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 573
Name Deceased Description Date Inquest Location Death Methodsort descending Inquest Finding
slave slave May 31, 1832 Kershaw County, SC

do unanimously believed that the said negro woman deceased formerly the property of Isaac Mothershed now lying Dead came to her death by an act of God

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

Unknown March 26, 1875 at the residence of Mr. John Murpheys, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say that the death of the Child was the Act of God

Loucinda Alexander December 7, 1883 at the house of Camel Alexander, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased came to her death by the acts of Providence unknown to us

infant child infant child August 9, 1837 on the plantation of Mr. Austin Wilson, Union County, SC

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

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

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

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

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

Unknown at Davis Lyles'[?] place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the aforesaid Infant came to his death from Premature birth[.]

Sallie Perdew January 5, 1902 [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

I have this day helt a prliminary ex amination over the dad body of Sallie Prdew and from witnesses find that She Came to her dath nothing other than heart faleior or Change of life this the 4 and 5 days of January 1902

Martha McFarlan September 20, 1890 at Robert Mcfarlan, Chesterfield County, SC

upon thire oaths do say that the Said Martha McFarling came to her death from natural causes to the Jury unknown

Sallie McDowell August 12, 1882 Spartanburg County, SC

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

Charley Gainey November 18, 1903 at T.C. Williams', Chesterfield County, SC

the said Charley Gainey diseased came to his death from heart failure

infant December 24, 1882 at the residence of Miss Mary Bridges, Spartanburg County, SC
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

Polly Evins August 18, 1886 at Joe Waters, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased came to her death from natural causes

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

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[.]

Tower December 27, 1809 at Benjamin Strange's, Laurens County, SC

do say upon their oaths that they believe his death came by the act of god

infant child infant child February 28, 1877 at Greenville CH, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said infant child of Ella Mitchell came to his death caused by congestion of the liver stomach & bowels

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

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

Aaron Oxner October 11, 1877 at Shelton, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that in their opinion & from the[?] best information that Aaron Oxner came to his death from Appoplexy

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

Jane Ashmore child April 3, 1880 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that. . .the said Jane Ashmore came to her death from natural causes

Dorisa Byrd at Martin Byrd's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Dorisa Byrd came to her death from congestion of the lungs at on the plantation of Oliver Sloan[.]

Luvenia Elmore March 15, 1883 at J A Fergusons place, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the cause of her death on the 14th day of March AD. 1883 on J A Fergusons place in Laurens County from Congestion.

Milton Ponder January 19, 1867 at Milton Ponder's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Milton Ponder came to his death . . . by the hand of Providence

Ann Funderburk August 27, 1880 at Oak Hill Grave Yard, Chesterfield County, SC

upon oaths do say that the said Ann Funderburk died on the 14th Aug A.D. 1880 of natural causes.

Adeline Terry February 6, 1883 at Henry Grant's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon there oaths do Say That the said Adline Terry came to her death from som caus or causes unknown to the jurors

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

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

unnamed infant unnamed infant September 8, 1855 at the Plantation of the late William Montgomery, Horry County, SC

upon their Oaths do say That upon a Post-morten examination, that from the decomposed state of the Child, having been dead 8 days and buried 7 days, that we can not see any sign of violence or Poesen,--but from the emty state of the Childs Stomach and Bowels, believe that the death of the Child was caused by withholding the necessary nurishment, from its Mothers breast, or otherwise

Emaline slave April 4, 1862 at R. G. H. Faws[?], Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say . . .that the deseast came to her death by the visitation of god or some unknown cause

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.

James Mitchell February 18, 1879 at L D Laudrums, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Jas Mitchell came to his death by means unknown

Infant of Dissie Adams Infant of Dissie Adams May 5, 1912 at W. C. Adams place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: He came to his death from natural cause in feble condition after birth

negro child negro child January 16, 1854 at [???], Union County, SC

do say upon their oaths . . .that it came to its death by the visitation of God

Eber B. Stevens March 5, 1873 at Pendleton, Anderson County, SC

do say . . . by a visitation of God

H. F. Nivens January 1, 1893 at John Parker, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the Said H.F. Nivens came to his death form some cause or causes to this Jury unknown

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

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

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

Milly Roler November 2, 1819 Kershaw County, SC

do say upon their oaths [that] the said Milley Roler came to her Death by the act of God as far we know

John Williams February 9, 1879 at the house of Newton Perry [?] on the plantation of Thomas Cox, Anderson County, SC

do say, that deceased [John Williams] came to his death by dropsical affiction.

Limbrick negro child a slave July 22, 1856 at Wm. R. A. Thomas's, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that limbrick here lying dead came to his death by a visitation of god

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

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

Lydia Parish December 6, 1835 at the house of Mrs. L. Parrish on Rutledge Street in the town of Camden, Kershaw County, SC

find no reason to suppose the deceased came to her death otherwise than by the act of God or in the course of nature from diesease the particular character of which is unknown to us

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.

James Goodson September 28, 1807 Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said James Goodson . . .was found dead, that he had no such marks of violence on his body as would have occasioned his death & died by the visitation of God & not otherwise

negro child a slave negro child a slave January 27, 1835 on the plantation of T Hooker, Union County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the Sd child . . .died by the visitation of god in a natural way

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