A Guide to the Newport News (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1879-1944 Newport News (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1879-1944 0007389230-0007389247

A Guide to the Newport News (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1879-1944

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode number: 0007389230-0007389247


Library of Virginia

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© 2012 By The Library of Virginia. All Rights Reserved.

Processed by: Ed Jordan

The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
Newport News (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1879-1944
Physical Characteristics
6.50 cu. ft. (15 boxes)
Newport News (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Newport News (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1879-1944. Local government records collection, Newport News (City) 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 Newport News.

Historical Information

Newport News was located in Warwick County, which is now extinct. The origin of the name is uncertain but the phrase "Newportes News" appeared in documents as early as 1619 and probably commemorated Christopher Newport, who made five voyages to Virginia between 1607 and 1619. Newport News was a small settlement until late in the nineteenth century, when it became the eastern terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. The Old Dominion Land Company bought land there in 1880 and began laying out a new village in October. Newport News was incorporated as a city by act of the General Assembly in 1896 without ever having been incorporated as a town. On 1 July 1958 Newport News was enlarged by consolidation with the city of Warwick, which then became extinct.

Warwick County was named either for Robert Rich, earl of Warwick, a prominent member of the London Company, or for the county of Warwick in England. The county was originally called Warwick River and was one of the original shires, or counties, first enumerated in 1634. The shorter name was adopted in 1643. Warwick County became extinct in 1952, when it became the city of Warwick. The new city was consolidated with the city of Newport News in 1958 and took the latter's name. Denbigh was the county seat.

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

Newport News (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1879-1944, are investigations into the deaths of individuals who died by a sudden, violent, unnatural or suspicious manner, or died without medical attendance filed in the courts of Warwick County and Newport News. 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. 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.

A portion of the collection consist of photocopies of coroners' findings made from the original coroners' reports.


Chronological by date coroner filed inquisition in the court.

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

  • Newport News (Va.) Circuit Court
  • Subjects:

  • African Americans--History
  • Coroners--Virginia--Newport News
  • Coroners--Virginia--Warwick County
  • Death--Causes--Virginia--Newport News
  • Death--Causes--Virginia--Warwick County
  • Infanticide--Virginia--Newport News
  • Infanticide--Virginia--Warwick County
  • Murder victims--Virginia--Newport News
  • Murder victims--Virginia--Warwick County
  • Murder--Investigation--Virginia--Newport News
  • Murder--Investigation--Virginia--Warwick County
  • Suicide--Virginia--Newport News
  • Suicide--Virginia--Warwick County
  • Women--Virginia--Newport News
  • Women--Virginia--Warwick County
  • Geographical Names:

  • Newport News (Va.)--History
  • Warwick County (Va.)--History
  • Genre and Form Terms:

  • Death records--Virginia--Newport News
  • Death records--Virginia--Warwick County
  • Local government records--Virginia--Newport News
  • Local government records--Virginia--Warwick County
  • Reports--Virginia--Newport News
  • Reports--Virginia--Warwick County

Significant Places Associated With the Collection

  • Newport News (Va.)--History
  • Warwick County (Va.)--History

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1885 April 8, Death of Charles or Carl Mayer:

Died by pistol shot wound fired by his own hand. Suicide letter to Mayer's mother, on copy in English and another in German, included as evidence.

1902 August 4, Death of Eva Gilbreath:

Gilbreath, a circus performer, died from an accidental fall while acting on the rings in front of an audience at the Powhatan Theater.

1906 February 3, Death of W.L. Felton:

Died from the effects of injuries inflicted by a screw driver in the hand of John A. Gunkin.

1906 May 23, Death of Irwin Tucker:

Tucker committed suicide after robbing the Savings Bank of Newport News.

1912 October 30, Death of Ollie Roane:

Accidently killed at the shipyard. Roane, age 14, was playing with other boys during work time when a tool fell on him.

1920 August 10, Death of Charles Amory Christie:

Died as the result of attempting to cross the street car track, and being run over, crushed and mangled by said street car.

1926 July 13, Death of Arthur Hill:

Died from accidental drowning through negligence on his part. Hill would not wait his turn to disembark from ship, fell and drowned.

1926 December 30, Death of Allen S. Davis:

Committed suicide after being charged with illicit cohabitation.

1929 January 9, Death of Lillian Priest:

Died due to acute dilatation of the heart brought on by religious excitement.

1930 June 2, Death of Ernest Atkins:

Died by electrocution. Includes drawing of transformer and powerlines attached to the pole.

1936 January 3, Death of Lucy Brown:

Died by accidental drowning. Brown wandered from the almshouse into a stream bed at low tide. She laid down and went to sleep. The rising tide caught her and she drowned.

1938 October 4, Death of Trygue Hansen:

Hansen fell overboard while trying to catch his hat blown by the wind. Died from a broken neck due to the fall between the ship SS Panagiotis and Pier 15.