In Wilcox v. Stroup, the Fourth Circuit considered the ownership of papers from the administrations of two governors of South Carolina during the Civil War. Thomas Law Willcox sued in United States Bankruptcy Court for a declaratory judgment that the papers were part of his estate. Defendant South Carolina countered that the papers were public property. The bankruptcy court held for the State, but the the district court reversed. The Fourth Circuit affirmed that the papers belong to Wilcox because the long possession of the papers by the Willcox family creates a presumption of ownership in their favor and the State adduced insufficient evidence to defeat this presumption.
Applying South Carolina law, the panel noted that it is well established that, absent evidence of superior title, "[t]he law ever presumes in favor of possession, for possession alone is prima facie evidence of a good title."