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
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

Chaney negro woman December 11, 1855 at the dwelling house of Mrs Randall in the Town of Hamburg, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that Chaney, the woman now lying dead before them came to her death by the Visitation of God

Adam Eubanks April 19, 1894 at the residence of the deceased, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Adam Eubanks died from natural causes on the night of the 18th April 1894 at his residence

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

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

Doublin male slave, boy April 5, 1857 at the Residence of Mrs Delila Philips, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say. . .that the deceased Doublin in manner and form aforesaid came to his death by a Providential occurrence under the influence of an apoplectic fit.

Sarah Bressey September 14, 1857 at [?] Village, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . . she came to her death . . . by a natural death.

Elizabeth McHolister August 16, 1855 at the house of Elijah McHolister, Anderson County, SC

do say that the said Elizabeth McHolister in manner and form aforesaid came to her death by the dispensation of providence.

Alexander Black November 14, 1863 at the house of A. W. Black, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said decd came to his death . . . by the act of God unknown to them

Huston Griffith August 24, 1910 at J. N. Sowell's Place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the Said Huston Griffith came to Death By natural causes

Harry Horton October 8, 1889 at Harry Hortons, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That the aforesaid Harry Horton came to his death by the act of God or natural causes

Kisiah Frazier December 17, 1893 at the plantation of T S Rainsforde, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Kisiah Frazier came to her death from natural causes. . .Rheumatic trouble of the heart

Peggy slave March 28, 1841 at Mr. Adamson's plantation, Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say that we find upon examination that [the] negro woman called Peggy Adamson the property of Mrs. Adamson ... came to her death by the visitation of the Divine providence

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

Bettie Willis March 24, 1892 at the Croker place the home of Miss Bettie Willis, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say that the Said Miss Bettie Willis Came to her death. . .by the Act of God. From Heart Failure or disease accompied with Dropsie

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

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[.]

Levi S. Mathews July 13, 1892 at G. C. Wheerles[?] Residence, Edgefield County, SC

upon their do Say. . .that the aforesaid Levi S. Mathews. . .Came to his death from hart Failure

Infant Child Infant Child March 12, 1891 at Ebb Hildreth, Chesterfield County, SC

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

negro child a slave negro child a slave January 27, 1835 on the plantation of T Hooker, Union County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the Sd child . . .died by the visitation of god in a natural way

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

Jim slave October 4, 1858 at Giles Sharps, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Jim came to his death for some cause unknown or the visitation of god

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

Josephine Smith October 12, 1890 on the plantation of M.B. Pool, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Josephine Smith from some natural cause unknown to the jury.

Nance infant child April 24, 1832 at the house of Benjamin Landrum, Union County, SC

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

James Lee April 7, 1834 at Amos Lee's, Union County, SC

do say upon there oaths that the sd James Lee . . .on the plantation of William Hay[?] . . .Dyed By the Visitation of god in a natural way

negro child negro child September 23, 1848 at the plantation of Davis Foudalock, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . .it must have dyed by the visitation of god

Mag Potee at N.D. Roberts place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say that the deceasd came to her death at her home the night of the 2d of Sept 1892 from natural causes[.]

Jerry July 11, 1811 at the plantation of James Glen, Laurens County, SC

do say upon their oathes, that they are of opinion that the said Negro boy died a Natural Death

Christopher Norral January 5, 1815 at the Dweling house of John Norals, Union County, SC

say on their oaths that the Said Christopher Norral Came to his Death By the act 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

white man white man October 21, 1849 in the woods near Holsonbakers[?] old fields, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say the aforesaid Stranger came to his death from the act of God

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.

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

according to evidence that an inquest is not necessary

Cooper slave March 17, 1852 at the plantation of L.H. Mundy decd, Edgefield County, SC

where & when & by what means the Said Slave, Cooper came to his death By acute Gastro Duodinitis[?]

Hardy January 17, 1848 at the house of I.B. McCall, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oath, do say that the said negro man came to his death by a dispensation of Providence

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

Johnathon Crow August 25, 1840 over Johnathon Crow at his own residence, Spartanburg County, SC

it appeared to us and we verily believe that he the sd. Johnathon Crow's time had come and that it appeared that he never had a struggle

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.

Infant February 3, 1894 at J. B. Presson's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That it came to its death by natural causes sometime between midnight and day on Feb the 3rd 1894

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

infant January 23, 1873 at residence of M. A. Snipes, Anderson County, SC

do say that it came to its death by the act of God

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

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

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

Fanny Payton colored woman, free from birth June 20, 1870 at residence of Harry Gallard[?], Anderson County, SC

do say that the deceased came to her death in her bed in the room she usually slept and from disease of the heart

infant child infant child September 9, 1891 at Wards, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say that the said infant male Child came to it death by premature birth

Dudley Roundtree August 10, 1856 at the dwelling house of the late Dudley Roundtree, Edgefield County, SC

the said Dudley Roundtree came to his death. . .that the said death was by the visitation of God, and so the jury sworn and [?] as aforesaid upon their oaths declare

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.

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.

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

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