This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
While occasionally the statutes limiting the time for the bringing of an action to recover land provide that a failure to sue within the time named shall operate to transfer the title to the person in possession, they almost invariably in terms bar the remedy merely. They have, however, with few, if any, exceptions, been regarded as operating to divest the title of the former owner and to give title to the wrongful possessor. The theory on which this result may be regarded as based has been stated by a great master of the law as follows: True property or ownership consists of possession coupled with the unlimited right of possession, and when one person is dispossessed by another only the right of possession remains vested in the former, and the disposses-sor has complete ownership except for this outstanding right of possession. When the period of limitation has run, the statute, by forbidding the exercise of this right, virtually annihilates it, and the imperfect title thereupon becomes perfect.2
Pittsburgh, etc. R. Co. v. Strick-ley, 155 Ind. 312, 58 N. E. 192; Louisville, etc. R. Co. v. Smith, 125 Ky. 336, 101 S. W. 317, 128 Am. St. Rep. 254; Matthews v. Lake Shore etc. R. Co., 110 Mich. 170, 67 N. W. 1111, 64 Am. St. Rep. 336; Northern Pac. R. Co. v. Townsend, 84 Minn. 152, 87 Am. St. Rep. 342, 86 N. W. 1007; Pax-ton v. Yazoo, etc., R. Co., 76 Miss. 536, 24 So. 536; Northern Pac. R. Co. v. Hasse, 28 Wash. 353, 68 Pac. 882, 92 Am. St. Rep. 840.
2. Professor J. B. Ames, 3 Harvard Law Rev. at p. 318, Lectures on Legal History, 193, 198. So it is said by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in an opinion delivered by Lord Macnaghten; "It cannot be disputed that a person in possession of land in the assumed character of owner and exercising peaceably the ordinary rights of ownership has a perfectly good title against all the world but the rightful owner. And if the rightful owner does not come forward and assert his title by process of law within the period prescribed by the provisions of the statute of limitations applicable to the case, his right is forever extinguished and the possessory owner acquires an absolute title." Perry v. Clissold, App. Cas. (1907) 72.
"Possession itself is a species of title, of the lowest grade, it is true; yet it is good against all who cannot show a better, and by lapse of time may become, under the statute, perfect and inthe title being thus vested in the wrongful possses-sor by reason of the running of the statute, it follow-that he may assert his ownership, in an action of ejectment or otherwise, against the whole world,3 including the original owner,4 and a legal conveyance is necessary in order to revest the ownership in the latter, after the lapse of the statutory period, a mere disclaimer of the benefit of the statute by the wrongful possessor being insufficient.5
A court of equity will frequently compel a purchaser to accept a title acquired by adverse possession.6 defeasible." White, J., in Mc-neally v. Langan, 22 Ohio St. 32.
3. Harpending v. Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of New York City, 16 Pet. (U. S.) 455;, Jacks v. Chaffln, 34 Ark. 534; Mcduffee v. Sinnott, 119 111. 449, 10 N. E. 385; Sutton v. Pollard, 96 Ky. 640, 29 S. W. 637; Arm-storn v. Risteau's Lessee, 5 Md. 256; Joseph v. Bonaparte, 118 Md. 591, 85 Atl. 962; Schock v. Falls City.31 Neb. 599, 48 N. W. 468: Sherman v. Kane, 86 N. V. 57; Baker v. Oakwood, 123 N. Y. 16. 10 L. R. A. 378, 25 N. E. 312; Mitchell v. Campbell, 19 Ore. 198. 24 Pac. 455; Spath v. Sales, 70 Ore. 269,141 Pac. 160; Way v. Hoot-on, 156 Pa. 8, 26 Atl. 784; Gulf, C. & S. F. Ry. Co. v. Cusenberry, 86 Tex. 525, 26 S. W. 43; Hughes v. Graves, 39 Vt. 359.
4. Sharon v. Tucker, 144 U. S. 533; Jacks v. Chaffin, 34 Ark. 534; Cannon v. Stockman, 36 Cal. 535, 95 Am. Dec. 205; Goetz v. Glos, 266 111. 238, 107 N. E. 464; Armstrong v. Risteau's Lessee, 5 Md. 256, 59 Am. Dec. 115; Barnes v. Light, 116 X. V. 34, 22 N. E. 441; Hall v. Hall.
27 W. Va. 468, 480.
5. Tennessee Coal I. & W. R. Co. v. Linn, 123 Ala. 112, 26 So. 245, 82 Am. St. Rep. 108; Todd v. Kauffman, 8 Mackey (D. C.) 304; Illinois Cent. R. Co. v. Wakefield, 17.3 I11. 564, 50 N. E. 1002; Riggs v. Riley. 113 Ind. 208, 15 N. E. 253"; Inhabitants of School Dist. No. 4, in Win-throp v. Benson, 31 Me. Allen v. Mansfield, 82 Mo. I Towles v. Hamilton. 91 Neb. 588, 143 N. W. 935; Bell v. Adams, 81 N. C. 118; Round Mountain Lumber & Coal Co. v. Hass. 136 Tenn.. 687, 191 S. W.341 Bruce v. Washington. 80 Tex. 368, 15 S. W. 1104; Austin v. Bailey, 37 Vt. 219, 86 Am. Dec. 703.
6. See e. g. Tewksbury v Howard, 138 Ind. 103. 37 N. E. 353; Stevenson v. Polk, 71 Iowa, 278, 32 N. W. 340; Keepers v. Yocum, 84 Kan. 554. 114 Pac 1063; Logan v. Bull 78 Ky. 607; Westerfield v. Cohen, 180 La. 533,
58 So. 175; Stewart v. Kreuzer, 127 Md. 1, 95 Atl. 1052; Conley v. Finn, 171 Miss. 70, 68 Am. St. Rep. 399, 50 N. E. 460 Barnard v. Brown, 112 Mich. 452, 67 Am. St. Rep. 432,70 N and it has been held that one may maintain a suit to remove the cloud on the title thus acquired, created by the documentary title of the original owner.7 A title thus acquired cannot be affected by the repeal, of the statute of limitations under which it was acquired.8 Although the effect of the statute is to divest the, title of the former owner, and to vest title in the wrongful possessor, the statute does not, it appears, transfer the former title, but the wrongful possessor acquires an entirely new title.9 Consequently the liability on covenants does not pass to the new owner.10 But a legal right of a proprietary character, such as an easement,11 a mortgage,12 or presumably a right of entry,13
W. 1038; Long v. Lackawanna Coal & Iron Co., 233 Mo. 713, 136 S. W. 673; Pratt v. Eby, 67 Pa. 396; Miller v. Cramer, 48 S. C. 282, 26 S. E. 657; Summers v. Hively, 78 W. Va. 53, 88 S. E. 608. Contra, Mays v. Blair, 120 Ark. 69, 179 S. W. 331; Hartley v. James, 50 N. Y. 38. And see Heller v. Cohen, 154 N. Y. 299, 48 N. E. 527; Adkins v. Gillespie, -Tex. - , 189 S. W. 275.