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
Patrick Keenan June 18, 1869 at Union Court House, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said P. H. Keenan came to his death by the hand of Providence

Jacob Briges September 18, 1832 at the house of Jacob Briges, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths that it was the visitation of God

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

Silvy Holmes at Ben Glenn's place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say that Silvy Homes came to her death at her daughters Residence at the night of 28th of April AD 1887 from Providential Visitation[.]

Martha Lanham January 29, 1892 at Wilts[?] Curryes place, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say that Marsha Lanham Came to her death from hart failure

Laura Doneyhue October 17, 1901 at the Plantation of Geo Gregory, M.D., Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: nothin other than natural causes

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

Thos P. Milnor February 5, 1849 at Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Thos. P. Milnor came to his death by a visitation of Providence

Henry Williams October 13, 1889 at the Plantation of C.C. Garlington, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Henry Williams came to his death by "Natural Causes."

James Boiter May 20, 1887 near Wakefield Bridge, Spartanburg County, SC

upon there oaths do say ... that the aforesaid James Boiter came to his death from heart disease

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

Victor male slave April 24, 1859 at A. L. Dearing Plantation, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the said Victor came to his death by a providential occurance

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

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.

Pulaskey slave, boy March 30, 1848 at the plantation of J. F> Hill, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that we believe the boy died of disease (Influenza) from the history of the Case

Elijah M. Cooper August 25, 1877 at the residence of Elijah M. Cooper, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said E.M. Cooper came to his death. . .while engaged at work on his fieds near his residence from some cause which the jury believes to have been disease of the heart

Jack Odom August 26, 1911 at B. J. Douglass Place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the aforesaid Jack Odom come to his death from natural causes

Calline Crosby Fairfield County, SC

up pon these oths do say that She came to her death from heart failure[.]

infant infant January 22, 1894 at Oak Gilchrist House, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that the said Infant Came to its death from a cause unknown

David S. Threatt July 15, 1924 at Dudley Chesterfield County S. C., Chesterfield County, SC

I decided that under the clear facts of the surroundings that it was unnecessary to empanel a Jury to decided how he came to his death as there was no the least suspicion or doubt that the deceased came to his death by natural causes from an affliction which usually and natural terminates fatal and suddenly.

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

Robert Vandever May 16, 1879 at Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the deceased came to his death on or about the 12th of May AD 1879 in the town of Winnsboro S.C from disease of the heart

Answorth Middleton December 3, 1816 at James Boyds, Laurens County, SC

Do say that he the said Answorth Middleton came to his Ende by the hand of god.

Priscilla Clark March 28, 1837 at the house of Jesse Clark, Union County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the said Priscilla Clark . . . died by the visitation of God

Henry B. Mathers November 26, 1841 at the house of Benjamin Nettles, Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say the believe it was by the visitation of God

Isaac Jones July 1, 1881 at Ridge Spring, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the deceast came to his death from Nattural Causese the visitation of Providence

Ellison Blakney October 4, 1896 at Hick's Mine Place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the said Ellison Blakney came to his death from heart trouble

infant child infant child February 28, 1877 at Greenville CH, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said infant child of Ella Mitchell came to his death caused by congestion of the liver stomach & bowels

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 Denham December 6, 1883 Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that said Lewis Denham ... in the field near his house died of natural causes

Unknown Infant Unknown Infant February 23, 1883 at Chesterfield C. H., Chesterfield County, SC

upon there oaths do say That the said Infant Child came to his death from som cause or causes unknown to the Jurors and that there was no foul play

Mandy Richerson February 18, 1929 on Jule Campbell's Place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: Mandy Richerson came to her Death from natural causes

Alice Miller November 16, 1893 in Alice Miller's house, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that she came to her death from Heart Disease and that no violence of any kind was used by any person.

Martha McFarlan September 20, 1890 at Robert Mcfarlan, Chesterfield County, SC

upon thire oaths do say that the Said Martha McFarling came to her death from natural causes to the Jury unknown

Mary Adams September 23, 1885 at Mary Adams, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the Said Mary Adams came to her death by Sum natural caus or causes unknow to the jurys

William Blanton January 14, 1884 at the house of Langdon Blanton, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that William Blanton came to his death by 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

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[?]

Ann Eliza Loid June 29, 1891 at William Loid's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon there oaths Do say that Said Lizar Loid came to her Death from Heart Disease By falling on the floor on the 28th June 1891

Beller McAlester March 11, 1876 at house of deceased, Anderson County, SC

do say that she came to her death by the act of God in a applect fitt [sic]

Charles Aiken at the Bell place, Fairfield County, SC

upo their Oaths do say that the deceased Charles Aiken, came to his death form Rupture of a blood vesel at Narthers Church[.]

Sealy Henry July 1, 1873 Laurens County, SC

we the under named jurors do find in accordance with the opinion of Dr. S. S. Knight. By disease most probably epilepsy caused her death.

Amos Lee July 10, 1852 at Amos Lee's, Union County, SC

upon ther oaths do say . . .that the said Amos Lee Come to his death by the act of God

Elisha Himbry October 11, 1832 at the house of William Himbry, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths that he was found on the tenth day of the present month about one mile from this place lying in the woods on his farm and they do believe he came to his death by the act of God

Emma Bennett July 10, 1888 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the Said Emma Benitt came to her death by Som natural caus or causes to the Jury unknown

Pinkie Lemmon at J.H. Aiken's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, the said Pinkie Lemmon came to her death from Heart Disease[.]

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

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

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

[No official declaration]

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

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