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

according to evidence that an inquest is not necessary

Olin Smith Anderson County, SC

I found he died from natural causes

Alexander Moore May 22, 1889 at Wellford, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased Alexander Moore came to his death from the evidence given and our belief [is] that he died of apoplexy

Auguiste Campbell October 30, 1868 at Auguiste Campbell's, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths aforesaid do say that the Decd. Auguiste Campbell came to his death, from the continual use of peach brandy, he the decd. Being advanced in years to old age & feeble constitution & that the use of sd. Intoxicating brandy, drank from Monday morning the 26th Inst. to the time of his death was the cause of sd. death.

Emaline Jackson August 27, 1894 at Dr Childs Plantation, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that from the evidence before us by misfortune and that said misfortune was caused by the bursting of an artery And So the said jurors aforesaid, do say, that the aforesaid Emaline Jackson came to her death in manner and form

J. W. Hunnicutt December 8, 1896 [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

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[.]

negro child negro child November 1, 1837 at Union C.H., Union County, SC

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

Harry slave July 7, 1855 at Pendleton village, Anderson County, SC

do say that we believe he came to his death by the visitation of God.

Nash Ferguson May 23, 1883 at Laurens court house, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the aforesaid Nash Ferguson came to his death on the 23d day of May AD 1883 in Laurens County from general condition of the brain and blood clots on the brain

Lizzie Greeg July 4, 1884 at Capt Taliar[?] Hearin[?], Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths aforesaid do say that the aforesaid Lizzie Greeg Came to her death from natural Causes

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

Betsy Pilgram July 2, 1882 at Woodruff, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased ... came to her death by disease of the heart

William A. Jordan December 12, 1891 at William M. Jordan's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that Said Infant came to his death from Some causes or causes to the Jury unknown

James Blackie August 17, 1836 in the house of Ezekiel Hoy, Fairfield County, SC

do say upon their oaths that they believe James Blackie died on the 16th of August & and that his death was caused by a 'severe acute disease aggravated & hurried to a fatal termination by previous organic affection of all the viscera of the systems

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

George Negro Slave April 19, 1830 at the house of Reps Edwards, Union County, SC

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

Sallie Manigo at Mrs. E.M. Turner's place, Fairfield County, SC

upon there oaths do say. That the said Sallie Manigo came to her death from some natural cause unknown to the Jury.

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

Sallie Perdew January 5, 1902 [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

I have this day helt a prliminary ex amination over the dad body of Sallie Prdew and from witnesses find that She Came to her dath nothing other than heart faleior or Change of life this the 4 and 5 days of January 1902

Thomas C. Reaves May 25, 1899 Kershaw County, SC
Richard Lewis January 4, 1910 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That he 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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[.]

William McLure December 7, 1844 at or near the plantation of John Gage, Union County, SC

do say that the said William McLure . . .was found lying dead near a small path leading from Union Ville to the plantation of John Gage . . .we therefore do believe that he died from some providential cause to us unknown

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.

Ed Caldwell at Jas. McFir's[?] place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say that the deceased Ed Caldwell came to his death from heart dissease at his home[.]

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

Simney Harrington August 7, 1868 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that there appearing no signs of violence on his body the deceased came to his death by the visitation of God.

Peter C. Oclan January 7, 1850 at C. Burch's, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the sd. P.C. Oclan came to his death by the act of God

Vance Melton January 18, 1930 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that he came to his death from natural causes

Elizabeth Pinnel February 27, 1851 at the late residence of Elizabeth Pinnel, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Elizabeth Pinnel in maner[?] and form aforesaid came to her death by the providence of God

Nancy Loyns June 25, 1889 at Elias Ballingers, Spartanburg County, SC

upon there oaths do say from the evidence heard in case and our belief is that she died of consumption

David Jeans March 5, 1870 Laurens County, SC

We the undersigned Jurors do say that we believe the said david Jeans freedman came to his death by the Visitation of God.

infant, child infant, child November 29, 1894 at the plantation of J. P. Roton, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that. . .the said Infant aforesaid. . .came to its death from natural causes

Molsie Knight February 6, 1897 at Reid Knight's, Chesterfield County, SC

So the Jurors aforesaid do say that the aforesaid Molsie Knight in manner and form aforesaid did come to Her death in a way that is unknown to the Jury we decide that it was an act of God.

Charlotte slave August 6, 1837 in Camden, Kershaw County, SC

do say that she came to her death by affliction[?] of the heart

Emanuel Thomas at Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC

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

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

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.

Hillary Suber July 9, 1883 at Mrs N.B. Copelands plantation, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Hillary Suber came to his death on the plantation of Mrs NB Copeland from Heart Disease

B. J. Mims January 20, 1885 at the Residence of Capt B J Mims, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased came to his death by the visitations of Providence from heart disease

Sallie McDowell August 12, 1882 Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that ... Sallie McDowell died of indigestion

Annie Jefferson January 19, 1892 at Bary Rosie, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the Said Anna Jefferson came to her death form some cause or causes to the Jury unknown

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