A Guide to the Henry County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1946 Henry County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1946 0007301225, 0007301227, 0007301228

A Guide to the Henry County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1946

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 0007301225, 0007301227, 0007301228


Library of Virginia

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

Processed by: Dale Dulaney and Ed Jordan

The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
0007301225, 0007301227, 0007301228
Henry County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1946
Physical Characteristics
1.35 cu. ft. (3 boxes)
Henry County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Henry County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1946. Local government records collection, Henry 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 Henry County.

Historical Information

Henry County was named for Patrick Henry, who was the first governor of the commonwealth of Virginia. It was formed from Pittsylvania County in 1776. The county court first met on 20 January 1777. Part of Patrick County was added later in 1858. The county seat was previously in Martinsville but has been moved near Collinsville.

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

Henry County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1946, 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:

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

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

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

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

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1802 April 27, Death of unknown infant:

Strangled with a string by its mother, Nancy Arnold who was moved and seduced by instigation of the devil.

1814 April 14, Death of John Smith:

John Smith died from a broken skull from an assault with a grubbing hoe by his slave Tom being moved by the instigation of the devil.

1823 January 13, Death of Garland Harris:

Harris was a free mulatto who came to his death from being shot by a slave named Spencer who accused Harris of taking his wife. The inquisition includes depositions given by slaves.

1842 December 22, Death of Beverly Brown:

Brown died from being struck in chest with an ax by a slave named Sam Lyon at a plant bed on Marshall Hairston's Leatherwood plantation. Brown was an overseer.

1843 March 8, Death of Sam Lyon (Lion):

Lyon was a slave owned by Marshall Hairston who died some weeks after being shot by Robert Hubbard. Lyon was in the county jail under the sentence of death for killing Beverly Brown.

1886 December 23, Death of Jennie Mitchell:

Mitchell, age 12, froze to death in a tobacco barn flue. Her father was accused of beating her.

1910 July 26, Death of A. H. Bousman:

Bousman died by means of an explosion of dynamite or some other explosive thrown by an unknown party while Bousman was sleeping in his yard.

1912 January 9, Death of Catherine Jones:

Died from a stray bullet fired by an unknown individual while Jones was cleaning a rabbit in her yard.

1927 April 20, Death of Gladys May Staples:

Staples, one month old, died due to natural causes probably from congestive measles.

1930 November 27, Death of Mollie Flippen:

Died from freezing. Flippen age 80 was living alone. She got out of bed and could not get back into bed.

1933 August, Death of Ernest Lewis:

Lewis, age 35, laid down on N. and W. Railway track, fell asleep, and was run over by a freight train. His head was completely cut off from his body.

1940 June, Death of Louise Hodges:

Hodges, age 27, died by general intoxication from the effects of having taken a lethal dose of Lysol solution evidentally of suicidal intent.

1942 July, Death of Alice Fay Brooks:

Brooks, age 3, died by strychnine poisoning from ingesting about 25 strychnine tablets evidently thinking they were candy.

1946 June 14, Death of James Russell Smith:

Smith died from dynamite blast at a furniture factory.