A Guide to the Frederick County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1927 Frederick County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1927 1016883, 0007286612

A Guide to the Frederick County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1927

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 1016883, 0007286612


Library of Virginia

The Library of Virginia
800 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219-8000
Phone: (804) 692-3888 (Archives Reference)
Fax: (804) 692-3556 (Archives Reference)
Email: archdesk@lva.virginia.gov(Archives)
URL: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/

© 2010 By The Library of Virginia. All Rights Reserved.

Processed by: Bari Helms

The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
1016883, 0007286612
Frederick County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1927
Physical Characteristics
.50 cu. ft. (2 boxes)
Frederick County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Frederick County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1927. Local government records collection, Frederick 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 Frederick County.

Historical Information

Frederick County was named for Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales and eldest son of George II. It was formed from Orange County in 1738, but the county government was not organized until 1743. Part of Augusta County was added later. Its area is 426 square miles, and the county seat is Winchester.

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 determining 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

Frederick County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1779-1927, 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 occasionally deponents in coroner investigations.


Chronological by date coroner filed inquisition in the court.

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

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

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

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

  • Death records--Virginia--Frederick County.
  • Local government records--Virginia--Frederick County.
  • Reports--Virginia--Frederick County.

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1801 Nov. 24, Death of Yender:

Yender, a distiller, was murdered by repeated strokes to the head supposedly inflicted by "two Mulatto persons namely William Weller Taylor and George Weller Taylor."

1807 March 2, Death of Catherine Gregory:

"She not having God before her eyes, but being moved by the instigation of Devil, had drank whiskey to extreme intoxication, fell into the fire, and was by it burned to death."

1808 Aug. 25, Death of William Whittenton/Whittington:

While interfering in a dispute between his wife and slave Flora, the property of Nathaniel Jackson, Whittenton was struck in the head and stomach with a club by Flora. Includes testimony from his wife who claims that Flora stated that "she had long owed him a spite, that he was always going at her like a dog at a opossum that she intended to kill him, and was ready to be hung tomorrow for doing so."

1809 June 3, Death of Alexander (slave):

John Thompson "being in liquor was making sport and trifling with the said Negroe and with a piece of a board gave the said negroe a stroke on the side of the head" which "against his will, and therefore casually and by misfortune" did kill Alexander.

1809 June 28, Death of infant child of Patty (slave):

The infant's mother Patty, a slaved owned by Ben Powel, struck the child's skull with a stone and "did break and pierce so as to occasion its death."

1812 Feb. 25, Death of Peter (slave):

Slave Peter, owned by his free mother Sarah, was killed by a blow to the head with a stick resulting from an altercation with slave Jack owned by William Taylor.

1813 May 3, Death of Fanny Smith:

Cut herself in the neck with a razor after having been much "distressed in mind" over the loss of three of her children.

1814 Aug. 17, Death of George Copenhaver:

It was concluded that "Sgt. John Breedlowe was a principle cause of his death" while he was under guard as a deserter. Includes testimony from other soldiers.

1814 Sept. 5, Death of Bob (slave):

Slave Bob, owned by John Wilson of Kentucky, died from fatigue by traveling in the heat of the day and by drinking water being at the same time overheated.

1819 Sept. 18, Death of James Hunter:

Assaulted by person unknown, "supposed to be a coloured man named Jerry," who made "many mortal wounds" and left his body "horribly mangled."

1826 June 11, Death of Richmond (slave):

The slave of Mrs. Bushrod Taylor died "by providential visitation" which caused him to drown by either being "strangled with the water" or being "seized with a sudden spasm."

1829 May 15, Death of Cain (slave):

Cain drowned while endeavoring to escape his pursuers who were trying to apprehend him upon a charge of theft.

1830 March 22, Death of Unknown:

The parts of a human body found were discovered to be "remains of a subject buried there by Dr. Stephens after dissection of a dead body not known to him."

1832 Sept. 17, Death of Ambrose (slave):

Ambrose was hired out to Jacob McCoy and was engaged in thrashing rye when he was reprimanded by McCoy who struck him several times in the faces with his open hand and caused him to fall to the barn floor. The examination of the body showed no signs of violence except for a mall cut to the upper lip and a contusion on the left eye. Death was determined to be a case of chance "occurring without any design or intention."

1833 Sept. 19, Death of Lucy (slave):

Earlier on the day of her death, Lucy had been whipped, mostly about the thighs, by her master as punishment for stealing some "trifling article" from a neighbor. While working over the fire she fainted from "exertion or sickness from the fire and whipping" and struck her head on the hearth. It was determined that the whipping and fall were the cause of her death but that there was "no intention to kill on the part of her master."

1834 April 3, Death of Joe (slave):

The slave of Philip T. Burwell was killed by a "blow given him on the head by a stone thrown at him by a certain yellow man slave called George Quickly said to be the property of the estate of Col. N. Burwell." Includes testimony from other slaves.

1842 Aug. 23, Death of Jesse Spence:

Free African American Jesse Spence died from wounds "inflicted by the hands and feet of a certain negro man slave" W. Singleton.

1851 March 8, Death of John Griffitte:

Died "from drunkenness and exposure by laying out in a pool of water during the night and in a snow storm."

1852 July 29, Death of Bob Massie:

Death "by a blow with a stone thrown at him by John Bracus a free man of colour."

1854 May 1, Death of Westly Dunmore:

Death caused "by a fit produced by long habits of intemperance."

1868 Feb. 15, Death of Charles Brooks:

Death caused by "accidentally falling through the mill where he is supposed to have frozen."

1868 Feb. 28, Death of Hunter Robinson:

Death by a blow to the head with a fist inflicted by his uncle Robert Webb. Incident took place at school and includes depositions.

1868 Dec. 21, Death of Julia Nevel:

Died of "child bed fever" resulting from an abortion.

1888 March 23, Death of William and Maria McClure:

Murder/suicide. Maria McClure died of a blow to the head with a poker and a razor cut across the right jugular inflicted by William McClure. William died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

1889 March 9, Death of infant child of Mary McCormack:

Cause of death not given but inquest includes testimony describing how the infant was found shoved in a washstand.

1913 April 17, Death of Vernon W. Hausenfluck:

Death caused by being struck by a smoke stack of the M. J. Grove Lime Co. that was pulled from its place by a car of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad striking a supporting guy wire.

1915 Aug. 21, Death of John W. Brown:

Death by two gunshots inflicted by William J. B. Brown, who "lay in wait concealed near where said body was buried having previously determined in his mind to kill said John W. Brown."