A Guide to the Botetourt County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1785-1854 Botetourt County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1785-1854 0007297199

A Guide to the Botetourt County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1785-1854

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 0007297199


Library of Virginia

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© 2011 By The Library of Virginia. All Rights Reserved.

Processed by: Sarah Nerney

The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
Botetourt County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1785-1854
Physical Characteristics
.225 cu. ft. (1 box)
Botetourt County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Access to original Botetourt County records is not granted without an appointment and without prior discussion with an archivist. Same day access to records is not possible. Advance notice of at least one week is required so that an archivist will have time to inspect the requested records. An archivist may determine that some materials cannot be served due to their physical state. The records were heavily water damaged and as a result are extremely fragile and can be severely moldy. Persons with mold or dust sensitivity may want to avoid research in these records. Patrons must consult with Archives Research Services prior to a visit to the Library of Virginia to view any original Botetourt County records.

Use Restrictions

These materials can be extremely fragile and moldy due to extensive water damage. An archivist may determine that a record is too fragile or damaged to be served. Patrons must consult with Archives Research Services prior to a visit to the Library of Virginia to view any original Botetourt County records.

Preferred Citation

Botetourt County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1785-1854. Local government records collection, Botetourt County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23219.

Acquisition Information

These items came to the Library of Virginia in shipments of court records from Botetourt County.

Historical Information

Botetourt County was named for Norborne Berkeley, baron de Botetourt, the royal governor of Virginia from 1768 to 1770. It was formed from Augusta County in 1769, and part of Rockbridge County was added in 1785.

On 1970 December 15, a fire gutted the Botetourt County courthouse in Fincastle, Virginia. The court records were not burned but were heavily water damaged. Many of the court papers are extremely fragile today as a result of this water damage and some are not useable. Because of the near-loss of the Botetourt County records, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Public Records Act in 1975. The act mandated that deeds, wills, and other vital records be inventoried and microfilmed and copies of the film stored permanently in the Library of Virginia in Richmond for safekeeping. Counties could also choose to send court records to the Library of Virginia for storage and safekeeping as needed.

The separate office of coroner appeared in Virginia about 1660. The judicial duty of the office is to hold inquisitions in cases when persons meet sudden, violent, unnatural or suspicious death, or death without medical attendance. The coroner would summon a jury to assist him in determining cause of death. Prior to November 1877, the jurors numbered twelve. Between November 1877 and March 1926, the jurors numbered six. The jury viewed the body of the deceased and heard the testimony of witnesses. The coroner was required to write down witness testimony. After seeing and hearing the evidence, the jury delivered in writing to the coroner their conclusion concerning cause of death referred to as the inquisition. After March 1926, only the coroner determined cause of death. He could require physicians to assist him with determing cause of death. If a criminal act was determined to be the cause of death, the coroner was to deliver the guilty person to the sheriff and the coroners' inquests would be used as evidence in the criminal trial.

Scope and Content

Botetourt County (Va) Coroner's Inquisitions, 1785-1854, are investigations into the deaths of individuals who died by a sudden, violent, unnatural or suspicious manner, or died without medical attendance. Causes of death found in coroners' inquisitions include murder, infanticide, suicide, domestic violence, exposure to elements, drownings, and natural causes, or as commonly referred to in the 19th century, visitation by God. Documents commonly found in coroners' inquests include the inquisition, depositions, and summons. Information found in the inquisition include the name of the coroner, the names of the jurors, the name and age of the deceased if known, gender and race of the deceased, and when, how, and by what means the deceased came to his or her death. If the deceased was African American, the inquest would identify the deceased as a slave or free person if known. If the deceased was a slave, the inquest would include, if known, the name of the slaveowner and the slaveowner's residence. Information found in the depositions include the name of the deponent and his or her account of the circumstances that led to the death of the deceased. Slaves were deponents in coroner investigations.


Chronological by date of inquisition or date coroner filed inquisition in the court.

Related Material

Botetourt County is one of Virginia's Lost Records Localities. Additional Botetourt County Court Records may be found in the Virginia Lost Records Localities Collection at the Library of Virginia. Search the Lost Records Localities Database found at the Library of Virginia web site

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

  • Bedford County (Va.) Circuit Court
  • Subjects:

  • African Americans--History
  • Coroners--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Death--Causes--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Free African Americans--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Infanticide--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Murder victims--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Murder--Investigation--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Slaveholders--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Slaves--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Suicide--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Women--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Geographical Names:

  • Botetourt County (Va.)--History
  • Genre and Form Terms:

  • Death records--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Local government records--Virginia--Botetourt County
  • Reports--Virginia--Botetourt County

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1788 Apr. 11, Death of John McCammon:

McCammon was killed when his horse flung him up against a tree.

1790 Jan. 1, Death of James Scott:

Murdered by James Holland who stabbed him in the left breast with a knife.

1793 Jan. 4, Death of Elizabeth Campbell:

Campbell was accidentally shot in the leg with a musket by John Kesler when a group of people were outside diverting themselves by shooting off guns on New Year's Day. She died soon thereafter.

1806 Jan. 9, Death of Elizabeth Mormon:

Mormon was accidentally shot and killed by her husband, William Mormon.

1813 Oct. 2, Death of John Fut:

Described as a "travelling man," Fut came to his death by voluntarily drinking such a quantity of spiritous liquor as to render himself helpless, then he fell down some stairs and so wounded and bruised himself that he died.

1819 Mar. 18, Death of Betsey Zigler:

These documents are difficult to read due to water damage, but it appears that Zigler was murdered by a blow to the head and strangulation with a handkerchief.

1836 Dec. 16, Death of James Cartmill:

Suicide by stabbing himself in the throat with a knife due to derangement of the mind.

1838 Nov. 17, Death of Anna Snodgrass:

Froze to death. Depositions and the coroner's jury indicate that this was due to negligence by the steward of the poor house who knew of her circumstances and declined to help her.

1840 Feb. 28, Death of John (slave):

Death from causes unknown. However, both the inquisition and the depositions contain evidence that John had been severely disciplined and whipped by his owner, Silas Rowland. One deponent guesses that John had been given 50-75 lashes with a cowhide the day prior, in addition to being made to sit astraddle a pole for many hours with his hands tied in front of him and a chain around his neck. The jury still concluded that the whipping had nothing to do with John's death.

1851 Aug. 26, Death of Charles (slave):

Charles, a "young negro boy" slave of Thomas M. Burwell, was struck in the head by a stone thrown by Edwin Campter, a white lad. The jury concluded that the death was accidental.

1853 Sept. 17, Death of an unknown infant:

Cause of death could not be determined. The body of the infant was discovered in a creek. Color and sex of the child could not be determined, and the body was mutilated and too decomposed to draw many conclusions about it.