Sunday, September 07, 2008

1859 Charlotte County, Florida

1859 Charlotte County, Florida documents detailing the results of a Coroner's Inquest into the death of “a negro woman slave Nancy” the property of William H. Gaines at the time of her death.

It appears that the body of "Nancy" was discovered on Saturday April 9th, 1859 on the side of a public road by a free man of color named Washington Bird. On Monday April 11th, 1859 a Coroner's Inquest was held "on the land of Mrs. Susan Elliott (who owned the property near where the body was found). The first Document is the official findings of the Inquest which is signed by the County Coroner, Thomas Pugh, and each of the 12 jurors. This document reads in part: "An inquisition taken on the land of Mrs. Susan Elliott in the County of Charlotte on the 11th day of April in the year 1859 before Thomas Pugh a Coroner of the County upon the view of the body of the negro woman slave Nancy the property of Wm. H. Gains, then lying dead. The jurors sworn to inquire when, how and by what means the said negro woman slave Nancy came to her death, upon their oaths do say: That on examination of the body there were no marks of violence, that on a surgical examination of the body the heart was considerably diseased, therefore the jurors come to the conclusion that the woman died a natural death caused by over exertion in walking acting on a diseased heart, they are of the opinion that she died on Saturday night last on the side of the public road near the residence of Mrs. Susan Elliott at the place where she was found...". This Document is signed by the Coroner and the 12 jurors and is docketed on the reverse "Inquisition on the body / Nancy a Slave" / "Filed 23 April 1859".
Of special interest is a second ancillary Document related to the Inquest which contains the evidentiary statements of a male negro slave named "Thompson", a free man of Color named Washington Bird and the physician who did the autopsy on the body of Nancy. While the Doctor has written signed his statement in his own hand, the statements of the two negro witnesses are written in the same hand as the previous Document and signed by the witnesses with "their mark" - in each case a simple "X". The negro slave Thompson testifies to the fact that on Saturday evening he spoke with Nancy who told him she was going to Mr. Daniels' to collect some money that one of Mr. Daniels' men owed Mr. Gains, her master. Thompson testifies that Nancy left between 8 and 10 PM on Saturday night to go to Mr. Daniels'. Washington Bird, a free man of Color found the body of Nancy on the side of the road at about 3AM on Sunday morning. He testifies that he was passing along the public road near the plantation of Mrs. Susan Elliott and discovered a negro woman lying dead near the roadside. He states that he continued on his way to the residence of Mr. Hannah where he informed Mr. Hannah that he had "seen a woman dead on the road side and informed him of the place. He saw no one about the place where the woman lay. He did not touch her.". Dr. Ferguson testifies to the condition of the body and the extent of the heart disease.

This set of documents is for sale on Ebay Item number: 280261275453

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