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 251 - 300 of 573
Name Deceased Description Date Inquest Location Death Methodsort descending Inquest Finding
Mary Cook at Henry Cook's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say the deceased came to her death at her home from heart disease[.]

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

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

John Brown January 28, 1902 [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

John Jones December 16, 1817 at John Jones's, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths. . .that the said John Jones did die a natural death

Infant of C. P. Rushing Infant of C. P. Rushing December 19, 1894 at C. P. Rushing's Place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the said child came to its death from some natural cause or causes

S. D. Lawton July 19, 1911 at Chesterfield County, South Carolina, Chesterfield County, SC

S. D. Lawton suddenly, without any bad natural causes, as far as deponent knows or believes, dropped dead

Emma Alexander July 2, 1885 Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths say that from the evidence before them that the said Emma Alexander died from congestion of the lungs

Saul Bates January 24, 1815 at James Johnsons mill, Laurens County, SC

do say on their oaths are of the opinion that the sd. Saul Betts on the 24th of Jany. 1815 Came to his death by the Act of God at James Johnsons mill in the district afore sd.

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

James Robinson May 20, 1883 n.a., Anderson County, SC

came to his death by the act of God in the form of Apoplexy

W. L. Pegues July 16, 1894 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said W L Pegues came to his death from natural causes.

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

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

Charles Jones February 11, 1879 at R.J. Gladney's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the aforesaid Charles Jones came to his death by disease unknown to the Jury[.]

Elizabeth Mitchel October 12, 1845 at the dwelling house of David Mitchel, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . .the deceased went to bed in the house of David Mitchel . . .in good health, and was found a corps on the morning of the twelfth, and do believe that She came to her death by a visitation of god

Daniel Johnson May 19, 1871 at John T. Johnsons, Horry County, SC

upon their Oaths do Say that the said Daniel Johnson infant came to his death by the hand of God

Wade Barronton October 8, 1860 at Wade Barrontons Residence, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the said Wade Barronton came to his death. . .by the Visitation of God

Nathan Moore April 1, 1870 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say, That the diseased was and had been for some time afflicted with a Heart disease, which we believe caused his very sudden death at the Corner of market and third streets in cheraw on Friday April the first 1870 at 5 O clk PM

Simon West March 25, 1857 near the house of dec'd, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that it is by the visitation of God

Mary May April 14, 1854 at J. W. May's, Anderson County, SC

believe came to her death by the hand of Providence.

Vance Melton January 18, 1930 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that he came to his death from natural causes

Nancy Loyns June 25, 1889 at Elias Ballingers, Spartanburg County, SC

upon there oaths do say from the evidence heard in case and our belief is that she died of consumption

David Jeans March 5, 1870 Laurens County, SC

We the undersigned Jurors do say that we believe the said david Jeans freedman came to his death by the Visitation of God.

infant, child infant, child November 29, 1894 at the plantation of J. P. Roton, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that. . .the said Infant aforesaid. . .came to its death from natural causes

Moriah Scott infant child September 26, 1875 at Ness[?] Scott's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths, do say that Moriah L. Scott infant child . . .came to her death from cold

Molsie Knight February 6, 1897 at Reid Knight's, Chesterfield County, SC

So the Jurors aforesaid do say that the aforesaid Molsie Knight in manner and form aforesaid did come to Her death in a way that is unknown to the Jury we decide that it was an act of God.

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

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

Emanuel Thomas at Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say that the deceased came to his death from natural causes[.]

negro child negro child September 23, 1848 at the plantation of Davis Foudalock, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . .it must have dyed by the visitation of god

Hillary Suber July 9, 1883 at Mrs N.B. Copelands plantation, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Hillary Suber came to his death on the plantation of Mrs NB Copeland from Heart Disease

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

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

Sallie McDowell August 12, 1882 Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that ... Sallie McDowell died of indigestion

infant January 23, 1873 at residence of M. A. Snipes, Anderson County, SC

do say that it came to its death by the act of God

Annie Jefferson January 19, 1892 at Bary Rosie, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the Said Anna Jefferson came to her death form some cause or causes to the Jury unknown

Hardy January 17, 1848 at the house of I.B. McCall, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oath, do say that the said negro man came to his death by a dispensation of Providence

John Gregory September 3, 1862 at John Gregory, Union County, SC

do say that the Decd Came to his death by the hand of God

Nettie Frazier at the plantation of Mrs. Nancy Youngue, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased came to its death from the effects of Whooping cough[.]

John Brown December 20, 1844 at the house of John Brown, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that. . .the aforesaid John Brown came to his death by mischance or misfortune by the act of God, unknown to the Jurors

Arlen Blakney Watson February 2, 1902 at Chesterfield County, South Carolina, Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

Samuel Kelso December 21, 1817 at the plantation of Sam'l Kelso, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths that. . .he came to his death by an act of God being subject to something like a apoplexy for some time previous to his death

Scott Infant Child Scott Infant Child July 30, 1891 at W. A. Buchanan's Place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the said Infant child came to its death form natural cause or causes to this Jury unknown

Jack Odom August 26, 1911 at B. J. Douglass Place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the aforesaid Jack Odom come to his death from natural causes

James Robertson September 13, 1885 at Calvin Brewton's, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the aforesaid James Robertson came to his death by disease of the heart

George April 21, 1858 at Dr J G Tragham's, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased came to his death by the act of God.

Levi S. Mathews July 13, 1892 at G. C. Wheerles[?] Residence, Edgefield County, SC

upon their do Say. . .that the aforesaid Levi S. Mathews. . .Came to his death from hart Failure

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

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

Thomas Tillman July 22, 1894 at Thomas Tillman's place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the said Tillman came to his death form natural causes

Lawrence Lenhardt July 5, 1882 at Greenville CH, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that. . . came to his death from strangulation of the hernia[?] of long duration

Robert Vandever May 16, 1879 at Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the deceased came to his death on or about the 12th of May AD 1879 in the town of Winnsboro S.C from disease of the heart

Samuel Mitchell April 10, 1837 on the plantation of Robert Glen, Union County, SC

do say upon thear Oaths that the Sd Samul Mitchell . . .at a Spring . . . was found dead . . .and died by the visitation of God in a natural way

Lucy E. Louremore January 27, 1873 in Horry County, Horry County, SC

upon their oaths do Say that She Came to her death by natural Insident

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