Infanticide

Life in the Faulknerian world of CSI:D was especially cheap for children. Catherine Berry, a domestic in the R. C. Poole household, was told that she would be terminated if she was indeed pregnant. In an awful feat of endurance, she continued with her chores until, doubled over with pain, she snuck away to give birth in the potato shed. Reeling from the loss of blood, she still managed to strangle the baby and fling it into the Pacolet River, where it washed up at the feet of some fishermen. When Peggy Bedenbaugh felt her first contractions, she went out to a corner of the yard, gave birth in a hole, and covered the baby over with dirt. Luly Collins threw her baby down a well. Nancy Owens swept hers under a brush pile. All had denied for months that they were in the "family way"; all had killed the evidence; all were indicted for murder.

Or take the case of Jane Arnold. On September 7, 1857, Brazeal Cox and his wife found sixteen-year-old Jane Arnold stretched out on the ground with a baby beside her, bleeding from its umbilical cord. When Arnold became aware of the couple she called out to Mrs. Cox, who wrapped the dying infant in Arnold's apron and took it into the Arnold home. Mrs. Cox then returned and asked the girl why she hadn't given birth indoors. Because her daddy was "doging" her, she said, and had cast her from the house. "She seemed to be grieving," Cox told the coroner in a model of understatement, "but [I] don't know what for, whether on the part of her dead child or the abuse of her father."

"She seemed to be grieving, but [I] don't know what for, whether on the part of her dead child or the abuse of her father."

Three years later, at four in the morning, a shivering Jane Arnold knocked at the door of a neighboring farm. She was cold and unkempt, but she couldn't make up her mind to stay. Instead she returned to the abandoned schoolhouse where she had taken her latest baby, born in the middle of the road, to die of exposure.

The coroners' office reveals a world where men force women into sex and women pay the price for it, in embarrassing pregnancies, social stigma, and the occasionally desperate attempt to cover up the evidence. In 1829 a fire in Thomas Welsh's smoke-house revealed a small cubby in which a full term child had been secreted in a jar of lime. It is impossible to know whether this was an infanticide or a child who had been stillborn. Regardless the mother was covering up something. Occasionally that something is an interracial liaison. More often it is simply a pregnancy out-of-wedlock. Many of the cases reveal that the women had been trying for some time to induce an abortion. 'Home remedies' for pregnancy mentioned in the CSI:D sample include savin powder mixed with turpentine, red bark bay tea, and the ashes of dried corn cobs. In this sense some of the infanticides are extremely late-term abortions. One unnamed mother gave birth to a stillborn child who bore unmistakable marks of abuse en utero. M. Lipscomb was found doubled over a fence having apparently bled out in a botched, self-induced abortion.

Almost sadder is the number of women who were held to account for the 'murder' of infants who had most likely died of crib death or SIDS. Often sent back to the cotton field within days of giving birth, enslaved mothers were understandably exhausted, and they often slept with their infants so they could breast feed in a haze and go back to sleep. When they occasionally awoke to dead babies, they were unfortunately as susceptible as their doctors and masters to the notion that they had smothered their children in their sleep, a phenomenon which only enhanced their reputation as uncaring and unnatural mothers.

NEXT: Accident

 

Infanticide Inquests

Displaying 1 - 37 of 37
Name Deceased Description Date Inquest Location Death Method Inquest Finding
A. infant child January 13, 1832 at the house of John Nelson, Union County, SC suffocation

upon their oaths do say, that a certain person unknown did kill and but[?] believe that A was a black woman Slave named [?] the property of John Nelson of said district did kill and homicide the said infant A and the said Jurors upon oaths afforesaid further say that the said person unknown or Palmer at above Said after she had commited the said felony and homicide did flee away

black child black child July 31, 1849 at Morton's old place, Greenville County, SC unknown

upon their oaths aforesaid do say that the aforesaid Harriot and Amy and Jenny did then and there feloniously cause the death of the said chile contrary to the peace and dignity of the state.

Cole white infant November 18, 1827 near the house of William Cole, Union County, SC
female child female child July 17, 1881 at Greenville CH, Greenville County, SC

came to her death do say that … Sallie Turner was delivered of a female child and that said female child is the one here by us dead. And the Jurors further say that said female child was still born never having having breathed

female child, white child female child, white child January 21, 1881 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC drowning

upon their oaths do say that … the said unknown female child came to her death from violence at the hands of a party or parties to the Jury unknown

female daughter of female daughter of November 28, 1841 at graveyard at Hammonds Old Field, Anderson County, SC

do say on oaths from the evidence before us and examination of the body that it came to its death by the improper interference of the mother Rebecca Mullinax cutting the string of the naval omiting to cord the same

Freedwoman Freedwoman October 23, 1867 at Anderson Court House, Anderson County, SC strangulation

do say that the said infant came to its death by strangulation by the hands of its mother Clary Williams, a freed woman in the town of Anderson….immediately after its birth

infant June 15, 1884 at Gaffney City, Spartanburg County, SC unknown

upon their oaths do say that the said male infant child name unknown was killed and murdered by some person, or persons, or by some means, either by crushing of th head with some instrument unknown by drowning or both

infant September 12, 1882 at Chester Scruggs well, Spartanburg County, SC unknown

upon their oaths do say that the said infant was murdered by being thrown into an unused well by some person or persons to the jurors unknown

infant April 6, 1865 near Hobbysville, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that after a most careful investigation of the whole matter ... that the said child, we are satisfied, came to its death by having the posterior part of its head crushed, wilfully and violently, by the hands of Martha Robinson, the mother of said child, or Elizabeth Robinson, the grandmother of said child, later in the evening of Tuesday the 4th day of April

infant infant March 24, 1892 at Pinksville, Edgefield County, SC unknown

upon their oaths do say said Infant came to its death by the hands of Jane Gilchrist

infant January 8, 1815 at the plantation of James Leatherwood, Spartanburg County, SC
infant July 16, 1868 in the town of Camden, Camden, S.C., Kershaw County, SC unknown

the jury ... were lead to believe that Lula Collins (alias Deas) was the mother of the dead child, and that Louisa Deas in trying to conceal the body of said child in the well leads the jury to suspect that she had knowledge of the manner by which it came there. How the child come to its death, the jury are unable to determine.

infant November 28, 1829 in Camden on the lot on which Mr. Thomas Welsh[?] resided, Kershaw County, SC unknown

do say upon their oaths that the remains of an infant born at "full time" were found in a smoke house, suspiciuosly concealed in a jar with lime on the lot on which Mr. Thomas Welch[?] resided; but how, or when the infant came to its death we know not.

infant March 10, 1865 at Anderson Court House, Anderson County, SC strangulation or asphyxiation

do say that it came to its death ^at the house of Wm Shanachans[?] in the town of Anderson^ by violence inflicted by its mother Adelia C. Parker

infant August 23, 1888 at Spartanburg, Spartanburg County, SC unknown

upon their oaths do say that the said unknown child came to his death by being killed and murdered by some person or persons to the jurors unknown

infant March 6, 1884 in the City of Spartanburg, Spartanburg County, SC head injury

upon their oaths do say that ... the said child ... came to its death from injuries received at the hands of Mary McKeys, Lizzie Mills, Paul Mills, and Alexander Mills, all of whom we deem cognizant of and accessory to the death 

infant infant January 10, 1898 at Johnston, Edgefield County, SC blunt instrument/drowning

upon their oaths, do Say: That the said Infant was killed and murdered by Some person or persons to the Jurors unknown

infant September 19, 1833 at the home of William Griffin, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths … that the infant was put to death by violence of Harriet Bagood

infant April 14, 1869 at Capt. J.D. Jakell's plantation, Kershaw County, SC unknown

upon their oaths do say that the said male infant child was killed by its mother Peggy Bedenbaugh [and] after she was delivered of it ... that she buried it about thirty yards back of the house in which she resides on Capt. J.D. Jakell's plantation

infant July 28, 1836 at the palntation of Mr. Richard Shotford[?], Kershaw County, SC unknown

do say upon their oaths that Nancy Owens of ? district is living at the house of sd district is the mother and murderer of sd. Child which they have examined but how killed they could not tell.

infant June 12, 1872 Anderson County, SC
infant child infant child April 14, 1895 at Charley Moors, Edgefield County, SC strangulation

Upon their oaths do say that the child came to its death at the hands of Laura White and her daughter Anna by some means unknown

infant child infant child August 5, 1878 at the residence of H J Wright, Edgefield County, SC blunt instrument

upon their oaths do say the female Child … Came to its death by Misfortune or accident

infant child infant child July 21, 1851 at the residence of Mrs. Elizabeth Campbell, Greenville County, SC suffocation

upon their oaths do say that … said infant cause to its death by misfortune or accident either in the act of being born or short time after its birth

infant child infant child December 14, 1877 at Dr. K N Hudsons plantation, Edgefield County, SC unknown/fire

upon their Oaths do say that … Ella Talbert did murder her own child with some instrument unknown then burned it

infant Child infant Child August 22, 1842 at or near Mrs Marium Kershaw plantation, Union County, SC

do say that the bones shown to them at the Stump was the bones of an infant [?] Child and it appeared that they had been put there for the purpose of Consealing them [??] they war put thare in the flesh or cleand of flesh is to us unknown

infant female child infant female child March 31, 1857 at Turner Duncan's, Greenville County, SC unknown

upon their oaths do say that the infanct was killed or homicideed by some person or persons, or (by some means) came to its death to the jurors unknown

infant male child infant male child March 27, 1879 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC suffocation, exposure

upon their oaths do say that the aforesaid unknown male child came to his death from causes to this jury unknown

infant, (male) infant, (male) April 29, 1857 at Potterville, Edgefield County, SC drugs

upon their oaths do say … from the effects of Laudanum … administerted by Mrs Matilda Reynolds … the aforesaid infant (male child) in manner and for aforesaid, Matilda Reynolds, then and there feloniously did Kill

James Mayes infant March 24, 1870 taken [???], Greenville County, SC suffocation

upon their oaths do say that the said James Mays came to his death at A. M. Gilreaths … cause unknown … misfortune or accident

Lula Smith child June 22, 1894 at James A Satcher's Plantation, Edgefield County, SC neglect

upon their oaths, do say: that the said Lula Smith aforesaid came to her death, by a cause unknown

male baby male baby May 24, 1891 at the Saluda River, Edgefield County, SC unknown

upon their oaths do say that … he was feloniously murdered and thrown in the Salud River at the hands of his own Mother or at the hands of Some one known to her

Mary Grace Aldrich infant child August 11, 1856 at Graniteville, Edgefield County, SC drugs

upon their oaths do say … that said child came to her death at the time and place aforesaid by having large portions of laudaunum administered by a servant girl the nurse of the name of Clarissa … with felonious intent

negro negro February 27, 1868 at or near Pacolet Springs, Spartanburg County, SC drowning

upon their oaths do say ... that Catherine, a black woman living at Col. R.C. Poole's at Pacolet Spring, called by some Berry, did have and was delivered of said child and that she throwed [sic] it in the river ... feloniously drownding said child against the peace and dignity of the same state aforesaid

Rose three negro children October 2, 1846 at the house of Philip Brogden, Edgefield County, SC axe

upon their oaths do say the said Riller Lizzy and Rose were feloniously Killed and Murdered in the negro house of said Philip Brogden on the night of the 1st inst by breaking their sculls with an axe and cutting the throats of Riller & Lizza by the hands of their own Mother named Clarisy the property of said Brogden

white child white child January 20, 1871 at Wilson's Bridge, Anderson County, SC blunt object

do say that it appears that the deceased was willfully killed, by some person or persons unknown

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