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 151 - 200 of 573
Name Deceased Description Date Inquest Location Death Methodsort ascending Inquest Finding
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

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

infant infant June 6, 1876 at Orange Goodlet'ts, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say . . .the jury is not able to say whether the child was born alive or not.

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

Mary Cook at Henry Cook's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say the deceased came to her death at her home from heart disease[.]

Alexander P. Kennard February 16, 1847 in the District, Edgefield County, SC

do say upon their Oaths, that they do believe that he died of Cramp of the Stomach or in an Appoplectic fit

John Brown January 28, 1902 [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

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

S. D. Lawton July 19, 1911 at Chesterfield County, South Carolina, Chesterfield County, SC

S. D. Lawton suddenly, without any bad natural causes, as far as deponent knows or believes, dropped dead

Lila Gambrell October 21, 1875 at the house of Ran Duckworth, Anderson County, SC

do say that the said Lila Gambrell came to her death by mischance produced by personal epolepsy [sic].

Emma Alexander July 2, 1885 Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths say that from the evidence before them that the said Emma Alexander died from congestion of the lungs

Saul Bates January 24, 1815 at James Johnsons mill, Laurens County, SC

do say on their oaths are of the opinion that the sd. Saul Betts on the 24th of Jany. 1815 Came to his death by the Act of God at James Johnsons mill in the district afore sd.

Albert Watson June 15, 1892 at the plantation of W.B. Maffett, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Albert Watson came to his death from Natural Causes

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.

Caswell Waldrop April 18, 1882 at the residence of Caswell Waldrop, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . . the said Caswell Waldrop . . . came to his death from the effect of an epileptic fit.

Charles Jones February 11, 1879 at R.J. Gladney's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the aforesaid Charles Jones came to his death by disease unknown to the Jury[.]

Elizabeth Mitchel October 12, 1845 at the dwelling house of David Mitchel, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . .the deceased went to bed in the house of David Mitchel . . .in good health, and was found a corps on the morning of the twelfth, and do believe that She came to her death by a visitation of god

Infant of Mary Sellers Infant of Mary Sellers December 1, 1894 at J. H. Seller's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: the infant child came to its death from natural causes

Daniel Johnson May 19, 1871 at John T. Johnsons, Horry County, SC

upon their Oaths do Say that the said Daniel Johnson infant came to his death by the hand of God

Wade Barronton October 8, 1860 at Wade Barrontons Residence, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the said Wade Barronton came to his death. . .by the Visitation of God

Nathan Moore April 1, 1870 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say, That the diseased was and had been for some time afflicted with a Heart disease, which we believe caused his very sudden death at the Corner of market and third streets in cheraw on Friday April the first 1870 at 5 O clk PM

Simon West March 25, 1857 near the house of dec'd, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that it is by the visitation 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

T. A. Parker June 2, 1897 at the Residence of J. L. Johnson, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oath doo say that T.A. Parker deceast came to hir death we find that the deceast came to hir death from natural causes we find that the deceast came to hir death from natural causes

John McDonald April 15, 1839 at Daniel McDonalds, Kershaw County, SC

do say upon their oaths that they believe the said John McDonald ... being a youth in the district aforesaid there & then died of the visitation of God

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[.]

Venus female slave November 9, 1848 at John Harrises, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . .the disceased was a person advanced in life, and had at time been complaining of a Smothering Sensation at night and . . .Came to her death by a 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

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

Charley Martin June 23, 1889 at Lanfords station, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Charley Martin came to his death by "Heart Failure."

J. D. Wells December 14, 1890 at Edgefield C.H., Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased J D Wells came to his death from Heart disease

D. Searey November 17, 1882 near Martinsville, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that ... the said D. Seary died from Epileptic fit or other causes to which mortal man is heir

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

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

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

Hannah negro woman April 15, 1860 at Smith Cooks, Union County, SC
Nettie Frazier at the plantation of Mrs. Nancy Youngue, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased came to its death from the effects of Whooping cough[.]

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

Arlen Blakney Watson February 2, 1902 at Chesterfield County, South Carolina, Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

Samuel Kelso December 21, 1817 at the plantation of Sam'l Kelso, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths that. . .he came to his death by an act of God being subject to something like a apoplexy for some time previous to his death

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

Strather Freeman March 2, 1876 at Flat Rock Church, Anderson County, SC

do say deceased came to his death by disease of the heart.

James Robertson September 13, 1885 at Calvin Brewton's, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the aforesaid James Robertson came to his death by disease of the heart

George April 21, 1858 at Dr J G Tragham's, Laurens County, SC

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

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

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