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 151 - 200 of 573
Name Deceased Description Date Inquest Location Death Methodsort descending Inquest Finding
Patrick Burns[?] November 4, 1858 at the residence of Richard Campbell, Edgefield County, SC

said Burns came to his death by visitation of God . . . that the immediate cause leading to sudden death, was the bursting of a blood vessel in or about the heart or lungs

Nancy Johnson June 11, 1906 at Whitfield Johnson, Chesterfield County, SC

AND so the said Jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, do say that the aforesaid Nancy Johnson came to her death from natural causes

Johnathon Crow August 25, 1840 over Johnathon Crow at his own residence, Spartanburg County, SC

it appeared to us and we verily believe that he the sd. Johnathon Crow's time had come and that it appeared that he never had a struggle

Miss Vida Nivius April 4, 1923 at Chesterfield County, South Carolina, Chesterfield County, SC

We the Jury after viewing the Body of Miss Nivius find that the dec'd aforsaid she came to her death from natural causes

Julia Rice June 27, 1887 at Clough Rice's, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that in our opinion the deceased came to her death from some natural cause, probably heart disease

Bilpha Hargroove February 1, 1847 at Joseph Simmon's, Laurens County, SC

do say upon there oaths, That after a thorough examination of the body we find no marks of violence or bruises on the body, we after a full examination of the testimony we are of opinion that the Deceased came to her death by appoplectic fit or some suffocation.

Kisiah Frazier December 17, 1893 at the plantation of T S Rainsforde, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Kisiah Frazier came to her death from natural causes. . .Rheumatic trouble of the heart

James Wilson March 27, 1846 at the house of Alexander Moorehead, Anderson County, SC

do say that the said James Wilson came to his death by the hands of Providence causes unknown to the jury.

William Autry March 16, 1896 at E. W. Gulledge's place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the said Wm Autry came to his death from natural causes

John Bryce March 7, 1815 in the town of Camden, Kershaw County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the said John Bryce came to his death in the Town of Camden aforesaid, on the night of the sixth Instant of a visitation of God.

Clarence Rodgers at the [?] Quarter[?], Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased Clarence Rodgers, came to his death from congestion of the lungs at the Residence of Hanibal Willis[.]

John Savage January 27, 1852 at John Savages, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . .John Savage Sr was Providentially taken away by the act of God

William Smith infant January 20, 1869 at Stephen C. Smith residence, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that he came to his death by some means or disease to the jurors unknown

George Roberts May 2, 1896 Laurens County, SC

we the Jury Empannelled in the case of the State vs dead body of George Roberts find that he died From Heart failure

Hartwell Roper June 17, 1869 at the residence of Rev. J.P. Mealing, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That the said Hartwell Roper fell dead in the field at his plow

John Campbell September 26, 1883 at Chesterfield C. H., Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That the said John Campbell came to his death by some natural caus or causes unknown to the jurors

Watson Jackson June 5, 1880 at Jackson Grove Church, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that at his mother's house of the plantation of Mr. A. Smith ... Watson Jackson came to his death by Malarial Fever

Jonathan June 5, 1826 at the plantation of Wm Ader[?], Fairfield County, SC

do say upon our oaths that our [?] from the evidence Jonathan came to his death by the Visitation of God

John Crosley January 11, 1838 at of John W Sartor[?], Union County, SC

do say upon there othes that the said John Crosley . . .died by the visitation of god in a natural way by getting choked or strangled and not otherwise

Pompy Robinson November 1, 1898 at Norris Place, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that Pompy Robinson came to his death from throat trouble

Fanny Payton colored woman, free from birth June 20, 1870 at residence of Harry Gallard[?], Anderson County, SC

do say that the deceased came to her death in her bed in the room she usually slept and from disease of the heart

George Jefferis near Crosbyville, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that in their opinion George Jefferis came to his death from appoplexy

Janice Parsons October 8, 1899 [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

W. F. DeBruhl April 20, 1859 at the late residence of W.F. DeBruhl, Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Wm. F. Debruhl came to his death by none other than a visition from God

Tom negro boy February 5, 1853 at the late residence of Col Harling Quarles[?] deceased, Edgefield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say the said negro boy . . .died in some natural way unknown

Harry Horton October 8, 1889 at Harry Hortons, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That the aforesaid Harry Horton came to his death by the act of God or natural causes

Harriet Hill May 27, 1884 Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths aforesaid do say that the aforesaid Harriet Hill ... came to her death the hand of God

Josephine Smith October 12, 1890 on the plantation of M.B. Pool, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Josephine Smith from some natural cause unknown to the jury.

Henry Jennings September 14, 1891 at the residense of diceased, Edgefield County, SC

upon the oaths of the Jury aforesaid do say that the said Henry Jennings came to his death from Heart Disease

Unknown Infant Unknown Infant March 27, 1895 at Daniel McGarland's place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: The said infant child was the Child of Caroline Laurean but from being buried such a length of time was in such a state of decomposition, it was impossible from autopsy to find out cause of death, Therefore we find that it came to its death from some cause unknown to it there

Lee Roy Almond November 18, 1893 at R. J. Almond's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the aforesaid Lee Roy Almond came to his death from natural causes

Eva Lyons February 9, 1880 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that. . . the Dec'd came to her death from Laranges[?] Tracheitis or inflamation of the wind pipe.

Manerva Proctor September 19, 1876 at Thomas Anderson's place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say: That Manerva Proctor came to her death by disease of the heart.

James Lee April 7, 1834 at Amos Lee's, Union County, SC

do say upon there oaths that the sd James Lee . . .on the plantation of William Hay[?] . . .Dyed By the Visitation of god in a natural way

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

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

Madison Materson at Blythewood, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oath do say that the above decest came to its Death by natural causes on June 20-1895[.]

Jim slave June 10, 1859 at M, L, Bonham Esqr residence on the Pine House road, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the said Jim a slave. . .came to his death by the act of Providence

Charlotte Johnson July 9, 1906 on the plantation of George Johnson, Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

Liberty slave August 1, 1843 at John Murph's, Spartanburg County, SC

do say uppon [sic] their oaths that he was found in his house lying dead on the floor and came to his death by the act of God

Waterman Fleming August 3, 1925 at Jule Fleming's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: by natural causes

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

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

Borough August 21, 1853 on the high Road near Marengo, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that he had no marks of violence upon him and that he died by the visitation of God & not otherwise.

Lona May Hamilton child October 18, 1893 at or near Longmires PO[?], Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that she said Lona May Hamilton came to death. . .on the plantation of J.A. Deale. . .by accidental suffication

John M. Bonds December 16, 1850 at Isom R. Bond's, Anderson County, SC

do say having understood that the said John M. Bonds died very suddenly on the mornign of the 15th of this Instant while going as a boat hand on Savannah River. . . .we the jury report that we fully concur in the opinion of the said doctors as reported by them to the coroner...that is to say that John M. Bonds came to his death by a diseased action in the Larynx producing or giving rise to suffocation.

Blair Massey Alias: Isaac Funderburk May 16, 1896 at Phillip Arrant, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say that the deceased came to his death by natural causes

James Hall September 25, 1818 in town of Camden, Kershaw County, SC

do say upon a view of the body of the deceased . . . that he came to his death by the visitation of God.

Elsie Starks at N.C. Roberts' place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased came to her death from some cause uknown to the Jury between two & seven Oclock the 21st Jan 1883[.]

Sharp infant male child June 5, 1861 at Wm Bovels[?], Union County, SC

uppon there oaths do say that . . .we conclud that Decsd Came to its Death by the hand of the Almighty

M. M. Oneall December 1, 1870 at the residence of Elias E. Roberts, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Mrs. M.M. Oneall came to her death from disease of the heart

Georgiana Williams Moore July 26, 1882 at TS Langston's plantation, Laurens County, SC

upon their oathes do say that the said Georgiana William Moore came to her death by a visitation of God and died of Embolism of the heart.

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