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The rule of the Massachusetts colony ordinance of 1641, declaring that in all places upon salt water where the sea ebbs and flows, the proprietor of the land adjoining shall own the shore to low-water mark, or to the distance of one hundred rods if the sea ebbs further than one hundred rods, though never extended to the colony of Plymouth as a positive law, is nevertheless a settled rule of property in every part of the State of Massachusetts. The owner of seashore has a title to and possession of wreck thrown upon his shore, and never reclaimed by the original proprietor, in preference to a mere stranger and may maintain trespass against a stranger for entering upon his shore and taking away the wreck. In such action the owner of the shore is entitled to recover as damages, the value of the property taken away.
Plaintiff owner's property was bounded on one side by a sea; a portion of the land included two pieces of land conveyed to the United States. The timber in question was discovered by defendants on the rocks at the low-water mark on the shore that bounded the owner's land. One defendant marked it with his name and it was later removed and converted to defendants' own use. Plaintiff consequently filed an action against defendants for trespass onto and the theft of the timber from the plaintiff’s land.
In rendering judgment for the owner, the Court ruled that under a Massachusetts ordinance of 1641, the owner was the proprietor of the land at the shore to the low-water mark. Moreover, by the terms of the grant to the United States, taken in connection with a plan of the land, the flats and beach did not pass with the upland to the United States, and the title to them remained in the owner. The Court held that because the place upon which the timber was thrown up and lodged was the soil and freehold of the owner, and because defendants could not justify their entry, such entry was a trespass, and, as between the parties, neither of whom had or claimed any title except by mere possession, the owner had the preferable right of possession, and therefore he had a right to recover the agreed value of the timber as damages.