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
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

Theatus or Theater Williams August 21, 1926 at Mt. Croghan, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: Theates Williams came to his Death from Hart Farlery

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

Child of Mary Muree Child of Mary Muree October 8, 1833 at the meeting house nown by the name of Pleasant Hill, Laurens County, SC

do say upon their oaths, the affore said child then and their died of the visitation of God, and not otherwise.

Betty Gene Mangum December 19, 1934 at Pageland, Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

infant Boy infant Boy October 29, 1894 at [?] Coleman, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said infant didid from natural cause or by the hand 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."

Earnest Leland Smith Jr. December 12, 1945 at Chesterfield, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Earnest Leland Smith, Jr. received in Chesterfield County a mortal wound by causes unknown

James Harmon March 4, 1841 near[?] Nichara[?] Gordon's, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that they cannot find no marks of Violence upon him and he died by the visitation of god in a natural way and not otherwise

W. T. Mathis November 11, 1897 at the Yeldell place, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oath do Say he come to his Death by Providential occurance or heart failure

Abraham Ison July 17, 1855 at Abraham Ison's House, Union County, SC

upon there Oaths do say . . .that the Deceased came to his death by the act of God

Pompy Robinson November 1, 1898 at Norris Place, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that Pompy Robinson came to his death from throat trouble

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

Daniel W. Willis September 27, 1887 at the residence of the deceased Daniel Willis, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the [said] Daniel Willis came to his death of heart disease

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

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

Manerva Proctor September 19, 1876 at Thomas Anderson's place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say: That Manerva Proctor came to her death by disease of the heart.

infant November 18, 1869 at Daniel Oglesby's near Thickety Creek, Limestone[?] Township, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said child came to its death by disease

William Smith infant January 20, 1869 at Stephen C. Smith residence, Greenville County, SC

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

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

Andrew Boney July 26, 1879 at Ridgeway, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that from the Certificate of two Physicians who reached him in his dying moment that he come to his death from Heart disease[.]

Martha M. Kerr March 10, 1881 at the house of Edward L. Kerr, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Martha M. Kerr came to her death by the act of God: hemorage of the lungs

Samuel Threatt November 4, 1892 at Samuel Threatt's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths Do say," that the Deceased came to his Death by some unknown cause to them

Elsie Starks at N.C. Roberts' place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased came to her death from some cause uknown to the Jury between two & seven Oclock the 21st Jan 1883[.]

John Polk February 27, 1889 at Hannah Polks House, Chesterfield County, SC

upon thire oaths do Say Infant child came to his death from natural causes unknown to the Jurors

R. H. Crawford January 26, 1894 at Elisha Boans, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the deceased R.H. Crawford came to his death from some natural cause or causes unknown to me

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.

Abram slave October 8, 1860 at the Residence of H. B. Raborns, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that. . .the said Abram a slave of H Gallman. . .came to his death by some internal deseased unknown

Pleas Jackson August 6, 1899 at M. E. Tomlinsons, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the said Ples Jackson came to his death by natural causes

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

Ben Harris July 8, 1910 at McBee, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that he came to his death form 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

Robert W. Kincade December 27, 1845 at the house of Baley[?] Corley, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that the said Robert W Kincde came to his death by a Stroke of Appoplexy in the house of Baley Corby

William Cooper September 22, 1882 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . .Wm T. Cooper came to his death from heart disease

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

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

John Saylor August 6, 1870 at or near the Ridge road near E. R. Cobb's residence, Anderson County, SC

do say that said John Saylor. . .died we think and believe from some disease of the heart or an appoplectic [apoplectic] fit.

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

John Brown December 20, 1844 at the house of John Brown, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that. . .the aforesaid John Brown came to his death by mischance or misfortune by the act of God, unknown to the Jurors

Harry slave December 17, 1855 at Jesse Gray's residence, Anderson County, SC

do say that he came to it by manner and means to them unknown, but believe it was by the visitation of God

Anna G. Cason June 10, 1883 at Williamston, Anderson County, SC

do say that the death of said Anna Cason (after hearing the testimony) was caused by disease of the heart.

Infant of C. P. Rushing Infant of C. P. Rushing December 19, 1894 at C. P. Rushing's Place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the said child came to its death from some natural cause or causes

James Coleman September 16, 1873 at or near Mrs. Fantt's residence and one and 1/2 miles south east of Anderson, Anderson County, SC

do say that the deceased came to his death by the act of God.

Unknown Infant Unknown Infant [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

Sarah Martin July 14, 1844 at residence of Mrs. Sarah Martin, Anderson County, SC

do say that the above named Sarah Martin came to her death by the hand of God.

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

upon their oaths, do say: Still Born

George Blakely August 23, 1889 at Tom Youngs, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that George Blakely came to his death "Natural Causes"

James Wilson March 27, 1846 at the house of Alexander Moorehead, Anderson County, SC

do say that the said James Wilson came to his death by the hands of Providence causes unknown to the jury.

William L. Collins January 9, 1887 at Chesterfield County, Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

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

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