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
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.

John Brownlee June 7, 1863 at Williamston, Anderson County, SC

do say that the deceased came to his death, not from any violence but by the visitation of God to the best of our knowledge and belief.

Mrs. May M. White January 22, 1885 at E. P. Whites, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the said Mrs. Mary M. White came to her death by some natural cause or causes, on the 22nd day of January A.D. 1885

Willy Hall February 19, 1845 at Black River in the stage road, Kershaw County, SC

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

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.

infant child. Male. infant child. Male. January 25, 1874 at Solomon Scott's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that said child was born on the twenty second inst and was dead

Chasey Futrul May 4, 1888 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the Said Chasey Futrul came to her death by Som natural caus or causs to the jury unknown and she dide on the 4 day of May 1888

Charlotte Johnson July 9, 1906 on the plantation of George Johnson, Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

Liberty slave August 1, 1843 at John Murph's, Spartanburg County, SC

do say uppon [sic] their oaths that he was found in his house lying dead on the floor and came to his death by the act of God

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

Sally Foster April 14, 1876 at Flora[?] Manwell[?], Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Sally Foster died of Epileptic Convulsion or as is more commonly called Fitts

Ranse Lowry July 21, 1888 at Chesterfield County, South Carolina, Chesterfield County, SC

The finding of the Jury is that the deceased came to his death by mischance

Sebron Miller June 30, 1903 at Jefferson, Chesterfield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the said Sebron Miller came to his deth by natural causes

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"

Edward slave, boy October 22, 1857 at the residence of Wm Miller, Edgefield County, SC

came to his death by the act of Providence

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.

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

Edward slave, boy October 22, 1858 at the residence of Wm Miller, Edgefield County, SC

the said Boy Came to his death by the act of Providence

Julia Banks September 4, 1891 at Mr Banks Plantation, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that. . .Mrs Julia Banks . . .Supposed to have died from heart decise

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

William Anderson April 14, 1864 at the plantation of T.[?] S Boles, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that said William Anderson came to his death by some sevear attack of disease. . .by Mischance or Visitation of God

Henry Jennings September 14, 1891 at the residense of diceased, Edgefield County, SC

upon the oaths of the Jury aforesaid do say that the said Henry Jennings came to his death from Heart Disease

Hezehiah Gulledge January 14, 1889 at Clifton, Spartanburg County, SC
Levy negro man slave January 9, 1849 at Austin Wilson's, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Levy Came to his death by natural Cause and that was an Act of God

Isaac Greer December 29, 1879 at Vernonville, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that he came to his death by cause or causes unknown to them but in their opinion it was an act of God

Learma Butler November 7, 1890 at W.H. Folks plantation, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that she came to her death from rheumatism of the Heart ... by natural causes

twin infants September 15, 1889 at Rosa Foster's, Spartanburg County, SC

do say that the twin children were stillborn & that no violence has been practiced

Lewis Dial October 20, 1870 at Laurens C.H., Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say on examining and viewing the body of Lewis Dial, this day found dead in the garden of J.M. Boyd, and from competent medical examination, we find that the said deceased came to his death by the visitation of God.

Mary Jane Johnson child September 25, 1856 at Sarah [?] house, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that they believe . . .that it Came to its by the visitation of God

Henry Rush June 22, 1875 Spartanburg County, SC

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

Amy Thompson June 12, 1878 at or near Shelton, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the Said Amy Thompson came to her Death from Disease of the Heart.

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

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[.]

Anna Braboy January 13, 1894 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Anna Braboy came to her death from natural causes

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[.]

Catherine Smith September 4, 1893 at D. A. Smith's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Catherine Smith came to her death from some Providential cause unknown to the Jury

Sam Clark near Lyles Ford, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that in their opinion Sam Clark came to his death from Heart diseas

Charles Goswell February 9, 1883 at John Goswell's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say the said Charles Goswell came to his death from natural causes unknown to the Jury

Emanuel Thomas at Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say that the deceased came to his death from natural causes[.]

Fayet Walter January 20, 1877 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC

upont their oaths do say that the dec'd Fayet Walter came to his death from a disease known as congestion of the lungs caused from severe cold

Briant King May 16, 1861 at the resident of W. D. H. McHaughton, Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say that on the 16th day of May 1861 in the field at home while at work [Briant] came to his death by none other than a visition of providence

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

Micjah Ward February 9, 1849 at the house of M. Ward, Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say that he came to his death by the visitation of God

John Bryce March 7, 1815 in the town of Camden, Kershaw County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the said John Bryce came to his death in the Town of Camden aforesaid, on the night of the sixth Instant of a visitation of God.

Frances Pagett April 15, 1853 at William Pagett's, Anderson County, SC

do say that the deceased came to her death by the act of God?

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

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

Roster slave July 27, 1844 at Fielden Clayton's, Spartanburg County, SC

upon thear [sic] oathes [sic] that the said Roster. . .was found dead, that she had no marks of violence upon her, and died by the visitation of God

Infant of Andrew and Helen Barrett Infant of Andrew and Helen Barrett February 19, 1897 at Andrew Barretts coloud in Chesterfield Co., Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, the deceased came to its death by means unknown to the Jury.

Harry McBee May 31, 1876 at Alexander McBee's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths, do say that Harry McBee came to his . . . in the woods near the Premasis of Mr Alexander McBee . . . by the visitation of God

W. G. Rivers June 15, 1888 at F. W. Rivers, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the said W J Rivers came to his death by som natural caus or causes to the jury unknown

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