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State of Texas, April 30, A, D. 1919, and partially assigned to the General Oil Co. on the same date. Previous to the acquiring of said lease, Mr. Sam Sparks obtained a permit from the said State of Texas to prospect for oil and gas on certain lands lying between the patented surveys on the south and the medial line of the Red River, or what was thought to be the middle line of the river. On April 30, 1919, Mr. Sam Sparks assigned to the General Oil Co. a portion of liis permit on 981.9 acres, being the 80 acres heretofore described.

The General Oil Co., in making the purchase of the lease, heretofore described, relied upon the evidence of title submitted and particularly upon an opinion by Assistant Attorney General Van Devanter (now judge of the United States Supreme Court) approved by the Hon. C. W. Bliss, Secretary of the Interior, in 1917, which was based upon the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Texas (162 U. S. 1), also known as the Grier County case, which said opinion was reaffirmed and transmissed from the Department of the Interior to the land commission of Texas in 1914. Said decision stated in substance that the boundary between the Indian Territory and the State of Texas “is the line in the middle of the main channel of the Red River as it existed when the State of Texas was annexed to the United States” (copy of decision attached and marked " Exhibit A"). In accepting this decision as a partial basis for negotiation of the lease the said company believed the United States was acting in good faith in its interpretation of the land laws of the Government.

Immediately after securing title to the 80 acres the General Oil Co. proceeded to drill an oil well and struck oil in great quantity on November 10, 1919, this being the same date that the State of Oklahoma requested leave of the United States Supreme Court to file a bill against the State of Texas to determine the boundary between the two States. Leave was granted and said bill was filed December 8, 1919, and the marshal's return shows service upon the proper officers of the State of Texas January 7, 1920.

The General Oil Co. was the original discoverer of oil in this district and after their " discovery well No. 1” came in an oil boom developed and with it came the conflicting claims of claimants who attempted by various and divers methods to secure possession of the river bottom lands, the General Oil Co., as further protection to its title filed an application under the placer-mining laws (copies of said application attached and marked "Exhibit B”).

The riparian landowner on the south of land owned by the General Oil Co. claimed an overlapping of survey with the boundaries staked out for the 80 acres, and thereafter the said company acquired a conditional lease from the patented landowners on the two surveys on the south. After the leasing act of February, 1920, was passed the General Oil Co. filed an application for a preference lease with the Department of the Interior (copy attached and marked “Exhibit C").

The General Oil Co., therefore, has the following titles to the 80 acres : 1. A lease emanate from the State of Texas.

2. Whatever title he riparian owners on the south derived from patented titles from the State of Texas.

3. Application under the placer-mining act.
4. Application under the leasing act of February, 1920.

The claim of the General Oil Co. for equitable consideration by the United States has been clearly set forth in a brief for the interveners in the suit of the State of Oklahoma 1. The State of Texas, Original No. 23, in the United States Supreme Court (copy attached and marked * Exhibit D"), and the claims are similar to many other claimants who have spent great sums of money in developing the resources of this oil field. The General Oil Co. was the pioneer and had risked the money of its shareholders in purchasing a lease and sinking a well. It was the enterprise, daring, and financial expenditures of this company that discovered the Red River oil pool. It was easy enough, after the discovery well led the way, to develop the pool with some degree of financial success. The General Oil Co. had drilled some 12 or 14 wells-so-called “wildcat wells—before locating in this district and producing a paying pool.

The honorable members of the House of, Representatives comprising the Public Lands Committee are not concerned with the various overlapping claims and disputed titles of the claimants. The Supreme Court of the United States will determine the boundary of the States of Oklahoma and Texas. The remaining problem is one of administration which properly rests with the land department of the Department of the Interior. A number of bills have been introduced by various interests, but these bills are colored with favor to the claimants responsible for their being presented to Congress. The General Oil Co., through its representative, indorses the bill heretofore described and believes that sufficient laws are now in effect to protect the interests of all claimants having equitable and just grounds for preference, and therefore prays the approval of this committee of House bill No. 12233. This bill grants the requisite powers to the Department of the Interior to carry out the mandates of the United States courts and provides a full and equitable remedy for the adjustment of all claimants entitled to consideration.

It has been the policy of the United States to reserve all mineral in its public lands, but in 1872 Congress passed the so-called mineral act, by which minerals belonging to the United States Government could be explored and appropriated and all lands valuable for minerals could not be homesteaded, preempted, and scripped, but had to be acquired under the mineral laws. In 1897 Congress enacted a law whereby oil was so classified (25 Stat. L. 526).

Congress also provided that mineral laws would not apply to the States of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma (17 Stat. 465; 19 Stat, 52; 22 Stat. 487; 26 Stat. 1026; 31 Stat. 660). Afterwards Congress made the mineral laws applicable to the Indian lands in Oklahoma, known as the “big pasture lands," which were evolved in the suit between the States of Oklahoma and Texas and the boundary fixed by a partial decision in said case.

A recent case in the Circuit Court of Appeals in the State of California confirmed the title of oil operators to certain lands withdrawn by the United States Government, wherein the oil prospectors had started work but had not made a real discovery prior to the withdrawals, holding that said prospectors had an equitable title but not a legal position. In many cases they had spent considerable money in good faith. The position of the General Oil Co. and many other prospectors in the Red River district is stronger than equitable, because this company actually discovered and produced oil; in fact, the General Oil, Co. prospected, discovered, and developed the oil pool which is the real subject matter of the contested litigation and now appears in the form of enabling legislation for the consideration of Congress.

The Supreme Court of the United States will no doubt refuse to pass upon the validity of placer claims in the pending suit, leaving the question to be settled by the Department of the Interior, where it rightfully belongs; therefore it is imperative that proper legislation be enacted which will empower this department to adjust the claims of various claimants based upon their equitable and legal position as fixed by law. Therefore, inasmuch as the Government of the United States has always shown a preference for those who have in good faith settled upon the land and by industry, thrift, and honest financial investment improved the resources of the country, it is prayed by your petitioner that your honorable committee approve House bill No. 12233.

John G. LEAVELL, Receirer.

Solicitor for Receiver.



The boundary between the Indian Territory and the State of Texas is the line of the middle of the main channel of Red River as it existed when Texas was annexed to the United States, and the subsequent sudden changes in the current or main channel of said river will not in any way affect the location or position of said boundary line as it lay upon the earth's surface then established.

Assistant Attorney General Van Devanter to the Secretary of the Interior (J. L.):

I have received by reference from your office certain letters referred to you by the director of the Geological Survey, as follows, to wit:

Four letters from C. H. Fitch, topographer in charge, dated, respectively, February 24, March 27, April 3, and April 5, 1897.

A letter from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated March 16, 1897.

Two letters from Oscar Jones, United States surveyor, dated, respectively, March 7, March 29, 1897.

A letter from W. S. Post, topographer, dated April 1, 1897.

Also two diagrams showing cut-offs in the course of the Red River, which is the boundary between the Indian Territory and the State of Texas.

And I am requested to answer the following question : " Where the Red River, which constitutes a boundary of the State of Texas, has changed its course, will the old bed of the stream remain the boundary, or must the present channel be regarded as such?


The diagrams show the locations of four cut-offs within a distance of less than 40 miles west of the boundary of the State of Arkansas. The most easterly, marked “ C.” is in T. 11 S., R. 27 E., and it transferred in the year 1895 from the Territorial to the Texas side of the river, a very considerable body of Indian land in the shape of a pear with a narrow neck or stem. The most westerly (called the “Watson cut-off”) is in T. 7 S., R. 21 E., and it transferred, probably in the year 1890, from the Texas to the Territorial side of the river a body of Texan land of similar shape. The other two cut-offs (marked A” and “ B,” respectively) are situated in T. 8 S., R. 22 E., and T. 10 S., R. 25 E., and both transferred in the year 1866 Texan land to the Territorial side of the river. The letters before me show that all of the cut-offs were caused suddenly by floods and overflows of the waters of Red River, aided probably in one instance by a ditch which the occupants of the land had cut across the narrow neck of the peninsula.

Texas was admitted into the Union by joint resolution of Congress approved December 29, 1845 (9 Stat, 108), in accordance with a joint resolution approved March 1, 1845 (5 Stat. 797). At that time the boundary between Texas and the United States was defined as follows:

* The boundary line between the two countries west of the Mississippi shall begin on the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the river Sabine, in the sea, continuing north along the western bank of that river to the thirty-second degree of latitude; thence by a line due north to the degree of latitude where it strikes the Rio Roxo of Natchitoches, or Red River; then following the course of the Rio Roxo westward to the degree of longitude 100 west from London and 23 from Washington; then crossing the said Red River and running thence by a line due north to the river Arkansas; thence following the course of the southern bank of the Arkansas to its source in latitude 42 north; and thence by that parallel of latitude to the South Sea."

All the islands in the Sabine and the said Red River and Arkansas River throughout the course thus described to belong to the United States. See treaty with Spain of February 22, 1819 (8 Stat. 25+-236); treaty with Mexico of April 5, 1832 (8 Stat. 374); the convention with Mexico of April 21, 1836 (8 Stat. 464); and the convention with Texas of October 13, 1838 (8 Stat. 511).

By the act of July 5, 1848 (9 Stat. 245), Congress voluntarily ceded to Texas one-half of Sabine Pass, one-half of Sabine Lake, and one-half of Sabine River from its mouth as far north as the thirty-second degree of north latitude. And in the year 1850, by agreement between the United States and the State of Texas (9 Stat. 446 and 1005), the boudaries west of the one hundred and tenth meridian were changed. But no change has been made in the boundary extending from the niety-fourth to the one hundredth meridian following the course of Red River. I therefore assume that the boundary between the Indian Territory and the State of Texas is the line of the middle of the main channel of Red River as it meandered in 1815, when Texas was annexed.

I am respectfully of opinion at a change in the current of main channel of the river does not change or in any way affect the location or position of the boundary line as it lay upon the earth's surface when established by the treaties. The river was only a landmark. The removal of a landmark does not change the line.

On November 11, 1856, Attorney General Caleb Cushing furnished the Secretary of the Interior with his official opinion and advice respecting the question now under consideration (8 Ops. Atty. Gen. 175). After discussing the legal effect of changes happening by accretion—by gradual and insensible accession and abstraction of mere particles—Mr. Cushing, on page 177, said:

But, on the other hand, if, deserting its original bed, the river forces for itself a new channel in another direction, then the nation through whose terri. tory the river thus breaks a way suffers injury by the loss of territory greater than the benefit of retaining the natural river boundary, and that boundary remains in the middle of the deserted river bed.”

In the case of Missouri 2. Kentucky (11 Wall. 395–401), decided in December, 1870, the Supreme Court of the United States, after reciting that the middle of the bed of the main channel of the Mississippi River was the ancient boundary between Kentucky and Missouri as established by treaties, said:

“ If the river has subsequently turned its course and now runs east of the island, the status of the parties to this controversy is not altered by it, for the channel which the river abandoned remains, as before, the boundary between the States, and the island does not, in consequence of this action of the water, change its owner."


The Forty-first Congress recognized this rule of law and legislated accordingly. The boundaries of the States of Iowa and Nebraska and the Territory of Dakota concerned at the junction of the Big Sioux River with the Missouri River. The middle of the Missouri was the boundary line between Nebraska and Dakota. The river made a bend or loop southward, inclosing a peninsula which was about 24 miles long and 23 chains and 60 links wide across its neck, and contained 890.12 acres. This peninsula belonged to Dakota. Some time between 1867 and 1869 the river cut out for itself across the neck a new and main channel and thus added (so to speak) to the Nebraska side not only the acres contained in the peninsula but many more acres contained in the abandoned bed, which soon became dry and arable. In order to end controversies and prevent litigation Congress by the act of April 28, 1870 (16 Stat. 93), ceded to the State of Nebraska jurisdiction over all the land which the river had cut off from the Territory and established the middle of the new channel as the boundary between the State and the Territory. (See Phillips v. Sioux City and Pacific Railroad Co., 22 L. D. 341.)

There is no occasion for the Secretary of the Interior to pronounce at this time a formal decision of the question propounded to me. Out of the condition stated many classes of questions will arise as the settlement of the country progresses; questions concerning the political jurisdiction of the authorities of the State and of the Territory, respectively ; questions affecting the rights of inhabitants of the Territory who owned land which abutted upon the river as it formerly ran; questions affecting the rights of citizens of Texas similarly situated; and questions affecting the rights of those citizens of Texas or inhabitants of the Territory whose lands have been washed away and either totally or partially destroyed by the new channel. All these questions can be best determined as they arise and after hearing the persons interested in them.

I respectfully advise that the surveyors in the field should be instructed to trace, survey, meander, and mark with appropriate monuments (1) the line of the middle of the main channel of the river as it formerly ran; (2) the left bank of the old channel; and (3) the left bank of the new channel ; so that township maps may be made showing the fractional subdivisions which will be made necessary by the closing of the surveys on each one of said meandered lines, respectively. They should also be instructed to find out, as far as practicable, the names of all persons claiming lands abutting upon either channel, and the size, location and shape of their respective claims; and to procure, by the affidavits of intelligent and reliable persons or otherwise, other information as to facts and dates likely to be used in determining any of the questions that may hereafter arise for consideration by the Secretary.

The Director of the Geological Survey will give all necessary and proper instructions to his subordinates. Approved April 29, 1897.

C. N. BLISS, Secretary.



A. D. 1920.

To the honorable Commissioner of the General Land Ofice, Department of the

Interior, United States of America: Your applicant, The General Oil Co., of Houston, Tex., through its president, S. E. J. Cox, and its treasurer, A. H. Klees, all of Houston, Tex., who, having power to act and sign papers for said company, herewith make an

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