HAS DECLARED THIS ACTION GOOD
INTERESTING CASE BEFORE LAND COURT—A NEGRO FLUTE PLAYER AS A COURT MUSICAN—COOKE HOMESTEAD CLEAR.
Enoch Johnson, as examiner of titles, is the author of an opinion filed in the Torrens Land Court to the effect that one John Smith, a negro flute-player for Kamehameha III was owner of a valuable piece of land on Young street, for which application was made for a Torrens title by C. M. Cooke, Limited. As the negro got the California gold fever and left, disappearing and leaving no heirs, Johnson comes to the conclusion that the property reverts to the Territory. Judge Weaver, however, differs, from this opinion and holds that the petitioner is entitled to a clear title.
The land was granted to the flute-player by Royal Patent 26, on July 17, 1847, by King Kamehameha III. Twenty-five years ago it was used as a pasture land, in the old days when its value was a mere trifle. It is now residence property. When the gold fever broke out in California flute-player Smith gave up both his job as a royal musician and his land near what then was of Honolulu then and left with some other negroes for California. He has never been heard of since and adverse possession has long since run against him or his heirs.
Enoch Johnson, however declares in his report to the court that adverse possession does not run against the government and that the law provides that property left without heirs shall escheat to the government. Here he holds that the Attorney General should be notified and that Smith’s “estate” is escheated to the government.
“I have to disagree with the conclusions of law set forth in the opinion” says Judge Weaver in his decision filed yesterda. “I am of the opinion that the applicant shows a prima facie case of title. The Territory of Hawaii has no title in the lands by reason of the law of escheat, for the reason that no ‘inquest of office’ has been had to take possession of the land. The abstract of title shows that the applicant is entitled to a fee simple title subject to a life interest in C. M. Cooke and his wife, Anna C. Cooke, as set forth in their deed to Charles M. Cooke, Limited.”
(Hawaiian Star, 6/23/1904, p. 8)