The Ghost of Ben Furlong, Berrien County Desperado

This blog has commented before on Ray City ghosts and other Haints of Berrien County. One  story from Alapaha, GA concerns the ghost of Ben W. Furlong.

In February of 1887 the Atlanta Constitution reported on a ghost appearing at a Berrien County sawmill.

 A few months ago Berrien county was startled and shocked by the murder of a negro by Ben W. Furlong. The finding of the body of the negro, the suicide of Furlong, and the flight of his accomplices, Lofton and Sharon, made a remarkable story. The strangest part of the story is this; Workmen and laborers, persons living around and employed at the mill, where the tragedy occurred, assert positively that Furlong’s spirit or ghost stalks forth nearly every night, prowls around the mill building and seems sometimes to be examining the machinery. Quite a number of negroes claim to have met the ghost on the railroad track and around the mill at odd times.[6

A recently encountered article from the Valdosta Times, October 2, 1886  provides some of the back story on the guilty wanderings of Furlong’s spirit.

B. W. Furlong
Valdosta Times
Saturday, October 2, 1886

B.W. Furlong Commits Suicide

B.W. Furlong has for several years enjoyed the reputation along the B. & W. road of being a desperado. He has  had more personal difficulties, killed and wounded more people than anybody this side of Texas. The true bills against him in Berrien County alone runs up among the dozens.  Some how he has managed to dodge the officers or to evade the judgment of the law in some way, or else he would have swung, or have been put in the penitentiary long ago.  Such being the character of the man not many tears were shed when then news was made known some days ago that he had committed suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum. Following this information a few days come this special from Alapaha which throws light upon the deed.

“One of the most terrible crimes ever committed in this community has been brought to light to-day. It has been rumored for some days past that B.W. Furlong and others had murdered a negro man near this place and to-day a coroner’s jury was summoned and the investigation led to the discovery of the body buried in the horse lot of Furlong.  The jury will continue the investigation.

“As stated in the News a day or two ago, Furlong was murderously desperate when in his cups. The story of the encounter which resulted in the killing of the negro remains to be learned. There is little doubt but that Furlong’s suicide by taking laudanum was the result of the knowledge that he was suspected of killing the negro, and preferred death to arrest for murder.  A few weeks ago he shot an engineer named Brock, who ran on the Brunswick & Western road.  On another occasion he is said to have almost killed his wife.  No prominent man living in Southwest Georgia in years has borne so wide a reputation of desperation.”

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10 Comments

  1. January 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Hey there,

    I was interested to find that Furlong committed suicide by overdose of laudanum, which I had first encountered in the discussion of the Opium War waged by the British against the Chinese and, more interestingly, the book Confessions of an English Opium Eater

    Also, the tone of this article challenges my conception of the public perception of lynching in that time period. I am surprised the the tone of disgust that the article takes as I had understood the practice to be socially accepted by those in power.

    Finally, out of curiosity, where would one start searching for Furlong’s ghost in present day Berrien County? The only detail here seems to be “a Berrien County sawmill.”

    Thanks,
    Hunter

  2. January 4, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    It was not unusual for Southern papers of the time to express righteous indignation over crimes against African-Americans, although it was frequently clear that the high-minded concern of the “Press” did not reflect the attitudes of white readers.

    Your comments prompted further research on Ben W. Furlong, Lofton, Sharon, their victim and the scene of the crime. It turns out that Ben Furlong’s crimes achieved international notoriety. His final victim, Jesse Webb, was not lynched but shot, knifed and brutalized. It seems the crime actually occurred at “Sniff mill,” but the location of this operation has not been determined. An upcoming post will provide additional information on Ben Furlong’s “life of singular desperation.”

  3. January 4, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    […] The Ghost of Ben Furlong, Berrien County Desperado (raycityhistory.wordpress.com) […]

  4. January 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    […] prompt from a reader led to a follow up story on the Haints of Berrien County and the desperado Ben Furlong whose infamy spread around the […]

  5. Jerry Furlong said,

    September 5, 2011 at 10:54 am

    As my family and I have researched our family heritage we stumbled upon this information. As with everyone it comes as a shock- because my father grew up of hearing of family members by the name of Ben and Pocahontas but nothing could prepare us for this article. We are currently researching family photos and documents to see if we can uncover more and will update when available. We are especially interested in the actions of Pocahontas after the suicide because we have long heard the reason the family relocated to Florida was to escape the actions of Ben. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Jerry Furlong

  6. September 9, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    […] Previous posts on this blog have concerned Berrien County desperado Benjamin William Furlong. Although not connected specifically with Ray City, GA, the story of Ben Furlong, and reports of his ghost, are interesting passages in Berrien County history.  A recent reader comment prompted a further look for Furlong’s trace. (see Ghost.) […]

  7. Mike & Cindy Furlong said,

    December 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I have been trying for years to trace my husbands Furlong roots, & haven’t had any luck. His grandfather gave his mother very little info & said it would never be discussed again. She was told , his parents names were Ben & Ellen, his siblings names were Ed, John, George, William, Mansie, Katy & Estella. He was born in 1886 in Brunswick, Ga. and his family ran a lumber mill. He died, Jack Alsea Furlong in 1957.
    The only census I have found with similar name ( Josie or Jesie) & age has him living with the Benjamin Gray family in 1900. We have speculated off & on about Ben W. Furlong & Pocahuntos, but could never put it all together. My husband was always told he had American-Indian in him, but from where, we didn’t know. If anyone can help us verify this possible connection to my husbands family, it would truly be appreciated.
    Cindy Furlong

    • December 9, 2012 at 10:05 am

      Cindy,
      Thanks for your comments on the Ray City History Blog and for providing your family information that helps fill in some blanks.

      Please see the new article posted today The Vanceville Affair for additional information on Benjamin William Furlong, Jack Alsea Furlong and the Furlong family.

      Thanks,

      Jon

    • Ben (Carl B.) Furlong said,

      July 29, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      Ben W. and Pocahontas Furlong were my great grandparents. If you have not found any information on them I’d be glad to share what I know. I have recently composed a brief story based on what I know. Their oldest son, John W. was my grandfather and lived with us when I was young in south Georgia.

      Ben (I wasn’t named for Ben W. Furlong) Furlong


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