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
J. H. Collins June 30, 1896 at G.W. Morris' place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the Deceased came to his death from natural causes, from the effects of Rheumatism.

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.

Delia Hell at J.K. Alston's plantation, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say the deceased came to her death by softening of the brain; in manner and form aforesaid. She came to her death by the hand 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.

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

Rachel Dullivan January 30, 1890 at Rachel Dullivan Residence, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Rachel Dullivan came to her death from natural cause (Heart disease).

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[.]

Sophia Hall March 19, 1859 at or near Samuel Martin's residence, Anderson County, SC

do say that no marks of violence could be seen on her body that she the said Sphia came to her death by the hand of God.

Patsy Johnston at Bell plantation, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oath do say that the aforesaid Patsy Johnston came to her death from scrofula.

Richard Stevens February 21, 1898 at Johnston S.C., Edgefield County, SC

upon their Oaths aforesaid, do say, that the aforesaid Dick Stevens died. . .from visitation of God

May March 20, 1832 at the plantation of Doctor William Bratton on Wateree Creek, Fairfield County, SC

do say upon their oaths, that according to the evidence adduced to them, they believe that on the 19th instant in a field where the said May was breaking Cotton Halks, he was taken with an appoplectic fit and expired in an instant

Abner Nelson December 31, 1849 at the House of abner nelson, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say . . . the said Abner Nelson died a natural death as we believe from old age an 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

E. A. Teal September 1, 1883 near and on the north side of the Public Road leading from Chesterfield C. H. to Abrahams Creek and the middle prong of said Creek, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said E.A. Teal, came to her death from natural causes there neing no marks of violence upon her body

Shelt Gainey February 17, 1929 [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

We Find du Explannation and Testimony frm Witnesses and Doctor that Deceased Shelt Gainy came to his Death from Natural Cause, Heart Trouble and Accut Indigestion from eating Fresh Pork for his supper

John Savage January 27, 1852 at John Savages, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that . . .John Savage Sr was Providentially taken away by the act of God

H. F. Nivens January 1, 1893 at John Parker, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the Said H.F. Nivens came to his death form some cause or causes to this Jury unknown

Mrs. Will Hough March 22, 1930 at Chesterfield County, South Carolina, Chesterfield County, SC

[No official declaration]

negro child negro child July 13, 1835 at the house or on the plantation of Charles Humphries, Union County, SC

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

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

Kent slave January 12, 1845 at the house of David Maberry, Spartanburg County, SC

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

Infant of C. P. Rushing Infant of C. P. Rushing December 19, 1894 at C. P. Rushing's Place, Chesterfield County, SC

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

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. F. DeBruhl April 20, 1859 at the late residence of W.F. DeBruhl, Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Wm. F. Debruhl came to his death by none other than a visition from God

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.

Rhoda female slave July 4, 1857 at Dorn's[?] Mill, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say, they believe the said slave Rhoda came to her death by some invisible and unknown cause or causes; perhaps a disease of the heart

James Knight September 9, 1905 [no location given], Chesterfield County, SC

I have examined the body of James Knight Decease and I find . . . [the] cause to his Death from natural causes.

Mary Champion November 10, 1870 at Camden, Camden, S.C., Kershaw County, SC

upon their oaths do say that [the] deceased came to her death by a visitation or the act of God

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

Sam negro, slave September 18, 1846 at the residence of Mrs Nancy Delaughter, Edgefield County, SC

upon their Oaths do say. . .died by the visitation of God.

John Crosley January 11, 1838 at of John W Sartor[?], Union County, SC

do say upon there othes that the said John Crosley . . .died by the visitation of god in a natural way by getting choked or strangled and not otherwise

George Norris November 23, 1876 at Anderson Courthouse, Anderson County, SC

do say that the said George Norris by act of God died (Consumption)

J. H. Vandike May 20, 1877 at Crawfordville, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that they are satisfied that the aforesaid Col. J.H. Vandike came to his death from apoplexy while riding along the road

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

Abraham Ison July 17, 1855 at Abraham Ison's House, Union County, SC

upon there Oaths do say . . .that the Deceased came to his death by the act of God

Martha Morris January 9, 1881 at the residence of Warren Morris, Anderson County, SC

do say that the deceased came to her death from disease of the lungs . . . at the residence of Warren Morris.

infant December 24, 1882 at the residence of Miss Mary Bridges, Spartanburg County, SC
Matt Loyd February 24, 1891 at Mr. Carmal cemetary near the Old Wills, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oath do say that the said Matt Loyd died from Dropsy[?] of the heart

Alexander T. Johnson December 2, 1895 at the residence of M.J. Johnson, Chesterfield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that Alexander T Johnson deceast came to his death from or with Bodily Deyses

Dick slave March 19, 1837 at the house of Edward Gregory, Union County, SC

do say that the said Dick . . .died by the visitation of God in a natural way

William Smith infant January 20, 1869 at Stephen C. Smith residence, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that he came to his death by some means or disease to the jurors unknown

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

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

Mary Hillian October 30, 1896 at R.E. River's place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: the said May Hillian came to her death from accidental Hemmorage of the lungs

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

Moriah Scott infant child September 26, 1875 at Ness[?] Scott's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths, do say that Moriah L. Scott infant child . . .came to her death from cold

Quash May 11, 1815 at the House Genl. John. Y. Wolff, Laurens County, SC

do say upon their Oaths that the aforesaid Negro Man Quash from all appearances as exhibited to this Jury of Inquest did by the act of God - The testimony of Mr Alexander Mahoffy who saw him a few minutes before his death, "he thinks about nine oclock P.M. of the 10th Inst & Genl. John Y. Wolff a few minutes after his death, he thinks about 12 Oclock of the same day - induced the Jury to give their verdict" That the Decsd. came to his death by the Act 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?

Hartwell Roper June 17, 1869 at the residence of Rev. J.P. Mealing, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That the said Hartwell Roper fell dead in the field at his plow

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