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
George Jefferis near Crosbyville, Fairfield County, SC

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

Harriet negro woman July 20, 1859 at the residence of JB Rease, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the said negro woman. . .died by the visitation of God

E. P. Brown January 1, 1879 at Mrs. E.P. Browns, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the Deceased came to to her death at her Residence Dec. the 31st A.D. 1878 from enlargement of the heart[.]

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

Mittie Mitchell September 19, 1902 at Chesterfield County, South Carolina, 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

Dilsey Seigler September 20, 1869 at Miles Mills, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That the said Dilsey came to her death by an act of Providence after long affliction

Elisha Farless[?] September 15, 1847 at Robert Youngers Mill house, Fairfield County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the siad Elisha Farleys[?] died on the 14th[?] instant past at or in the Mill house of Robert Yongers[?] was found dead that he had no markes of violence appearing on his body and died by the visitation of God in a natural way

Peter Moore July 3, 1880 at the residence of Mrs. Mary Dobson near Cedar Hill, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that he came to his death ... by an act of Almighty God

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

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

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

Kizziah[?] slave, servant March 11, 1860 at the residence of Mr M Lanham, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the said Kisziah came to her death. . .from the Visitation of God in a natural way

Leanora M. Cannon February 25, 1879 Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that ... the said Leonora M. Cannon died from the rupture of a blood vessel which caused a rush of blood into the lungs and instant death ensued

Humphrey Wilson August 26, 1882 at the residence of Humphrey Wilsons, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say . . . he died from a visitation of the Almighty God

Strather Freeman March 2, 1876 at Flat Rock Church, Anderson County, SC

do say deceased came to his death by disease of the heart.

negro child negro child October 11, 1857 at T. C. Lesters, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that she came to her death by strangling or choking with phlegm

Jane Owens at Ms. Helen Smith's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say She died from a paroxism of asthma

Peter Williford May 2, 1876 at Daniel Williford's, Anderson County, SC

do say that some time between the hours of 3 oclock on the 1st of May 1876 and 8oclock on the 2d day of may May 1876 that the deceased came to his death by the act 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

Joseph Smith freeman July 25, 1866 at Benjamin Vaughn's, Greenville County, SC

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

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

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

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

George Negro Slave April 19, 1830 at the house of Reps Edwards, Union County, SC

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

Richard Stevens February 21, 1898 at Johnston S.C., Edgefield County, SC

upon their Oaths aforesaid, do say, that the aforesaid Dick Stevens died. . .from visitation of God

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.

Infant of J. L. Hancock Infant of J. L. Hancock March 3, 1899 at J.S. Oliver's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: the child come to its death by natural causes

Rose Watts December 8, 1891 at Mountville, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Rose Watts came to her death by misfortune or the act of God.

William Ganey February 22, 1889 at E. H. Casons, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That the Said William Ganey came to his death form some natural cause or causes to the jurors unknown

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

Tephius[?] Cornwall January 14, 1845 on one of the Public Streets of the Town of Hamburg, Edgefield County, SC

Upon their oaths do say, that the decd Tephius[?] Cornwell came to his death as they believe by the visitation of God

T. G. Cooper June 5, 1886 at the late residence of T. G. Cooper, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said T. G. Cooper came to his death in his own house we suppose by heart disease

Priscilla Clark March 28, 1837 at the house of Jesse Clark, Union County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the said Priscilla Clark . . . died by the visitation of God

Marisley Malone September 23, 1890 at the residence. Mrs Fooshers, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that on the night of the 22nd day of Sept. AD 1890, at the House of Mrs. Foosher in Laurens County, that the said Marilsey Malone came to her death by the Act of God.

Venus female slave November 9, 1848 at John Harrises, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . .the disceased was a person advanced in life, and had at time been complaining of a Smothering Sensation at night and . . .Came to her death by a visitation of god

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

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

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.

Christen Turnage August 29, 1892 at Robert Turnage, Chesterfield County, SC

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

Robert Inglish April 25, 1891 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the Said Robert Inglish came to his death form hart disease

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

W. Thomas Welsh January 16, 1890 at Sebram Welsh, Chesterfield County, SC

upon there oaths do Say that the Said W. T. Welsh came to his death from some unknown Cause to the Jury

Wiliam Clinton May 11, 1928 at Wiliam Clinton's place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that Wiliam Clinton came to his Death from natial causes

Mrs. Will Hough March 22, 1930 at Chesterfield County, South Carolina, Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

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[.]

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

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

Fom[?] July 2, 1858 at the Rev. W. W Gwin on cedar creek, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Fom[?] came to his death by an act of (God)

Edward Fuller July 30, 1880 at Spartanburg C.H., Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Edw. O Fuller ... came to his death from conjestion of the brain or other natural cause

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.

Jacob Belue July 31, 1882 at Jacob Belues, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Jacob Belue came to his death from congestion of the lungs

John G. Riddle July 3, 1860 at the residence of Mr Richard Burton, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that John G Riddle died a natural death caused by infirmitys of old age

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