Natural Causes

The "hand of God" is an active presence in CSI:D files. To be sure, the Almighty took no part in the suicides and homicides; those were the work of men "not having God Before [their] Eyes But moved by the instigation of the Devil." Deaths that could be traced to what we would call 'natural causes,' however, were typically deemed an 'act of God,'a 'visitation by God,' or the 'dispensation of Providence.'

Such cases expand on the point made in the introduction that coroners' inquests paint a very particular portrait of death in the nineteenth-century South. The stock and trade of the coroner's office were sudden deaths, especially those that intruded upon the public view. An old man succumbing to slow cancer in his own home was unsuspicious and unlikely to be investigated. This explains why heart attacks and strokes (which they called apoplexy) figure more prominently than fever among the 'hand of God' cases in these files. It also explains the relative frequency of deaths that occurred out-of-doors. Daniel Brown died in his cotton field; Jane Laniere died "in the woods near the public road"; Hartwell Roper "fell dead ... at his plow."

The words 'Hand of God' were also used in cases where the deceased had been struck by lightning. (In perhaps the strangest case, Broderick Mason and his enslaved girl, Cinthy, were killed by the same lightning bolt, a sure sign that God does not play favorites.) Despite the similarity in terminology, however, lightning deaths have been filed as accidents because, like cave ins and train crashes, they are cases of people simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and however 'natural' they might seem they are not a 'natural death.'

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Natural Causes Inquests

Displaying 1 - 50 of 316
Name Deceased Description Date Inquest Location Death Method Inquest Finding
Aaron old negro man slave February 23, 1858 in J[?] M Gadbury's[?] plantation, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say … that the said negro came to his death in a manner unknown

Abner Nelson December 31, 1849 at the House of abner nelson, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say … the said Abner Nelson died a natural death as we believe from old age an of god

Abram slave October 8, 1860 at the Residence of H. B. Raborns, Edgefield County, SC disease

upon there oaths do say that … the said Abram a slave of H Gallman … came to his death by some internal deseased unknown

Albert Watson June 15, 1892 at the plantation of W.B. Maffett, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Albert Watson came to his death from Natural Causes

Alex Black October 27, 1884 at Philadelphia in Spartanburg County, Spartanburg County, SC collapsed in field

upon their oaths do say that he came to his death from disease of the brain in his field some two hundred yards from his house

Alexander Black November 14, 1863 at the house of A. W. Black, Greenville County, SC apoplexy

upon their oaths do say that the said decd came to his death … by the act of God unknown to them

Alexander Moore May 22, 1889 at Wellford, Spartanburg County, SC apoplexy

upon their oaths do say that the deceased Alexander Moore came to his death from the evidence given and our belief [is] that he died of apoplexy

Alexander P. Kennard February 16, 1847 in the District, Edgefield County, SC illness/mental illness

do say upon their Oaths, that they do believe that he died of Cramp of the Stomach or in an Appoplectic fit

Amanda Glover August 30, 1892 at Mr Pofse[?] Lotts Plantation, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say That Amanda Glover came to her death from hart Failure

Amanda Hogan May 11, 1898 at the late residence of Miss Amanda Hogan, Kershaw County, SC heart attack

upon their oaths do say that the said Amanda Hogan came to her death from natural and providential causes

Amanda Lester December 13, 1884 near Pelham, Spartanburg County, SC heart disease

upon their oaths do say Amanda Lester came to her death from heart disease

Amos Lee July 10, 1852 at Amos Lee's, Union County, SC

upon ther oaths do say … that the said Amos Lee Come to his death by the act of God

Ana May Blocker child December 2, 1894 at Ben Boatwrights farm, Edgefield County, SC illness

upon their oaths do say: That the child Came to its death from causes unknown

Anna G. Cason June 10, 1883 at Williamston, Anderson County, SC disease

do say that the death of said Anna Cason (after hearing the testimony) was caused by disease of the heart.

Anthony slave July 2, 1853 at Samuel J. Hannond's plantation, Anderson County, SC chest pains

do say the deceased came to his death by causes unknown. We find marks or bruises on the right side of the head and behind the right ear. We find no more marks or bruises on the deceased more than what might have been made by a fall.

B. C. Bryan March 16, 1884 at B C Bryan Residence, Edgefield County, SC disease

upon there oaths do say … that the said B C Bryan Come to his death … from disease of the Heart

B. J. Mims January 20, 1885 at the Residence of Capt B J Mims, Edgefield County, SC disease

upon their oaths do say that the deceased came to his death by the visitations of Providence from heart disease

Beller McAlester March 11, 1876 at house of deceased, Anderson County, SC epileptic seizure

do say that she came to her death by the act of God in a applect fitt [sic]

Ben Shubrick col December 24, 1869 at Negro heade Lane, Edgefield County, SC possible mental illness

upon their oaths do say That they find that the said Ben Shubrick col came to his death by the act of Providence

Benjamin Bishop November 26, 1840 taken one mile and a half south of the [?] on the main road leading to Jones' ford on Enoree[?] river, Union County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the said Benjamin Bishop … at a place in the woods near the main road … died by the visitation of God in a natural way

Benjamin Wood May 8, 1829 at the house of Benjamin Wood, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths that he the said Benjamin Wood came to his death by visition of God

Betsey Wingo June 9, 1886 Spartanburg County, SC aneurysm

upon their oaths aforesaid do say that the said Betsey Wingo came to her death by the rupture of an aneurism in the rigth subclavian artery

Betsy Pilgram July 2, 1882 at Woodruff, Spartanburg County, SC heart disease

upon their oaths do say that the deceased ... came to her death by disease of the heart

Bettie Willis March 24, 1892 at the Croker place the home of Miss Bettie Willis, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say that the Said Miss Bettie Willis Came to her death … by the Act of God. From Heart Failure or disease accompied with Dropsie

Bluford Abney November 14, 1894 at M.A. Colemans plantation, Edgefield County, SC

the said Bluford Abney came to his death by natural causes or colic

Bob negro September 23, 1864 in the District, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say and dclare that the said Bob came to his death by the Visitation of God

Briant King May 16, 1861 at the resident of W. D. H. McHaughton, Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say that on the 16th day of May 1861 in the field at home while at work [Briant] came to his death by hone other than a visition of providence

Caroline A. Kinnan January 13, 1872 at L. C. Neals[?], Anderson County, SC

do say that said Caroline A. Kinnon….came to her death by the act of God

Caroline Batson freed woman November 21, 1866 at Reedy River Church, Greenville County, SC illness

upon their oaths do say that she came to her death by exposing herself while sick with fever

Caroline Coleman July 25, 1893 at Brisel[?] Blacks Residence, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say … that the said Caroline Coleman aforesaid came to her death from heart failure

Caswell Waldrop April 18, 1882 at the residence of Caswell Waldrop, Greenville County, SC illness

upon their oaths do say that … the said Caswell Waldrop … came to his death from the effect of an epileptic fit.

Catharine Rodgers child September 30, 1879 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that … the deceased came to her death from congestion of the Lungs

Chaney negro woman December 11, 1855 at the dwelling house of Mrs Randall in the Town of Hamburg, Edgefield County, SC disease

upon their oaths do say, that Chaney, the woman now lying dead before them came to her death by the Visitation of God

Chanya slave December 31, 1849 at A.G.W. Gordon's, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that she came to her death by infirmity and old age

Charity Bozeman June 11, 1880 at the house of Aby McAlister, Anderson County, SC heart disease

do say that Charity Bozeman ^came to her death^ by Harte Deaseas [sic]

Charity Johnson March 11, 1847 at the Residence of Charity Johnson, late deceased, Edgefield County, SC

do say upon their oaths, that the said Charity Johnson … died by the visitation of God

Charles negro boy March 7, 1857 at Archy Clark residence, Edgefield County, SC exposure

upon their Oaths do say … he came to his death by lying down and going to sleep on the wet and cold ground and the Rain and water running over him

Charles Goswell February 9, 1883 at John Goswell's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say the said Charles Goswell came to his death from natural causes unknown to the Jury

Charles Young July 16, 1885 at Anderson's Mills, Spartanburg County, SC apoplexy

upon their oaths do say that Charles Young came to his death from Apoplexy near Anderson's Mills

Charlotte slave August 6, 1837 in Camden, Kershaw County, SC

do say that she came to her death by affliction[?] of the heart

Christopher Norral January 5, 1815 at the Dweling house of John Norals, Union County, SC

say on their oaths that the Said Christopher Norral Came to his Death By the act of God

Clara slave February 18, 1861 at Thos Bayds[?], Union County, SC

uppon there oaths do say … the decd came to her death by hand of the Almity

Clarissa Campbell freedwoman March 29, 1867 at the residence of Sarah Campbell, Anderson County, SC

that the said Clarissa Campbell a freedwoman came to her death natural by the act of God

colored colored June 12, 1856 at a house on Rutledge Street in the town of Camden and occupied by one John Strickling, Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say that from the evidence before the jury the child came to its death naturally having had severe convulstions at several times during the two previous days

Cooper slave March 17, 1852 at the plantation of L.H. Mundy decd, Edgefield County, SC disease

where & when & by what means the Said Slave, Cooper came to his death By acute Gastro Duodinitis[?]

Crispan Smith December 5, 1836 at the house of George Smith, Union County, SC exposure

do say upon their oaths that he died by the visitation of god in a natural way by accidentaly getting frozen to death

D. Searey November 17, 1882 near Martinsville, Spartanburg County, SC seizure

upon their oaths do say that ... the said D. Seary died from Epileptic fit or other causes to which mortal man is heir

Daniel Brown October 8, 1881 at the plantation of Willis Watkins, Anderson County, SC disease

do say that the said Daniel Brown doed…in the cotton field on the plantation of Willis Watkins by no act of violence or foul means but by heart disease.

Daniel W. Willis September 27, 1887 at the residence of the deceased Daniel Willis, Spartanburg County, SC heart disease

upon their oaths do say that the [said] Daniel Willis came to his death of heart disease

Dick slave March 19, 1837 at the house of Edward Gregory, Union County, SC

do say that the said Dick … died by the visitation of God in a natural way

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