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
Sally Williams July 19, 1880 n.a., Anderson County, SC

find her lungs badly affected and diseased came to her death from consumption & had consumption badly.

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."

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

Frank Milton child January 26, 1894 at Sanders Loricks, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oath do say: that said Frank Milton aforesaid came to his death from natural causes, that is to say from inflammation of the lungs

John Seawright October 22, 1881 on the public road leading from Craytonville to Anderson Court House, Anderson County, SC

do say the said came to dis death from disease of the heart. . .the deceased came to his death by some providence of God.

Eddie Watson Infant April 25, 1892 at Bob Stevens, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say that the Said Eddie Watson came to his death from Natural Causes

Beller McAlester March 11, 1876 at house of deceased, Anderson County, SC

do say that she came to her death by the act of God in a applect fitt [sic]

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

E. D. Holly September 21, 1907 at Holley's Mill, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: She died from natural causes

Patrick Keenan June 18, 1869 at Union Court House, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said P. H. Keenan came to his death by the hand of Providence

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

Shelt Gainey February 17, 1929 [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

We Find du Explannation and Testimony frm Witnesses and Doctor that Deceased Shelt Gainy came to his Death from Natural Cause, Heart Trouble and Accut Indigestion from eating Fresh Pork for his supper

Grover Cassidy December 3, 1885 at W. F. Pates, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the Said Grover Casidy came to his death on the 3d day of December A D 1885 form som nautral causes or causes unknown to the jurors

Major negro man the property of no person July 29, 1845 at the plantation of Miss M. J. Rogers, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that the above named Major came to his death by the act of God,

Joseph Prince April 13, 1842 Union County, SC

came to his death by the visitation of God

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

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

[No official declaration]

Emma Bennett July 10, 1888 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the Said Emma Benitt came to her death by Som natural caus or causes to the Jury unknown

Loverberry B. Musgrove October 9, 1866 at the residence of Ms. James, Widow, near the Court House, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Loveberry B. Musgrove, at the residence of Mrs. James, Widow, . . .did die by visitation of Almight God

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

Lizza colered woman October 7, 1866 at the house of Thomas S. Miller, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the deceased died from a desease of the Heart

Negro child Negro child September 29, 1835 at Robt Beety[?], Union County, SC

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

Peyton Bird colored September 29, 1869 at Edgefield CH, Edgefield County, SC

do say as follows: That we the Jurors find that the deceased Peyton Bird came to his death by visitation of God from rupture of a blood vessel called Aorta

Maria Seawright grandma January 11, 1882 at the farm of A. W. McDavids, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Maria Seawright came to her death from a natural cause by an act of Providence

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.

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

Jenny slave April 28, 1836 Kershaw County, SC

do on their oath say that they believe she died of an apoplectic fit, the visitation of God

Wade Chappell at William Steele's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say that the deceased Wade, Chappell, came to his death from an affection of the heart[.]

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

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

Nathaniel Miller September 2, 1825 Spartanburg County, SC

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

Chanya slave December 31, 1849 at A.G.W. Gordon's, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that she came to her death by infirmity and old age

Caroline Timons January 10, 1901 at Mount Croghan, Chesterfield County, SC

I have this day held a preliminary examination ovr the dad body of Caroline Timons and from the evidence of witness I do not deam It necary to hold an inqest but form such witness find that the Sed Caroline Timons came to her dath from none other than natural Causes this The 10 day of January 1901

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

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

M. H. Miller April 10, 1889 at W. T. H. Miller's, Spartanburg County, SC

upon there oaths do say that from the evidence given Martha Miller died with heart disease

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

Rachell Smith at the McDowell place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say that the deceased came to her death from dissease of the heart.

Nesbitt Rice April 21, 1886 at Poplar Springs, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Nesbitt Rice came to his death by hand [of] god

Patsey Blanton May 5, 1886 at L. Blanton's residence, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that they consider the said Patsey Blanton came to her death by the providence of God

Henry Rush June 22, 1875 Spartanburg County, SC

return our verdict that the deceased, Henry Rush, died from an attack of epilepsy

Martha Stevenson at Daniel Stevenson's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that Martha Stevenson came to her death from natural causes probly influenza[.]

Nicholas Gibson June 26, 1884 at the residence of Nicholas Gibson, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say ... that the aforesaid Nicholas Gibson came to his death ... in the manner as testified to by the examining physician, Dr. M. Bonner

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

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

Ely Edwards at Ridgeway, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that we the jurors after viewing the body of Ely Edwards & hearing the testimony in the [?] Believe that his death was the result of natural causes on the night of Dec 14th 1893 about Eleven oclock[.]

Alex Black October 27, 1884 at Philadelphia in Spartanburg County, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that he came to his death from disease of the brain in his field some two hundred yards from his house

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

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

John Boone July 31, 1893 at the residence of Jno Boone, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the deceased came to his death from heart trouble

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.

Mrs. Joe Landon October 11, 1929 [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

according to evidence that an inquest is not necessary

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