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The written regulations usually first defined the name and boundaries of the district; second, the number and kind of officers to be elected from time to time; and then proceeded to designate what number of feet should constitute a claim in that district, the amount of surface allowed, the amount of work required to hold a claim, etc., and sometimes extended further, to the mode in which mining controversies and other difficulties should be settled.
These district regulations have been with general uniformity recognized by the Territorial and subsequent State Legislatures and are specifically mentioned in and approved by the Mining Acts of Congress beginning with the first Act on the subject in 1866. When not in conflict with statutory law, especially in cases arising out of the early discoveries, they may still be regarded as in force and occasionally important. They are supposed to be filed at present in the office of the County Recorder, and a search among them is sometimes necessary to the lawyer, and always refreshing to those who are curious in regard to pioneer
In instances the district constituted a municipal subdivision so distinct that the custody of the records was never transferred to the County Recorder, and the laws as well as records of claims were kept in his office alone.
Scope of their Legislation.-This system of the miners throughout the rest of the Pacific slope and in the mountain States generally, was moulded upon customs already established in California, and many of the California mining rules were identical with provisions of the Mexican law.
The subdivision of a vein or deposit into claims; the allowance of an "additional claim" to the discoverer; the staking of claims; the requirement of a discovery shaft; forfeiture for neglect to work, and various other prominent features are found to be set forth at large in the Spanish code.
But their day, practically, has ended and given place to uniform legislation; and, notwithstanding their recognition in Acts of Congress, they seem to be always made subject to State or Territorial laws, and void when in opposition thereto.
From the defects of these original regulations, and the want of an exact and uniform mining code, sprang many points of litigation, for which the miners had only themselves to blame. In some districts lawyers were, by these laws, forbidden to reside or practice.
Instances of their Form and Contents.-The rules of the various districts being more or less uniform in their mode of expression, and in the matters regulated by them, we give a citation of rules from sundry districts from which some idea of their scope and inten- tion may be formed:
Boundaries.-This district shall be defined and bounded as follows: Commencing at the head of the canyon on the Las Animas River at the lower end of what is called and known as Baker's Park, and thence running east to the summit of the main dividing range, and then following said range around so as to include all the waters of said river, to the place of beginning.-Art. 2, Las Animas District.
Size of Claims. All claims made on lodes by discovery shall be 200 feet long and 50 feet wide; all pre-emption claims 100 feet long and 50 feet wide; all discovery claims on patch diggings shall be 100 feet square; pre-emption claims 100 feet square; all discovery claims on gulch diggings shall be 100 feet long and from bank to bank; pre-emption claims shall be the same; all water claims and steam-mill sites shall be 300 feet long up and down the stream, and 150 feet wide; all claims shall be taken by numbers, commencing at the discovery and running each way.Art. 8, Grand Island District.
Value of Labor.-There shall be allowed for a day's labor on all lodes, the following prices: For working in loose rock and earth, twelve dollars per day; for hard rock, such as will require powder and drills, sixteen dollars per day.-Resolution 3, Las Animas District.
Lode Notice.-That all notices on lodes be written in plain English and posted in some conspicuous place on the lode.Resolution 8, Las Animas District.
Sheriff.-It shall be the duty of the Sheriff to serve all papers issued by the President, and to be a General Peace Officer.-Art. 6, Coral District.
Water. In all gulches or ravines where water may be scarce, the oldest claimants shall have preference and priority of right to water.-Art. 5, Downieville District.
Fictitious Locators.-Be it further enacted, that no claims shall be regarded as valid, pre-empted or recorded, in fictitious or false names, nor by persons not residents of the Territory, except the same are made in good faith.-Sec. 13, Lincoln District.
Forfeiture. Any person absenting himself from this mining region twelve months, shall forfeit his claims, except when they are represented by an agent.-Sec. 14, Iowa District.
Old Debts.-No suits shall be brought in the miners' court for indebtedness contracted in any other State or Territory, except by consent of all the parties interested.-Sec. 9, Banner District.
Duties of Recorder.-It shall be the duty of the Recorder safely to keep the records of the district, and to record all papers upon the payment of his fees. To act as secretary at all public meetings of the district, and by virtue of his office as Treasurer, to keep all moneys of the district paid to him, subject to the draft of the President; also, to keep all vouchers, so that at any time he may be able, when called upon, to exhibit the financial condition of the district.-Chap. 5, Sec. 1, Griffith District.
Murder.-Any person guilty of willful murder, upon conviction thereof, shall be hung by the neck until he is dead.Chap. 16, Sec. 1, Id.
Larceny. If any person or persons shall be guilty of stealing any property whatever in this district, and he or they be found guilty by a majority of a jury of twelve, chosen to try his or their guilt or innocence, he or they shall be sentenced to immediately restore the property stolen, and pay to the party injured all damages sustained, directly or indirectly, in consequence of the theft; and in case the guilty party shall not so restore and make good all the damages as aforesaid, the injured party may take sufficient property of the defendant found in this district, to satisfy all damage, and dispose of it in any way he may deem proper; and the defendant shall also be banished forever from this district, and he failing to leave immediately on notice, shall receive not less than five nor more than twentynine lashes, and in case he value of the property stolen be over one hundred dollars, he shall be hanged by the neck until he is dead; the injured party may proceed to retake his property and remunerate himself for damage sustained as above.-Art. 9,
Lower Union District.
Attempt to Regulate Annual Labor.-Such regulations as the foregoing Resolution 3, of Las Animas District, are manifestly void. The United States law requires a certain amount in value of labor or improvements, and this value cannot be lessened by an
arbitrary scale. They might with as much reason have fixed at once a single foot of sinking as the full equivalent of the $100 required by law."
The Act fixes both the amount and the period for its performance. A district rule requiring labor every sixty days is void.-Original Co. v. Winthrop Co., 60 Cal. 631. But a careful reading of A. C., Sec. 2324, would seem to allow a district rule to increase the amount, though it cannot lessen it.-Sissons v. Sommers, 55 Pac. 829; Northmore v. Simmons, 97 Fed. 386.
New Districts.-Since the Congressional Mining Act of 1872, the old district organizations, except in rare instances, are no longer preserved, and had in fact become more or less obsolete for years prior to that Act. New districts have been formed by miners' meetings, but the action of such meetings has not usually extended to more than giving a name to the district and fixing its boundaries. Any attempt to revive old or enact new district rules would be only productive of confusion, as they are, by the terms of the Congressional law (R. S. 2 2319, 2324) made subservient to both State and United States legislation.
Although the organization of the old districts has ceased to be maintained, their names and boundaries still exist to be used in location certificates and deeds as descriptive of the locality.
Unorganized Districts.-A mining title may be proved without either district organization or proof of district rules.-Golden Fleece Co. v. Cable Co. 1 M. R. 120.
Where land office or other forms contain a blank for the name of the mining district, and no district bas ever been formed, it is usual to fill such blank with the word "Unorganized." And there is no doubt that a mining district may exist to the extent of giving a name to a locality and to that extent only, and such name, when adopted by common consent, is as valid as if adopted at a district meeting.
The term mining district has a well known meaning, while the term mineral district is only a vague and indefinite generalization.-U.S. v. Smith, 11 Fed. 487.
New Districts in Alaska.-Owing to the exceptional status of Alaska, having no Territoral Legislature and its mining sections so distant from points from which judicial protection can be looked for, the organization of new districts in that Territory, with a full set of rules, will doubtless frequently occur. In such case the minutes of first meeting should show that it was called by public notice and attended by a majority of the miners either personally or by representation; should define boundaries; elect permanent Chairman and Recorder; restrict size of placer claims in crowded diggings, leave lode claims to the full size allowed by the Act of Congress, and make special provision for the keeping of permanent and accessible records. A district record kept in a pocket diary is no record.Fuller v. Harris, 29 Fed. 814.
Judicial Decisions as to District Rules.-Where in ejectment for a mining claim the plaintiff has described the same as located under district rules, he may recover without proof of the existence of such rules by evidence of his prior possession and the entry of defendant; but if his prima facie case on possession is negatived by any title proved by defendant he must then show the existence of the district rules and his compliance therewith before he can introduce his location or record made under such rules.-Sears v. Taylor, 5 M. R. 318.
Courts will not inquire into the regularity of the mode by which district rules have been enacted, except upon allegation of fraud, or other like cause.-Gore v. McBrayer, 1 M. R. 645.
Where the evidence renders it doubtful whether the written laws of a district are in force, both the written laws and parol proof of the mining customs may be offered in evidence.-Colman v. Clements, 5 M. R. 247.