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 201 - 250 of 573
Name Deceased Description Datesort descending Inquest Location Death Method Inquest Finding
John Brownlee June 7, 1863 at Williamston, Anderson County, SC

do say that the deceased came to his death, not from any violence but by the visitation of God to the best of our knowledge and belief.

Alexander Black November 14, 1863 at the house of A. W. Black, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said decd came to his death . . . by the act of God unknown to them

William Anderson April 14, 1864 at the plantation of T.[?] S Boles, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that said William Anderson came to his death by some sevear attack of disease. . .by Mischance or Visitation of God

Bob negro September 23, 1864 in the District, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say and dclare that the said Bob came to his death by the Visitation of God

Charmes October 7, 1865 at Levison Fowlers, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the Freedman Charmes came to his death by the act of God

Joseph Smith freeman July 25, 1866 at Benjamin Vaughn's, Greenville County, SC

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

Lizza colered woman October 7, 1866 at the house of Thomas S. Miller, Edgefield County, SC

upon there oaths do say that the deceased died from a desease of the Heart

Loverberry B. Musgrove October 9, 1866 at the residence of Ms. James, Widow, near the Court House, Union County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Loveberry B. Musgrove, at the residence of Mrs. James, Widow, . . .did die by visitation of Almight God

Caroline Batson freed woman November 21, 1866 at Reedy River Church, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that she came to her death by exposing herself while sick with fever

Milton Ponder January 19, 1867 at Milton Ponder's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Milton Ponder came to his death . . . by the hand of Providence

Clarissa Campbell freedwoman March 29, 1867 at the residence of Sarah Campbell, Anderson County, SC

that the said Clarissa Campbell a freedwoman came to her death natural by the act of God

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

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

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

Madison Harper September 23, 1867 at the residence of R.E. Ellison, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Madison Harper came to his death from disease by the visitation of God

infant January 13, 1868 at Anderson Court House, Anderson County, SC

do say that the infant was a premature birth and born dead

Unknown Infant Unknown Infant June 4, 1868 at FW Gaylords, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do say, that the said child was still born. . .

Tench Henson June 8, 1868 at Josepth Moor's, Greenville County, SC

upon there oaths do say that it was the act of Providence

Hester Mobley June 27, 1868 at David Gladney's, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say . . . that from the testimony the Said Hester Mobley came to her death by the desease, She was Suffering from, The disease of the Heart.

Clarisa Epps July 20, 1868 at Laurens C.H., Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do Say that the afore said Claricy Epps came to her death by the visitation of God.

Simney Harrington August 7, 1868 at Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that there appearing no signs of violence on his body the deceased came to his death by the visitation of God.

Auguiste Campbell October 30, 1868 at Auguiste Campbell's, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths aforesaid do say that the Decd. Auguiste Campbell came to his death, from the continual use of peach brandy, he the decd. Being advanced in years to old age & feeble constitution & that the use of sd. Intoxicating brandy, drank from Monday morning the 26th Inst. to the time of his death was the cause of sd. death.

Thomas Wynn October 31, 1868 at William Bousar's, Greenville County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the dec'd died a natural death in his bed

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

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

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

Elias Smith August 24, 1869 in the county of Anderson, Anderson County, SC

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

Dilsey Seigler September 20, 1869 at Miles Mills, Edgefield County, SC

upon their oaths do say That the said Dilsey came to her death by an act of Providence after long affliction

Peyton Bird colored September 29, 1869 at Edgefield CH, Edgefield County, SC

do say as follows: That we the Jurors find that the deceased Peyton Bird came to his death by visitation of God from rupture of a blood vessel called Aorta

infant November 18, 1869 at Daniel Oglesby's near Thickety Creek, Limestone[?] Township, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said child came to its death by 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

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.

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

Doreas Mobley May 18, 1870 at the house of Mrs. Doreas Mobley, Fairfield County, SC

do say upon their oaths that the said Dorene Mobley on the 18th day of May in the year One thousand Eigth Hundred and Seventy at her house in the county aforesaid, was found dead, that she had no marks of violence upon her, and died by the visitation of God in a natural way, and not otherwise.

John S. Collins May 29, 1870 at Mr. John S. Collin's residence, Spartanburg County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the sd. J.S. Collins came to his death by the hand of God

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

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

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.

Jesse Woods September 3, 1870 at Lewis Dial, Laurens County, SC

we do say he came to his Death by Dropsey the act of God

Edward William Davis September 29, 1870 at Ridgeway, Fairfield County, SC

upon their oaths do say that the said Edward William Davis. "came to his death by a Pulmonary Congestion with Hemorrhage caused from heart disease

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.

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

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

do say that. . .said child was dead born

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

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

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

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

George Bracy August 19, 1871 the plantation of Wm Cassady, Chesterfield County, SC

upon their oaths, do say: That the deceased, George Bracey, came to his death by a visitation of Providence at the plantation Wm Cassady, on the 18th day of August 1871

Thomas Noble March 30, 1872 at the residence of Thos Noble, Laurens County, SC

upon their oaths do Say That Thomas Noble in the manner and form aforesaid came to his Death by the act of God.

infant January 23, 1873 at residence of M. A. Snipes, Anderson County, SC

do say that it came to its death by the act of God

Lucy E. Louremore January 27, 1873 in Horry County, Horry County, SC

upon their oaths do Say that She Came to her death by natural Insident

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

do say . . . by a visitation of God

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.

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