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
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

Arthur R. Hill January 1, 1883 at Mrs F[?] Browns place, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Arthur R Hill came to his death on the 1st day of January AD 1883 by some sickness...

Hezehiah Gulledge January 14, 1889 at Clifton, Spartanburg County, SC
George Center October 28, 1880 at George W. Centers, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said George W Center came to his death by heart disease

Edmund Chambers November 18, 1819 at the house of Edmund Chambers, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the aforesaid Edmund Chambers. . .died by the visitation of God

Charley Martin June 23, 1889 at Lanfords station, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Charley Martin came to his death by "Heart Failure."

William Fisher September 12, 1855 at the home of Sarah Vanderford, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say . . .that they are of opinion that the Said William Fisher died a natural death by [?] and by the act of God

Angeline Allen February 27, 1899 at A.L. Sims', Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that we are convinced that the above Angeline Allen came to her death from natural causes

J. D. Wells December 14, 1890 at Edgefield C.H., Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased J D Wells came to his death from Heart disease

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

James Cook June 3, 1845 in the old field near the still house of James Cook, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the said James Cook came to his death by the visitation of God

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.

Charity Johnson March 11, 1847 at the Residence of Charity Johnson, late deceased, Edgefield County, SC

do say upon their oaths, that the said Charity Johnson. . .died by the visitation of God

Peter negro man May 5, 1835 On the plantation of Jim[?] Rochester, Union County, SC

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

Elizabeth Cook May 27, 1881 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that. . . the said Elizabeth came to her death from heart disease

Malsey A. Blakeny August 12, 1894 at the house of W. E. Courtney, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say "that she came to her death by an act of Providence"

Jim slave June 10, 1859 at M, L, Bonham Esqr residence on the Pine House road, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the said Jim a slave. . .came to his death by the act of Providence

negro child negro child July 13, 1835 at the house or on the plantation of Charles Humphries, Union County, SC

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

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

Sopha Bolz April 2, 1876 at John Wolf's Place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that she came to her death [?] have no doubt from Diesase of the heart

Lucinda Scott September 9, 1878 at P. Hastings' Plantation, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Lucinda Scott came to her death at the house of John Scott; on P. Hastings plantation. September 8th 1878. from hemorrhages of the Lungs.

Amanda Glover August 30, 1892 at Mr Pofse[?] Lotts Plantation, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say That Amanda Glover came to her death from hart Failure

Sarah Acock February 25, 1881 at D. R. Davison, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That the said Sarah Acock came to her deathby some caus or causes unknown to the Jury

Morriss unknown free man of color January 7, 1858 at Grief Tater's residence, Anderson County, SC

do say the said that Morris (a free man of color)?more than probably came to his death by dropsy of the heart

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

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

John M. Bonds December 16, 1850 at Isom R. Bond's, Anderson County, SC

do say having understood that the said John M. Bonds died very suddenly on the mornign of the 15th of this Instant while going as a boat hand on Savannah River. . . .we the jury report that we fully concur in the opinion of the said doctors as reported by them to the coroner...that is to say that John M. Bonds came to his death by a diseased action in the Larynx producing or giving rise to suffocation.

Amanda Ellerbe July 31, 1881 at the residence of John Ellerbe, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Amanda Ellerbe came to her death by natural causes or the visitation of God

William H. Lancaster September 19, 1883 at the residence of Jas. Giddes, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths aforesaid do say that the aforesaid William H. Lancaster ... came to his death from disease of the heart

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

Dolly Glenn at the Doly place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say that the deceasd came to her death at the home of Joe Jackson the 21st of Aug 1892 from some Natural Causes[.]

Lou Terry November 25, 1884 Spartanburg County, SC

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

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[.]

Georgiana Williams Moore July 26, 1882 at TS Langston's plantation, Laurens County, SC

upon their oathes do say that the said Georgiana William Moore came to her death by a visitation of God and died of Embolism of the heart.

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

Joshua Clark January 26, 1885 on a rode leading from B. B. Martin's to John Champions, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that said deceased came to his death by an organic disease of the Heart

Nancy Davis April 22, 1883 at plantaion of Seaborn Parks, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Nancy Davis the deceased came to her death from disease of the Heart.

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

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

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

Rachael Watts July 29, 1889 at W.B. Fullers place near Cross Hill, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that near the Residence of W. B. Fuller in above state and county on the 29th July 1889 the said Rachael Watts came to her death by "Visitation of God."

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

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.

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

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

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

W. W. Rodgers January 7, 1893 at Clinton, Laurens County, SC

upon their oathes do say that the Aforesaid W W Rodgers came to his death on this 7th day of Jan, about 8, 10 Oclock AM, at Clinton, S.C. from Hemorhage and Blood Clot on the Brain.

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

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

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

Joseph Prince April 13, 1842 Union County, SC

came to his death by the visitation of God

Emmar McDonald daughter November 27, 1881 at William McDonald's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the sd Emma [?] McDonald came to her death by asphyxia of the brain, or some unknown cause

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