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 51 - 100 of 301
Name Deceased Description Date Inquest Location Death Method Inquest Finding
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

Eber B. Stevens March 5, 1873 at Pendleton, Anderson County, SC

do say…by a visitation 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

Edmond Smallwood October 19, 1892 at E. C. Ridgells Plantation, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that he came to his death … from heart trouble

Edmund Chambers November 18, 1819 at the house of Edmund Chambers, Spartanburg County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the aforesaid Edmund Chambers … died by the visitation of God

Edward slave, boy October 22, 1857 at the residence of Wm Miller, Edgefield County, SC

came to his death by the act of Providence

Edward slave, boy October 22, 1858 at the residence of Wm Miller, Edgefield County, SC

the said Boy Came to his death by the act of Providence

Edward Fuller July 30, 1880 at Spartanburg C.H., Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Edw. O Fuller ... came to his death from conjestion of the brain or other natural cause

Elias Smith August 24, 1869 in the county of Anderson, Anderson County, SC diseased liver, possible heart attack

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

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

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

Elizabeth Cook May 27, 1881 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC disease

upon their oaths do say that … the said Elizabeth came to her death from heart disease

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Walker March 1, 1879 at P. A. McDavid, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Elizatbeth Walker came to her death by misfortune or accident

Emaline slave April 4, 1862 at R. G. H. Faws[?], Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say … that the deseast came to her death by the visitation of god or some unknown cause

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

Emma Alexander July 2, 1885 Spartanburg County, SC lung disease

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

Emma Duval September 9, 1878 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC mental illness

upon their oaths do say that she … came to her death from natural causes

Emmar McDonald daughter November 27, 1881 at William McDonald's, Greenville County, SC illness

upon their oaths do say that the sd Emma [?] McDonald came to her death by asphyxia of the brain, or some unknown cause

Eva Lyons February 9, 1880 at Greenville, Greenville County, SC illness

upon their oaths do say that … the Dec'd came to her death from Laranges[?] Tracheitis or inflamation of the wind pipe.

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

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

Frances Pagett April 15, 1853 at William Pagett's, Anderson County, SC collapsed in yard

do say that the deceased came to her death by the act of God…

Frank Milton child January 26, 1894 at Sanders Loricks, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oath do say: that said Frank Milton aforesaid came to his death from natural causes, that is to say from inflammation of the lungs

Garett Doby at William Rufus, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say That he came to his death from dropsey of the hart

George slave June 24, 1857 at W.B. family[?] plantation, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said George came to his death by the visitation of Almighty 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

George Center October 28, 1880 at George W. Centers, Greenville County, SC disease

upon their oaths do say that the said George W Center came to his death by heart disease

George Hatcher freedman June 19, 1867 at B. W. Hatchers Mill on Shaws creek, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oath do say that George came to his death by some disease unknown to the Jurors

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

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

George Robinson January 12, 1892 at the plantation of E. B. Davis, Edgefield County, SC disease

upon their oaths do say from Heart failure

George W. Medlock January 1, 1848 at the house of Daniel Abby, Edgefield County, SC disease

upon their oaths do say that the said George W Medlock came to his death from a disease of the heart

Hannah negro woman April 15, 1860 at Smith Cooks, Union County, SC
Harcolas slave, negro man November 18, 1842 at an old house Standing in the plantation of Mrs. Susannah Turners, Union County, SC age

upon their oaths do say that … they do believe that from Exposure age and a burn which he had received some days previous was the cause of his death

Hardy McKinney freedman July 28, 1867 at an old field near F. Wyne's, Anderson County, SC disease (gonorrhea)

do say that said decd being diseased came to his death by the visitation of God

Harriet negro woman July 20, 1859 at the residence of JB Rease, Edgefield County, SC disease

upon there oaths do say that the said negro woman … died by the visitation of God

Harriet Hill May 27, 1884 Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths aforesaid do say that the aforesaid Harriet Hill ... came to her death the hand of God

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.

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

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

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

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

Henry Clarkson May 10, 1871 at Antiark Church, Kershaw County, SC heart disease

upon their oaths do say ... that the aforesaid Henry Clarkson ... came to his death disease of the heart

Henry Jennings September 14, 1891 at the residense of diceased, Edgefield County, SC illness

upon the oaths of the Jury aforesaid do say that the said Henry Jennings came to his death from Heart Disease

Henry Rush June 22, 1875 Spartanburg County, SC epilepsy

return our verdict that the deceased, Henry Rush, died from an attack of epilepsy

Henry Shaw April 14, 1899 at the place of R. W. Humphries, Kershaw County, SC pneumonia
Hezehiah Gulledge January 14, 1889 at Clifton, Spartanburg County, SC heart disease
Humphrey Wilson August 26, 1882 at the residence of Humphrey Wilsons, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say … he died from a visitation of the Almighty God

infant November 27, 1870 at William Stuart's residence, Anderson County, SC stillbirth

do say that…said child was dead born

infant infant May 5, 1893 at F. L. Foys, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say we find that deceased Infant … came to its death from natural causes

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