; adre L. Watson, his adopted mother; William J. and Ward T. Norman, his half brothers; and Theo A. Norman and Catherine E. Norman, his half sisters.

On October 31, 1926, Adre L. Watson died testate. By her will she devised "all of the property that I may own at the time of my death, wherever the same may be located, both real and personal, to the following, To Myrtle Watson Larimore, my daughter, and to Cletis J. Watson, my adopted son, who is also my grandson, share and share alike, to be their absolute property forever."

On December 31, 1927, Myrtle Larimore brought her partition suit in the Fayette County Circuit Court for the partition of the land in question, alleging that Cletis J. Watson was a duly adopted son of George A. and Adre L. Watson; that Cletis had died intestate, leaving surviving him no widow, child or descendent of a child; that on July 1, 1925, Adre L. Watson had conveyed the land in question to her adopted son, Cletis, as a gift; and named her eight brothers and sisters as defendants. The eight children of Adre L. Watson, including Mary E. Norman, in writing, entered their appearance in the partition suit. The court entered a decree finding that the children had entered their appearance; that Cletis J. Watson was an illegitimate child of Mary E. Norman, and when a very young child, had been legally adopted by George A. and Adre L. Watson; that Adre L. Watson had conveyed the land to Cletis as a gift, who at the time of his death was the owner in fee of the land; that by virtue of the laws of the State of Illinois the land passed to and became the property of Adre L. Watson, his adopted mother; and the court decreed that under the will of Adre L. Watson, Myrtle was the owner of nine-eighteenths of the land and that each of the surviving children of Adre L. Watson, including Myrtle Larimore, was the owner of one-eighteenth interest. The land not being susceptible of division, the court ordered the land sold, and it was sold at public acution to Myrtle and George Larimore; the sale was approved by the court, a deed was issued to the purchasers, and the proceeds of the sale was divided among the owners. By mesne conveyance the title, on November 15, 1935, vested in the First National Bank of Vandalia.

On June 4, 1940, Mary E. Norman caused an affidavit to be recorded in which she claimed an interest in the land. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed its complaint.

In her answer to the complaint in the instant case, Mary E. Norman claimed that her children had an interest in the land because they were the half brothers and half sisters of Cletis, and she averred that during the lifetime of Cletis, the land had been conveyed by Adre L. Watson to him for a valuable consideration, and that even it Cletis was the legally adopted son of Adre L. Watson, his natural grandmother, the land would descend to Mary E. Norman and his half brothers and half sisters and would not be inherited by Adre L. Watson. By an amended answer filed October 18, 1941, she claimed the adoption of Cletis was invalid.

The District Court made a number of separate findings of fact. He found that the decree of adoption was valid; that Cletis J. Watson had been duly adopted by George A. and Adre L. Watson; that on July 1, 1925, Adre L. watson had conveyed by warranty deed to Cletis J. Watson the forty acres in question; and that said conveyance was, in fact, a gift. He was of the opinion that ...


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