« PrejšnjaNaprej »
Mr. DRIVER. As far as you are now advised, what was the date of the patent under which Bass claimed?
Mr. TESTERMAN. I think that was something like 1880, or something like that.
Mr. TESTERMAN. It covered a part of the flood-plain land, a very small part of it, so I have been advised. I might say to this committee, so that it may understand that we had no adverse claimants until that time, that as soon as that process was served I was advised by my attorney to violate no law and obey all orders of the court. I immediately consulted my attorney, as well as the attorney general of Oklahoma, and told them they had notified me to appear at Austin in regard to contempt proceedings relative to the well. The attorney general of Oklahoma assured me they were only bluffing and to go on down there. I did not go there but I sent an attorney down on the 7th or 8th of October, 1919, and he pleaded to the court, so he told me I am not a lawyer--the want of jurisdiction, that the land was in the State of Oklahoma.
But the court notified me again to appear on October 17 for violating the injunction, I appeared down there, and they proceeded to put the screws to me finally. The attorney general of Oklahoma told me if they took such action to notify him at once, and I called him over the long-distance telephone and told him they were going to stick me. He asked me to send my attorney to Washington immediately, and he would meet him here, and they would take some kind of action in regard to the determination of the boundary. The next morning they placed a fine on me for violating the injunction, and before they would release me they asked me to purge myself of contempt. Not being a lawyer I did not know what that meant; I asked my attorney, and he said that that meant that I immediately vacate everything I had on the river and not go back there under penalty of being stuck in jail. That being the case, I have not been down there very often since.
Mr. DRIVER. Just what was it you did which was in contempt of court? In what manner did you violate the injunction?
Mr. TESTERMAN. You see, when they served the process, it was a temporary injunction that was served on the 22d day of August, and that notified me to vacate. Well, we had a well there and everything there; we could not vacate, and we were up against it. So I went to Oklahoma to find out what to do; the attorney general said: “Do not do anything; those people are only bluffing.” But when we went down there they did not bluff; they carried it out.
Mr. RAKER. So the court of Texas, up until October, 1919, assumed jurisdiction and actually adjudged you in contempt of court?
Mr. TESTERMAN. Yes, sir.
Mr. TESTERMAN. Surely. Now, wait a minute. On October 6 there was a petition filed in the Cotton County court asking for a receiver in connection with the Mellish property.
Mr. BURTNESS. Was that in Oklahoma or Texas?
Mr. TESTERMAN. Oklahoma. The district judge of Oklahoma appointed a receiver and sent him down there with an officer and I turned the property over to him. On October 7, 1917
Mr. DRIVER (interposing). You do not mean October, 1917?
Mr. TESTERMAN. No; 1919. On November 7 he was overpowered by a bunch of fellows who said they were representing the court of Texas and the property was taken from him, so that they did not take the property away from me. I turned the property over to the Oklahoma court and they took the property away from the district court of Cotton County.
Mr. BURTNESS. At the time you were fined on the charge of contempt, as I understand, the contempt charge was based not upon something that you had done but rather upon something that you had failed to do--that you failed to take off the machinery?
Mr. TESTERMAN. Yes, sir; that I failed to pull that stuff off.
Mr. Burtness. Did they claim in those proceedings that after you had been served with process you had attempted to operate, drill, or do anything of that sort?
Mr. TESTERMAN. About what took place there, Mr. Burtness, was like this: They called me up and I said, “Yes; I have been in there since the 22d day of August, been on the ground, the machinery is there and my men are camped there," and they wanted to know why I did not obey their summons. I told them the attorney general of Oklahoma had said the land was in Oklahoma and that I did not have to appear.
Mr. BURTNESS. Had you produced any oil in the meantime?
Mr. TESTERMAN. Yes, sir; on the 22d day of August, 1919, and was served with process that night.
Mr. BURTNESs. After you were served with process did they claim you were still taking oil out of the ground?
Mr. TESTERMAN. Yes; they claimed everything, but there was not very much done.
Mr. BURTNESS. You claimed that you did not produce any oil after you had been served with process?
Mr. TESTERMAN. I never turned a wheel in the way of development or anything else after I was served with court process.
Mr. DRIVER. But remained in possession?
Mr. GREEN. Now, gentlemen, I think you have gotten all the pertinent facts, and if there are any details I have no doubt they will be covered by Senator Gore.
Mr. RAKER. Before you leave, are the people interested in this Oklahoma litigation still claiming a right to this land?
Mr. GREEN. I can not tell. There has been no tribunal here, and that is why we are now coming to your committee. We are not asking this committee to try this case, but we are asking you to establish some court where we can adjudicate the case. You must admit, Mr. Representative, that it is impossible for us to go into all the details before this committee when, perhaps, 25 or 30 people are going to make claims, and we only ask you to write such legislation as will give us an opportunity to have our cases heard and give the judge sufficient rope to do what is fair and just for us, if he finds we are entitled to anything, and if he does not to bar us from anything.
Mr. RAKER. If we followed the decision of the Supreme Court we would make a provision which would eliminate all of you people and make some arrangement by which this land might be disposed of.
Mr. GREEN. I have no doubt you would, but I do not think you are going to do that, because I am satisfied we have convinced you that we have a good case. You might do what you suggest in case we were intruders; you would declare that we went on there as trespassers. Now, any man on this committee who thinks we went on as trespassers ought to do what you say, but any man who does not think we went on as trespassers ought not to do that, and it is up to you and the Almighty.
Mr. RAKER. You did not quite understand me. I said that if there was no presentation by yourself and others as to any prior claim which would justify a recognition of the proposition of good faith, the only thing Congress should do with that land would be to open it for disposition.
Mr. GREEN. Certainly; and that is what has brought in this bill, as I understand it. Mr. RAKER. It is?
Mr. GREEN. Yes. You see, the Supreme Court has said that this neither public land nor mineral land, and there is nobody to take care of it. That is what brought in this bill, and the important part of this bill, this remedial legislation, is only to give the Secretary of the Interior the right to take these lands, when they are turned over to him, and sell them or lease them, etc., and we are asking you to write into the bill any rights we are entitled to.
The CHAIRMAN. Is that all you wish to say, Mr. Green?
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Holland, representing the State of Arknasas, says that he can complete his statement in 10 or 15 minutes. STATEMENT OF MR. WALTER HOLLAND, WASHINGTON, D. C.,
SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS.
Mr. HOLLAND. Mr. Chairman, I represent the State of Arkansas as special assistant to the attorney general of Arkansas. I have only one matter to present to the committee, and that is that the Supreme Court of the l'nited States, under our admission, has decided that this little particular strip of land between the medial line and the Mexican boundary, or the Spanish boundary of 1819, is under the jurisdiction of Arkansas. Before Mr. Green came to the United States and tried to get them to proceed with that litigation down there, I was in touch with the Land Office in Washington, and insisted that Mr. Tallman, who then was the Commissioner of the General Land Office, should concede that that territory belonged to Arkansas and should extend the land line across the river so as to give us some territory down there that could be possibly located on as mineral lands under the laws of the United States.
Well, Mr. Tallman promptly decided that Texas and Arkansas had agreed with the courts that the Red River was the line, and that there was no such animal as a strip between the medial line and the boundary line of 1819. I cited a further provision of the treaty which said that the islands and both banks of the river should belong to the United States, and stated that if the case ever got into the Supreme Court they would agree with me and say that the line did go to the south bank, and that the Oklahoma line, starting at the medial line, would leave the territory under the act of admission of Arkansas into the Union in Arkansas.
I wish to give to the committee a copy of our motion for intervention in this TexasOklahoma controversy.
The CHAIRMAN. Was it allowed?
Mr. HOLLAND. It was not; the court saying that we came too late. We did not want to intervene in the case that Mr. Green had.
Mr. DRIVER. Suppose your theory should be accepted, about how much of Oklahoma would be inflicted upon Arkansas?
Mr. HOLLAND. From the medial line to the Mexican boundary line. That is the Texas boundary line, as you understand, to the medial line of the Red River, and that is the “saw” in Arkansas. This little saw extends down the south bank of the river, down to the southwest corner. of Oklahoma. That is what puts the “saw” into Arkansas.
Mr. Driver. I would like to know about what area of territory, according to your contention, would be affected by this.
Mr. HOLLAND. The whole 150,000 acres between the medial line and the Texas boundary line, which was decided by the Supreme Court to be this public land that was subject to no law of Oklahoma or to the mineral laws in Oklahoma. This strip would be over in Arkansas.
Mr. DRIVER. That is, this strip that under the recent decision of the Supreme Court was declared to be public land?
Mr. HOLLAND. Yes, sir; under the jurisdiction of no State, but which one Congressman has introduced a bill to put into Oklahoma. That, I contend, would be clearly unconstitutional, because it would be taking a strip off of Arkansas and putting it into Oklahoma.
Mr. DRIVER. That would put the "saw” into Arkansas?
Mr. HOLLAND. This land in between the medial line of the Red River and the Mexican boundary line bears the same relation to this as does Miller County, Ark. The act of admission of Arkansas into the United States said that Arkansas was bounded on the south side the Red River by the Mexican boundary line, and Miller County lies between the Mexican boundary line and the Red River.
I do not take the position that this land is the property of the State of Arkansas, but I say that it is public land of the United States within the boundaries of the State of Arkansas. We would have no objection to the bill if you would strike out the word “Oklahoma," so as not to prejudice the rights of Arkansas in this matter.
The CHAIRMAN. How will that benefit Arkansas, except in the way of taxes?
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think you can tax the production of Government lands or oil production
Mr. IIOLLAND. Well, that is one of those questions of personal property or income that we can not possibly reach. We do not want to have a bill go through and have Congress to allege in the bill that this particular little medial strip is in Oklahoma, when it should be in Arkansas.
Mr. RAKER. Would it not be just as reasonable to attach this to Arkansas as a part of its jurisdiction and as a part of the land within the State of Arkansas, as to have it left out as a part of no State?
Mr. HOLLAND. Then you would have this medial territory between the medial line and the Mexican boundary line in the same sort of position that Miller County, Ark., is in.
The CHAIRMAN. We are not undertaking to say what State it is in. Would that be satisfactory to you?
Mr. HOLLAND. Yes, sir; that is satisfactory to me.
The CHAIRMAN. We are not undertaking to determine what State this land is in. We call it Government land.
Mr. HOLLAND. All that we want is for Congress not to decide it.
Mr. HOLLAND. Except that it says "in Oklahoma.” If you strike out the words "in Oklahoma? where they appear in the bill, so as to relieve that situation, it will be satisfactory.
Mr. DRIVER. I understand that that is with a view of not prejudicing the rights of the State in the court proceedings.
Mr. HOLLAND. Yes, sir. We expect to file a bill in the Supreme Court of the United States for this particular strip of land, so far as the political jurisdiction of it is concerned.
The CHAIRMAN. We could not prejudice your rights or interests by saying that it is in Oklahoma.
Mr. Holland. It might have some influence upon the court. When the case comes before the Supreme Court it might have some influence upon the court, because Congress had said that it was in Oklahoma, while we say that it is in Arkansas.
Mr. Driver. I suggest that you leave your brief with the committee.
Mr. Driver. With reference to the mining laws, if this strip is in Arkansas, of course, these claimants, under the mineral laws of the United States, will have their rights independent of this proceeding, but I am making no objection so far as Arkansas is concerned.
Mr. Collins. I want to know what are the boundaries of Arkansas.
Mr. HOLLAND. The boundaries of Arkansas extend down the Cherokee line to the northern bank of the Red River, and it is bounded on the south side of the Red River by the Mexican boundary line. Now, prior to the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, the opinion of the Interior Department was that the line went up the course of the Red River, which was the center of the stream, or went down the center of the stream until it got to the Indian country, which was the medial line. Therefore, there was no such thing as a medial strip on the south side of the river, but now the Supreme Court has held, and rightly so, I think, that the south bank of the river was under the jurisdiction of the United States under the treaty of 1819. If that is true, then that whole medial strip that goes up the river, which contains practically 150,000 acres of oil lands, belongs to Arkansas.
Mr. LARSEN. Arkansas was created at a time when Texas was Spanish territory, was it not?
Mr. HOLLAND. Arkansas was admitted on June 15, 1836, while Texas declared her independence on March 2, 1836, but it had not been recognized by the United States. Of course, Congress inadvertently used the language, “bounded on the south side of the Red River by the Mexican boundary line,” which, of course, would take it down to the Rio Grande. However, they did not mean that. They meant the Spanish boundary line of 1819, because that was the treaty between the two countries.
Mr. Collins. I have been requested to ask you what you have to say about the statement in the Supreme Court's decision describing this property as a part of Oklahoma?
Mr. Holland. Of course, that is inadvertent on the part of the Supreme Court, because we have not had our facts before them. It is like one of those things that Mr. Green referred to awhile ago; but as soon as our facts go before the court, they will have to decide it is Arkansas territory, or else Miller County, Ark., which lies in the same position between the Mexican boundary line, and the Red River will be affected in the same way.
Mr. BARBOUR. You are betting Miller County against this strip?
Mr. Raker. Have you a brief covering this matter, so that the committee may have the benefit of it?
Mr. HOLLAND. This is our petition. This shows why we are claiming this strip.
Mr. RAKER. Is it your contention that the State of Arkansas has jurisdiction over this land, and that it is within the State of Arkansas?
Mr. HOLLAND. Yes, sir.
Mr. Raker. And you people are preparing to commence suit to have that question adjudicated in the Supreme Court of the United States?
Mr. HOLLAND. Yes, sir.
Mr. Holland. As soon as we can get the legislature of Arkansas straightened out They are having quite a time there, and it is a question of getting the legislature straightened out.
Mr. RAKER. I suggest that this brief be made a part of the record.