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Trone v. Nelson

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 17, 1980.

MARY F. TRONE, PLAINTIFF-COUNTERDEFENDANT-APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE,

v.

EDMUND NELSON ET AL., DEFENDANTS-COUNTERPLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES AND CROSS-APPELLANTS. — (CAROL KLITZ, COUNTERDEFENDANT.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Schuyler County; the Hon. ERNEST H. UTTER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This appeal concerns a rule of evidence which pertains to land titles and which has not been extensively examined by the reviewing courts> of this State in recent times, namely, the presumption of ancient grant.

Plaintiff is a life tenant of 80 acres of rural land located in Schuyler County. Included within the 80 acres is a small tract of approximately three-quarters of acre on which sits an old schoolhouse, known locally as the "Hall Schoolhouse Site." Defendants, members and secretary of the Regional Board of School Trustees for Brown, Cass and Schuyler Counties (the Board), elected to sell the site at public sale after notice. Plaintiff brought an action in ejectment against the Board, which counterclaimed in an action to quiet title in themselves, joining as counter-defendants not only the plaintiff-life tenant but the remainderman as well. The Board's counterclaim was based on alternative theories of ancient grant and adverse possession.

The circuit court of Schuyler County, sitting without a jury, entered an order which, in effect, finds for the Board and against the plaintiff on the theory of ancient grant and denies relief on the theory of adverse possession. The court further found in favor of the Board, and against the plaintiff on plaintiff's complaint in ejectment. Plaintiff has appealed the order. We affirm.

The trial court took extensive evidence in the cause, much of which was directed to the question of adverse possession. Since we have concluded that the trial court was correct in quieting title in the Board by way of ancient grant, the evidence as to adverse possession is significant only insofar as it indicates continued possession of the site. We deem other evidence, indicating the existence of a deed, subsequently lost, to be of greater weight.

It is admitted that no deed has ever been recorded, conveying title to the three-quarters of an acre (the site) to the Board or its predecessors. However, two deeds, dated September 18, 1911, and one deed, dated February 23, 1912, appear in the chain of title. These deeds convey all, or partial interests, in the 80-acre tract and each one contains an exception: "except about three-quarters of an acre of said tract heretofore deeded for school purposes and now occupied by a schoolhouse." In 1931, the 80 acres were conveyed to plaintiff's family but the exception was not noted in that deed.

In addition to the deeds just mentioned, the Board introduced into evidence excerpts from the minutes of its predecessor for the years 1906 and 1907. These may be summarized as follows:

1. On August 4, 1906, a special election was held at the Hall Schoolhouse on the question of building a new schoolhouse. The proposition carried 13-to-5.

2. On August 7, 1906, resolution to submit to the voters whether to issue bonds in the amount of $1,100 for the purpose of buying a new schoolhouse and a site for it.

3. On August 18, 1906, a special school bond election carried.

4. On September 7, 1906, the "Directors of said district purchased three-fourths of an acre for $112.50."

5. On October 15, 1906, a motion carried to instruct the treasurer to refuse to pay for the schoolhouse site "until furnished with a warrantee deed conveying an absolute title."

6. On April 1, 1907, an audit of the treasurer's books disclosed everything "correct" except for Order No. 8 "for school site" which required the approval of the County Superintendent.

7. Undated but appearing after the April 1, 1907, entry: "The county superintendent advised the board to accept the deed for district No. ...


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