A Guide to the Bedford County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1813-1899 Bedford County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1813-1899 0007285700-0007285701

A Guide to the Bedford County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1813-1899

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 0007285700-0007285701


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

Processed by: Mary Dean Carter

The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
Bedford County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1813-1899
Physical Characteristics
.90 cu. ft. (2 boxes)
Bedford County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

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Use Restrictions

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Preferred Citation

Bedford County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1813-1899. Local government records collection, Bedford 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 Bedford County.

Historical Information

Bedford County was named probably for John Russell, fourth duke of Bedford, who served as secretary of state for the southern department from 1748 to 1751 and had general supervision of colonial affairs. It was formed from Lunenburg County in 1753, and parts of Albemarle and Lunenburg Counties were added in 1755. The county court first met on 5 May 1754. The county seat is the city of Bedford.

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

Bedford County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1813-1899, 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, train accidents, automobile accidents, 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. Criminal papers such as recognizance bonds can be found in coroner inquisitions. 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 coroner filed inquisition in the court.

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

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

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

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

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

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1813 Dec. 8, Death of Amey Adams:

Adams was found dead on the hill of Big Otter River near his plantation. He was feloniously killed and murdered by boy slave named Matt, property of John A. Anthony.

1818 June 6, Death of Charlotte (slave):

Charlotte was owned by Jonas Irvine or Ervine. "After taking the body of Charlotte out of the grave, found her head, body and legs very much bruised, and of the opinion the wounds were the cause of her death." The inquest includes a warrant for the arrest of Jonas Irvine. "I have just grounds to suspect a murder has been committed," Mitchell Ewing, Justice of the Peace.

1847 March 1, Deaths of Ephraim (slave) and Sawnry (slave):

The deceased were owned by Mary Cofer. They died in a den near Elk Creek that they used as hiding place. Cause of death determined to be inhaling carbonic acid gas produced by the burning of charcoal.

1849 July 19, Death of Jim (slave):

Jim was a slave owned by Lafayette Noell. He was cruelly treated by William Davenport, Jr., but, "that the disease of which he died was of long-standing, and, that, while his death may have been hastened by the cruel treatment he received, it could not have given rise to the disease by which he died."

1852 March 27, Death of Richard Farmer:

Farmer came to his death by violence. This inquest has a very detailed summary of the findings of the Coroner, as opposed to a jury. Includes a two-page post-mortem examination, which goes into explicit detail about the condition of the body and the reasons he came to his conclusion. Coroner was Micajah Davis. Also includes deposition and testimony of witnesses.

1863 March 11, Death of Emily E. Adkins:

Adkins came to her death by violence from an unknown hand. "An examination in the ruins of the dwelling house occupied by Emily Adkins, and which were consumed by fire on the previous night ... human bones were found and among them a locket, believed to be worn by Emily Adkins. About the center of the room near the bones of the deceased was an axe, which might have been used on the person of the deceased prior to the burning of the house."

1863 Nov. 16, Death of Aleseander (slave):

Aleseander belonged to James Metcalf. He came to his death by a gunshot wound in the right eye, penetrating the brain, the gun being in the hands of Lewis Campbell. Aleseander was in the "employ" of the Campbells. According to Mrs. Campbell he had been conducting himself increasingly "with too great a degree of familiarity in my family and have several times found it necessary to rebuke him for such conduct." The Campbell daughter, Elizabeth (Bettie), reported to her mother that Aleseander told her he was going to come to her room that night, and asked her to meet him there. She told him "if you come there, it will be at the risk of your life." He told her he would come, "kill or be killed." Later, a noise was heard upstairs, and Aleseander was found in the room. He advanced toward Lewis Campbell several times. Campbell ordered him not to advance or he would shoot. He continued to advance and Campbell shot him, according to testimony of John Snead. Includes deposition of witnesses and several pages of testimony.

1871 Dec. 27, Death of J.W. Chambers:

Chambers killed by gunshot by Elijah Reynolds. One witness said " I was standing by J.W. Chambers and he said 'look at me shoot this dog' and Elijah Reynolds pointed the gun at him and said 'if you shoot the dog, I will shoot you.' I saw him pull the trigger and shoot him (Chambers).

1873 Jan. 18, Death of Addison Williams:

Williams came to his death from being exposed to cold after drinking a large quantity of mean whiskey. Charles Abram said "William Ogden made a glass of toddy and drank that, and then made a gallon of eggnog of which we all drank. Addison Williams drank more than the rest of us. After he drank the eggnog, he went out and threw up and came back and took another drink and then left in a run, as in a prank, as he had commenced showing he was under the influence of liquor." This occurred on Christmas Day, 1872.

1873 Sept. 19, Death of infant child of Ann Fariss:

The infant came to its death by violence or foul treatment received at the hands of Jack Fariss. Ann Fariss was his step-daughter. Depositions and testimony from two doctors indicating family had tried to get medicines to induce miscarriage for the girl who was "in a family way," claiming that they were for the wife, Jane, and saying she was the pregnant one. Testimony from Jane, wife of Jack, indicated that she was afraid of him, as he had threatened her if she said anything about the birth of the child, and she had to do as he said, as he was "head of household." She testified Jack took the baby away after Ann gave birth, even though she wanted to keep it. There is also testimony that Jack was concerned about the rumors and gossip in the community.

1878 Dec. 4, Death of Surry Wallace:

Wallace died on account of exposure, which he endured through fear of being whipped if he returned home. He was apparently living with his Uncle's family. Ann Wallace said "Surry was living with me. About three weeks ago, I attempted to whip him with a switch and I made him take off everything but his shirt. I cut him one lick with the switch on his legs, and he sprang out the door and ran towards the woods. I have not seen him since. Every effort has been made by myself and my husband to find him. It was frequently necessary to whip him, but was never whipped by either myself or my husband with anything but a switch and never severely or in any way abused." Dr. T.W. Nelson said "there were scars on him which indicate his having been whipped, but not sufficient to be presumed to be the cause of his death."

1885 May 16, Death of Thomas A. Jeter:

Jeter came to his death from a wound inflicted upon him fired from a pistol by Hairston H. Terry. Mr J.R. Preas testified, "I asked him why he killed such a good man as Mr. Jeter, and he said he had rented Mr. Jeter a dog from Richmond and that he had named it after his sister and he couldn't help but kill him."

1894 Nov. 4, Death of John Robinson:

Robinson killed as a result of a prank that went wrong. Bud Anderson testified that he was at the Magic Lantern show at the African American church in Montvale, Virginia. The show closed about 10:15 PM. Robinson proposed a plan to scare Hunter Clark and John Minter who had gone home with the Flood girls. Robinson left us for some minutes and returned with a rope and white garment that he had gotten from Mr. Brugh. Hunter Clark testified, "I was at the Negro church at Montvale, Va. The entertainment closed at 10:15 PM. I left with John Minter and the two Flood girls. Just before we got to the creek at Rice's Mill, I ran against a white garment tied to a rope, which was stretched across the road. The rope flew up and struck my hat. I pulled my pistol out and fired three times at random in direction of the bluff with my back toward the creek. Then I undid one end of the rope from a sapling while Minter undid the other end. When we had gotten about fifteen or twenty feet further, I heard a pistol shot from the direction of the bluff. The ball passed between Minter and myself. I turned and fired again in the direction of the bluff. I heard nothing more." Minter testified, "I was badly frightened, as was Hunter also." Robinson came to his death from a wound inflicted by a 32 caliber pistol in the hands of Hunter Clark. Clark, in fright, having discharged his pistol promiscuously.