A Guide to the Henrico County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1789-1942 Henrico County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1789-1942 1167991, 0007288481-0007288489

A Guide to the Henrico County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1789-1942

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 1167991, 0007288481-0007288489


Library of Virginia

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

Processed by: Ed Jordan

The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
11167991, 0007288481-0007288489
Henrico County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1789-1942
Physical Characteristics
4.50 cu. ft. (10 boxes)
Henrico County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Henrico County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1789-1942. Local government records collection, Henrico 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 Henrico County.

Historical Information

Henrico County was named for Henry, Prince of Wales, eldest son of King James I. It was one of the eight original shires, or counties, first enumerated in 1634. The county seat is in the western part of the county.

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.

Recognized in 1634 as an original shire. All county court records prior to 1655 and almost all prior to 1677 are missing. Many records were destroyed by British troops during the Revolutionary War. Post–Revolutionary War county court records exist. Almost all circuit superior court of law and chancery and circuit court records were destroyed by fire during the evacuation of Richmond on April 3, 1865, during the Civil War. The county’s circuit court held its sessions at the state courthouse in Richmond.

Scope and Content

Henrico County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1789-1942, 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.

Related Material

Henrico County is one of Virginia's Lost Records Localities. Additional Henrico 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:

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

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

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

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

Selected Coroners' Inquests of Interest

1810 Sep. 30, Death of Joe (slave):

Joe, a slave owned by Thomas H. Prosser of Henrico County, died from a mortal blow received about the body administered by the overseer in self-defense.

1819 July 13, Death of Solomon Jones (free negro):

Solomon Jones, a free negro, died at Deep Run Coal Pits in Henrico County from being whipped and burned in a most horrid and shocking manner by Thomas Lawther being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil.

1815 Oct. 5, Death of Nancy Major:

Nancy Major died by severe beatings she received from her husband, a negro slave named John owned by Thomas Cowls.

1821 Dec. 20, Deaths of George V. Angel and George Shurn:

Angel and Shurn drown while crossing or attempting to cross Gillees Creek in a wagon. They accidently got out of the wagon and into the creek being very much intoxicated.

1825 Sept. 5, Death of William C. Murphy:

Murphy died when casually or accidently fell overboard from a steam boat into the James River and drowned or was killed by machinery of steam boat.

1834 April 15, Death of infant child of Kesiah (slave):

The infant was killed and murdered by its mother Kesiah by smothering or by stopping its breath by putting her hand on its face and keeping it there until dead. She did not have the peace of God before her eyes, but was moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil to kill her child.

1854 July 15, Death of John McRae (a slave):

McRae was the property of the widow of Allen M. Lyons. Died from being taken with a cramp while bathing in the James River Canal.

1858 July 8, Death of Cola (a slave):

Cola was the property of James Hix. She died of congestion of the brain while fastened to a tree with a chain around her neck by Richard H. Barnes and James W. Baker.

1889 Nov 14, Death of Spott Cluff:

Died from strokes from blunt instrument in the hands of a mob.

1892 Dec 15, Deaths of William Judson Wilkinson and James Wills:

Wilkinson and Wills died by drowning in the James River. The drownings were brought about by reason of three holes bored in the bottom of the boat by P.W. Nicholas. He filled the holes with corn cobs. Nicholas removed the corn cobs from when Wilkinson and Wills rowed from shore with the intention of drowning Wills. Nicholas was having an illicit affair with Wills' wife.

1901 July 10, Death of Nick Lewis:

Lewis died when he was hit by a south bound train on the R.F. and P. Railroad while he was asleep on the track.

1904 Aug 27, Death of John Heath:

Death was due to injuries caused by a blow from a rock thrown by Isaac Stocker over a ten cents debt.

1910 Jan 4, Death of Junius Fagan:

Fagan died due to an accidental explosion of dynamite while warming himself at a fire which had been kindled for the purpose of thawing the dynamite.

1916 Oct. 3, Death of Willie Kenzie:

Kenzie died from acute poisoning from eating large quantity of raw green butterbeans, hulls included.

1918 Feb. 12, Death of Steve Bellas:

Bellas died from falling on a wood saw which sawed his head into two parts.

1921 Sept. 21, Death of Sue Tinsley Hadley:

Hadley died as the result of being drugged and drowned by her husband, Wilmer Amos Hadley.

1923 Sept. 3, Death of William Henry Brown:

Brown was accidently killed at Hermitage Golf Club by being struck on the neck by a golf ball. Death probably due to rupture of cerebral artery.

1937 Dec. 28, Death of Dabney B. Shaw:

Shaw died from acute streptococeus infection of the brain due to infected teeth.