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.’

NEXT: Meet the Coroners

 

Natural Causes Inquests

Displaying 1 - 50 of 573
Name Deceased Description Date Inquest Location Death Methodsort descending Inquest Finding
Willis Arther Jenkins February 4, 1888 at J. C. Jenkins, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the Said Willis Arther Jenkins came to his death by some natural cause or causes unknown to the jurors and that he dide on the 4 day of Feb 1888

Jack Dendy October 25, 1889 at Jack Dendys, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Jack Dendy came to his death "From Providential Causes."

Silvy Nix January 1, 1891 Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say that She came to her death by natural causes

Lewis Denham December 6, 1883 Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that said Lewis Denham ... in the field near his house died of natural causes

Susan Oliver March 27, 1893 at W. B. Oliver's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the said Susan Oliver came to her death by cause or causes unknown to us

Unknown Infant Unknown Infant July 1, 1925 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

My opinion is that its death was from natural cause and has been dead for about four days

John Day January 28, 1878 at the Guard house, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said John Day came to his death from the natural cause to wit[?] congestion of the brain

Hester Mobley June 27, 1868 at David Gladney's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say . . . that from the testimony the Said Hester Mobley came to her death by the desease, She was Suffering from, The disease of the Heart.

Jim slave October 4, 1858 at Giles Sharps, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Jim came to his death for some cause unknown or the visitation of god

Abram Alston near Dawkins, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Abram Alston manner and form aforsaid came to his death from natural causes

Rhoda female slave July 4, 1857 at Dorn's[?] Mill, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, they believe the said slave Rhoda came to her death by some invisible and unknown cause or causes; perhaps a disease of the heart

Bird Yarbor December 20, 1903 at McBee, SC, Chesterfield County, SC

the deceased -- Bird Yarbor -- came to his death by heart failure or some natural cause.

Martha Morris January 9, 1881 at the residence of Warren Morris, Anderson County, SC

do say that the deceased came to her death from disease of the lungs . . . at the residence of Warren Morris.

Jacob Briges September 18, 1832 at the house of Jacob Briges, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths that it was the visitation of God

Prince Crawford November 29, 1916 at Pageland, Chesterfield County, SC

Prince Crawford came to his death from natural causes

Betsey Wingo June 9, 1886 Spartanburg County, SC

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

Dick August 13, 1818 on the plantation of John Boyd, Laurens County, SC

the said Dick came to his death by the Act of God do Say upon their oaths here inserted.

James Leppard February 13, 1893 at F. M. Leppards, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say. . .the deceased came to his death by Rheumation of the heart

Sabia Covington January 14, 1895 at Chesterfield C. H., Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the said Sabia Covington came to her death from some natural cause or causes Unknown to them

Israel slave November 3, 1845 on the plantation of David Gentry, Anderson County, SC

do say that the said Israel came to his death by mischance, and not from any injury inflicted by the hand of another, but by the act of God.

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

Matilda Hall June 28, 1880 at residence of deceased on plantation of C.S. Brice, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that the said Matilda Hall came to her death by heart disease,-the act of Almighty God.

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

Bessie Marshal child November 22, 1893 at Henry Foster's, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say "that Bessie Marshal came to her death by the hand of Providence, at the house of Henry Foster, on the 22nd day of November 1893."

George Hatcher freedman June 19, 1867 at B. W. Hatchers Mill on Shaws creek, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oath do say that George came to his death by some disease unknown to the Jurors

Nancy Therrel February 19, 1876 at Mr. John Therrels, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the said Nacy Therel came to her death by some natural caus unknown to the jury

Thomas Wynn October 31, 1868 at William Bousar's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the dec'd died a natural death in his bed

Elijah M. Cooper August 25, 1877 at the residence of Elijah M. Cooper, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said E.M. Cooper came to his death. . .while engaged at work on his fieds near his residence from some cause which the jury believes to have been disease of the heart

Baby Roscoe June 18, 1934 at Ruby & Hartsville Cross Roads, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: Still Born

John Uriah Bedenbaugh September 17, 1835 on the plantation of Thomas Satten, Union County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the said John Uriah Bedenbaugh. . . died by the visitation of God in a natural way

Reubin Weaver December 28, 1895 at Elijah Boatwrights Plantation, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say, that Reubin Weaver aforesaid came to his death from heart failure

Pinkie Lemmon at J.H. Aiken's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, the said Pinkie Lemmon came to her death from Heart Disease[.]

James W. Steene August 22, 1898 at the Residence of Deceased James W. Steene, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say...we find that The deceased came to his death from Heart Falure

Elias Smith August 24, 1869 in the county of Anderson, Anderson County, SC

do say that while from the evidence before the jury there was serious grounds for suspicion that the said Elias Smith had come to his death by some in-proper means, the evidence of the dissecting physician relieves the jury of the disagreeable necessity of prosecuting the investigation further, and so the jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths do say that the aforesaid Elias Smith came to his death by apopsy of the chest and diseased liver

Henry B. Mathers November 26, 1841 at the house of Benjamin Nettles, Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say the believe it was by the visitation of God

George W. Medlock January 1, 1848 at the house of Daniel Abby, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said George W Medlock came to his death from a disease of the heart

Infred Padgett July 12, 1848 at the Joal of Edgefield, Edgefield County, SC

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

Ranse Lowry July 21, 1888 at Chesterfield County, South Carolina, Chesterfield County, SC

The finding of the Jury is that the deceased came to his death by mischance

Elsie Sloan November 17, 1889 on the plantation of J H Sloan, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Elsie Sloan came to her death by the act of God.

Matt Loyd February 24, 1891 at Mr. Carmal cemetary near the Old Wills, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oath do say that the said Matt Loyd died from Dropsy[?] of the heart

Sidney Rhinehart December 26, 1883 at Spartanburg, Spartanburg, S.C., Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that ... Sidney Rhinehart died of Cerebral Apoplexy

Sarah Johnson July 8, 1893 at Hebron Church, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the said Sarah Johnson came to her death from natural causes

Infant of Peter and Mary Hancock Infant of Peter and Mary Hancock March 1, 1898 at B.C. Moons, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: from natural causes

Emma Duval September 9, 1878 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that she . . .came to her death from natural causes

Doreas Mobley May 18, 1870 at the house of Mrs. Doreas Mobley, Fairfield County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the said Dorene Mobley on the 18th day of May in the year One thousand Eigth Hundred and Seventy at her house in the county aforesaid, was found dead, that she had no marks of violence upon her, and died by the visitation of God in a natural way, and not otherwise.

James Johnson October 13, 1852 at James Johnson's farm, Union County, SC

he came to his death by some caus unknown to us

Bettie McConnell near Lyles Ford, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, "That Bettie McConnell in manner and form aforsaid, came to her death from by heart failure."

Edward slave, boy October 22, 1857 at the residence of Wm Miller, Edgefield County, SC

came to his death by the act of Providence

Sarah Ellen Oliver January 2, 1904 at J. W. Crawley's place, Chesterfield County, SC

from the examination and testimony believe that she came to her death from natural causes.

Joe Jenkins October 8, 1881 at the residence of Matilda Rud, Anderson County, SC

do say that the deceased came to his death upon hart [sic] disease

Get in touch

  • Department of History
    220 LeConte Hall, Baldwin Street
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602-1602
  • 706-542-2053
  • admin@ehistory.org

eHistory was founded at the University of Georgia in 2011 by historians Claudio Saunt and Stephen Berry

Learn More about eHistory

Supporters

+ American Council of Learned Societies
+ DigiLab, Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, University of Georgia