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 51 - 100 of 573
Name Deceased Description Date Inquest Location Death Methodsort descending Inquest Finding
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.

Mariah Pincy July 10, 1881 Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths aforesaid do say that said Mariah Princey ... came to her death from heart disease

Ben Shubrick col December 24, 1869 at Negro heade Lane, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That they find that the said Ben Shubrick col came to his death by the act of Providence

Unknown at the Gailiard Plantation, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said infants death was from premature birth, from best evidence we can get, it not being over six months old the 17 of Feb 1886[.]

Jackson Cartlidge October 21, 1874 at or near the Brewers gold mine, near the waters of Big Lynches Creek, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say, That it appears that the deceased Jackson Cartlidge came to his death by mischance or accident, or visitation of God.

M. M. Oneall December 1, 1870 at the residence of Elias E. Roberts, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Mrs. M.M. Oneall came to her death from disease of the heart

William Fisher September 12, 1855 at the home of Sarah Vanderford, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say . . .that they are of opinion that the Said William Fisher died a natural death by [?] and by the act of God

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

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."

Henry Shaw April 14, 1899 at the place of R. W. Humphries, Kershaw County, SC
John Polk February 27, 1889 at Hannah Polks House, Chesterfield County, SC

upon thire oaths do Say Infant child came to his death from natural causes unknown to the Jurors

J. M. Caddell January 31, 1898 at the Residence of the late J M Caddell, Chesterfield County, SC

upon thare oaths do Say that J M Caddell deseast came to his death from heart dease and other excitement cause from a mule Running away

John Saylor August 6, 1870 at or near the Ridge road near E. R. Cobb's residence, Anderson County, SC

do say that said John Saylor. . .died we think and believe from some disease of the heart or an appoplectic [apoplectic] fit.

Lou Terry November 25, 1884 Spartanburg County, SC

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

Garett Doby October 11, 1880 at William Rufus, Edgefield County, SC

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

Manerva Proctor September 19, 1876 at Thomas Anderson's place, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say: That Manerva Proctor came to her death by disease of the heart.

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[.]

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

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

Major negro man the property of no person July 29, 1845 at the plantation of Miss M. J. Rogers, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that the above named Major came to his death 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

Allen Melton January 6, 1893 at the residence of Mr. James Cottege, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do says that it is their belief that Allen Melton came to his death from natural causes - in all probability - form failure of the heart to perform its proper functions

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.

Infant of Pearl Oliver Infant of Pearl Oliver December 26, 1894 at D. A. Redfearn's Place, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that the said Infant child came to its death from some natural cause unknown to them

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

Patrick Burns[?] November 4, 1858 at the residence of Richard Campbell, Edgefield County, SC

said Burns came to his death by visitation of God . . . that the immediate cause leading to sudden death, was the bursting of a blood vessel in or about the heart or lungs

Cintha Boon April 10, 1926 [Stein?] Pin Township, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: Died of Heart failure

Charley Gainey November 18, 1903 at T.C. Williams', Chesterfield County, SC

the said Charley Gainey diseased came to his death from heart failure

John Seawright October 22, 1881 on the public road leading from Craytonville to Anderson Court House, Anderson County, SC

do say the said came to dis death from disease of the heart. . .the deceased came to his death by some providence of God.

Laban Johnson May 15, 1889 at Clifton, Spartanburg County, SC

do say that the said Laban Johnson came to his death from heart troubles brought on by natural causes

Kisiah Frazier December 17, 1893 at the plantation of T S Rainsforde, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that Kisiah Frazier came to her death from natural causes. . .Rheumatic trouble of the heart

Anarky Thompson at Joe Freshleys, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the deceased came to her death from diseas of the heart called osfication of the valve of the heart, on the plantation of Joe Freshley, in Fairfield County SoC. The 1st of May 1884.

Silvia October 10, 1857 at the House of J.s. W. Holliday, Horry County, SC

upon their Oaths do say that the said Silvia a slave Came to her death by the Visitation of God

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

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

Henry Leard Bancum November 29, 1894 at W. H. Funderburk's, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say That it was an act of providence from natural causes

Lewis Dial October 20, 1870 at Laurens C.H., Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say on examining and viewing the body of Lewis Dial, this day found dead in the garden of J.M. Boyd, and from competent medical examination, we find that the said deceased came to his death by the visitation 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?

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

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

Unknown March 26, 1875 at the residence of Mr. John Murpheys, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do Say that the death of the Child was the Act of God

Isaac F. Swinney March 12, 1875 at Chesterfield C. H., Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: the under verdict that the deceased Isaac F Swinney came to his death from some natural cause

infant child. Male. infant child. Male. January 25, 1874 at Solomon Scott's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that said child was born on the twenty second inst and was dead

negro child negro child January 16, 1854 at [???], Union County, SC

do say upon their oaths . . .that it came to its death by the visitation of God

Pompy Robinson November 1, 1898 at Norris Place, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: that Pompy Robinson came to his death from throat trouble

Rachael Watts July 29, 1889 at W.B. Fullers place near Cross Hill, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that near the Residence of W. B. Fuller in above state and county on the 29th July 1889 the said Rachael Watts came to her death by "Visitation of God."

Thomas C. Reaves May 25, 1899 Kershaw County, SC
Amy Crawford February 2, 1890 at Neal Crawford, Chesterfield County, SC

upon thire oaths do say that he Said Aimie Crawford came to her death by some cause or causes to this jury unknown

Barbra Franklin June 6, 1898 near Swift Creek Colored Baptist Church, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said barbra Franklin of the said county and said state on the Evening of the fifth day of June 1898 Did come to her death from natural causes

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

do say that. . .said child was dead born

Amanda Lester December 13, 1884 near Pelham, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say Amanda Lester came to her death from heart disease

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