An Inquest Into the Death of Jesse Webb

Jesse Webb Murdered by Ben Furlong

As previously told,  Jesse Webb was the last victim of Berrien County desperado Ben W. Furlong.  Webb was  shot, knifed, brutalized and, after three days of agony, finally bludgeoned to death with a sledge hammer on September 9, 1886 at Furlong’s Mill.  The mill was situated at Sniff, GA on the route of the Brunswick & Albany Railroad near the county line between Berrien and Coffee counties.

 

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Alapaha Star

October 2, 1886

THE INQUEST

Wednesday morning  [September 22, 1886] acting coroner J. A. Slater and a jury of eight men repaired to Furlong’s mill, five miles east of Alapaha. On arriving there several witnesses were summoned. Jim Simmons, col., was the first witness sworn. He testified that the down freight on Tuesday, September 7th put a colored man off and the conductor told Furlong to take him and work him. The man said he —- want work there. When —- left the colored man started —- it. Furlong told him if —–not come back he would f— him full of shot, went in — the commissary to get his gun The negro came back and F—ong handcuffed him and put Lo—- – white man, as guard over —. About an hour from night f— — –gro made a break for liberty. —

— ran to a swamp seve— hu—– yards south of —— —— —– —-
Furlong was about the —– tance behind Lofton. The —ness ran after Furlong, hoping to keep him from killing the ——. Soon after the pursuers and -ursued were lost to sight in the swamp. The witness heard a gun or pistol shot and stopped. In the pursuit Furlong carried a double barreled gun. In a few minutes he returned, without the gun, and said to the witness, “If you breathe a word about this I will kill you.” He afterwards told witness, “If you mention a word of this affair to a living being I know three men that will swear you did the shooting, and your neck will snap.” Tuesday night [September 7, 1886] Furlong, Tom Sharon and J. M. Lofton took Simmons down to where the wounded man lay. They were all armed with double-barreled guns. When they reached the wounded man they told Simmons to assist Sharon in getting the handcuffs off him. While they were thus engaged Furlong drew his knife and tried to cut the wounded man’s throat. Simmons caught his arm and begged him not to kill the man. He then made a lunge at Simmons’ — — —– —- —-

1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-inquest-2him. Wednesday morning [September 8, 1886] Simmons took the wounded man a bottle of water. The man begged him to take him to one of the shanties. Furlong refused to let him bring him. Later that day he told Lofton the man ought to have something to eat. He was helpless but could talk. The witness did not see the wounded man after Wednesday night.

Thursday night [September 9, 1886] Furlong set for Simmons and told him he wanted him to go with him that night. Simmons told him he was too sick to go.

Several other witnesses were examined, but we have only space for the most important.

Mr. James Cross, white, testified that he came at night Tuesday the 7th, and that Furlong asked him to go and stay at his house that night, as his wife was frightened about something. He did so. About 9 o’clock Furlong came in but remained only a minute. Wednesday night [September 8, 1886] Furlong, Lofton and Sharon stayed out nearly all night. Thursday night they left about 8 o’clock, returned about 9 o’clock, changed clothes, putting on their worst clothes and old shoes, and left again. They were absent until three o’clock. Witness did not –e —- — — morning their pants were wet and muddy to their knees and Sharon’s coat was wet to the pockets. He questioned them but they would not tell where they had been or what they had done.

None of the witnesses saw the man after he died, nor were any of them willing to say that he had been killed, although they felt satisfied that such was the case. The main actors in this brutal tragedy were absent, one in his grave and the other two had fled.

After hearing the testimony of the coroner, the jury and a number of white and colored men scoured the woods and bays and branches for miles, in search of the missing man, but without success. Not a trace was found as to where his body had been hidden.

When the party returned to the mill, it was given as a rumor that the man had been buried in the horse lot, just back of the commissary

Several men, with iron rods, went to the lot and probed it. In one place the rod went down 1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-5— feet in loose earth, but it was not thought at the time it be the man’s grave. It being late in the afternoon [Wednesday, September 22, 1886] the jury adjourned to Saturday, to await the arrival of important witnesses. Just as Alapaha was reached Mr. James Cross came galloping in and announced that the body had been found in the horse lot where the iron rod had sunk in the ground. Several colored men were sent back to guard the body till Thursday morning.

Thursday [September 23, 1886] about nine o’clock the coroner and jury returned to Furlong’s mill. The jury at once repaired to the horse lot and were soon at work exhuming the body of Jesse Webb, this being the name by which the murdered man was said to be known.

After digging a depth of two —and a half or three feet, in the —- –st corner of the lot, between —- — —d and the forage house —- — -ands near the railroad —- —- body was re—– —– —- on his —- — —- —————————- out property. Decomposition had set in and his flesh would peel off at a touch. With the aid of crocus sacks, which were placed under him, the end of which extended out on either side, he was lifted out of the grave and placed in a box.  On examination the skull was found crushed in on the left side just above the ear, seemingly with a large hammer, perhaps a sledge-hammer. On the right side, a short distance from the forehead, and about an inch from the center of the head the skull was also crushed in, the hole being fully an inch and a half in circumference. In the man’s mouth was a roll of waste, such as is used for packing the boxes on car wheels.  The evidence showed that Furlong, Lofton and Sharon were at the commissary about midnight Thursday night, when Furlong asked first Gammage and then Simmons to go with him that night.  What they did after that is left to conjecture, but the presumptive evidence is that they prepared themselves and proceeded to where the wounded negro lay, rammed the waste into his mouth and down his throat, so that he could not cry out when struck, and then crushed in his skull, dragged him a hundred yards through the woods — buggy, hauled him to the lot and buried him.  1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-6All this was done inside of three hours.

The jury of the inquest will sit in Alapaha to-day, when doubtless a verdict will be reached.

This is beyond doubt the most brutal murder that has ever darkened the annals of out county.  This unoffending negro was handcuffed and when he made an effort to regain his freedom, was pursued and shot after he was caught. Paralyzed in every limb, he lay in a dense swamp from about an hour before sundown, Tuesday evening, September 7th, until the following Thursday night at 12 o’clock. During all this time he had one drink of water and one meal, notwithstanding he was less than four hundred yards from several houses. Thursday night, at midnight, three white demons, braced with whiskey, which was the real cause of the crime, advanced through the gloomy swamp to where the helpless man lay and murdered him in the manner already stated.

Furlong, the leader in this horrible murder, is in his grave, but his accomplices are still at large. No time should be lost in bringing them to justice.

The first part of this article was — — would be an inquest.

Nathan Bridges and Jesse Woolbright, two colored men of this place, deserve honorable mention for their unceasing efforts to aid the jury in finding the body and for their attention to the jury while hearing evidence.

Related Posts:

The Ghost of Ben Furlong, Berrien County Desperado

More on Berrien County, GA Desperado, Benjamin William Furlong

Back Story on Benjamin William Furlong

The Vanceville Affair

Ben Furlong’s Ghost Haunted Conscience of Berrien Residents

Southern Georgia: Railroad Pamphlet

The Haints of Berrien County

More Haints of Berrien County

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Alapaha Star Reports 1886 Demise of Ben Furlong

Ben Furlong (circa 1854-1886),
Desperado of Berrien County, GA

Ben Furlong was perhaps the most notorious outlaw ever known in Berrien County, GA. Furlong, a sawmill man when he wasn’t on the bottle, frequented the communities along the tracks of the Brunswick & Western Railroad – Sniff, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Enigma and Vanceville.

brunswick-and-western

The Brunswick & Western Railroad linked the communities of northern Berrien County with Brunswick, GA to the east and Albany GA to the west, and connected with the larger Plant Railway.

Furlong was a philandererwife beater and a killer, wanted for dozens of criminal charges including the shooting of B&W engineer Chuck Brock and passenger Will Harrell, and cutting the throat of another passenger.  It was said he committed his first murder at the age of 15. Some said after his demise his ghost haunted the scene of his final, heinous crime.

After his September 24, 1886 death  Furlong’s infamy was literally told around the world. But the most detailed accounting of  Furlong’s final days was published in the Alapaha Star, Berrien County’s own “splendid newspaper” edited by Irishman J. W. Hanlon (Hanlon had previously served as editor of the Berrien County News,  Albany Medium, and later edited the Quitman Sun and wrote humorous works under the pen name Bob Wick).

 

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Alapaha Star

October 2, 1886

MURDER AND SUICIDE

A Negro and — the Body In His Stock Lot – Suicide —- The Negroe’s Body Found —- —- – Inquest – A Horrified —- Etc.

Friday evening of last week [September 24, 1886], after the Star had gone to press news reached town that B. W. Furlong, who has been conducting a saw mill at sniff in this county, was dead, from the effects of a dose of laudanum, taken with suicidal intent. Before going to his room about twelve o’clock he asked his wife to forgive him for all he had ever done, and told her that he would go away from there in a few days and begin a new life. He called his children to him and spoke kindly to them and asked them not to disturb him, as he wanted to take a long sleep. He then went to his room, closed the door and, it is supposed, took the fatal dose. Later in the afternoon some one entered the —m, on hearing a strange —– — —– — dead.

Mr. Furlong had been drinking heavily for some weeks, and his creditors, knowing his business to be in a shaky condition, a day or two before his death had his property attached. Mr. Silas O’Quin, of this place, went down Friday morning to levy on some of his property, and found him rational, but wild-looking. He informed Mr. O’Quin that he had shot a negro about two weeks previous to that time and it was supposed that he was dead. This conversation occured about 11 a. m.

Mr. Furlong’s body was taken to Waresboro Sunday morning [September 26, 1886] for interment.

Immediately after his death rumors of the killing of the negro began to circulate, and on Friday evening [September 24, 1886], for the first time, they reached Alapaha. It seems that Furlong had been short of hands for several weeks.  A negro boarded the B. & W. R. R. at some point and stated that he was hunting work, and that he had no1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-2a money. The conductor, knowing that Furlong needed hands, took the negro to Sniff and turned him over to —- was taking to Furlong got off —-Willachoochee,
where he had work. The negro objected strenuously to being put off, and refused to work. Shortly after the train left, the negro walked off in the direction of Willacoochee, but was soon discovered by Furlong, who brought him back, handling him pretty rough in doing so.

Furlong then handcuffed him. That evening, after dark, according to report, the negro slipped out of the commissary and had gone some distance out on the tram-road when he was missed. He was still handcuffed. Lofton, a white man, in Furlong’s employ, discovered the fleeing negro and showed Furlong the direction he had taken. Furlong pursued him with a double-barreled gun, and in a short time the report of the gun was heard. Furlong returned without the negro. Before he reached the mill he met a mulatto who was a trusted employe, who had started after Furlong, hoping to prevent him from shooting the negro. Furlong told him that he had shot the negro and that if he divulged it, he, Furlong, had men there who would swear that he, the mulatto, did the shooting. Later in the night Lofton and the mulatto were sent by Furlong to the wounded man —- — ——— –. — ——- was shot through the neck and was completely paralyzed, except his tongue. When he saw Lofton he said: “if it hadn’t been for you Mr. Furlong would not have shot me.” This mulatto says he carried the wounded man something to eat later in the night. This was Tuesday night. It is reported that the negro lay there until Thursday night, when he disappeared. That night Furlong ordered out three mules, one for a wagon and two to be saddled. Where they went is not known, but the supposition is that the mission was to take the body to some deep water, weight it and sink it out of sight.

Lofton has fled, and his whereabouts are unknown. It is said that he is well connected in Atlanta. The mulatto is named Jim Simmons and is here.

Last Sunday [September 26, 1886] a crowd of whites and blacks went down to the Alapaha river and dragged for the body of the missing 1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-3anegro at the bridge at Moore’s old mill, but without success.

It is now rumored that the —- was concealed in a branch — of the mill.

But those rumors would turn out to be wrong, the mill branch concealed no body. An inquest into the fate of Jesse Webb was about to uncover the ultimate cause of death and the true location of the body.

 

Related Posts:

Ben Furlong’s Ghost Haunted Conscience of Berrien Residents

The ghost of  desperado Ben Furlong was said to haunt the grounds of an old Berrien County sawmill when he died in 1886. But it was the lack of justice for his victims that haunted the conscience of Berrien County residents.

A short editorial piece appeared in the Alapaha Star along with other details of Furlong’s crime.

Three weeks ago, B. W. Furlong brutally murdered a defenseless negro and with the aid of J. M. Lofton and Thomas Sharon buried the body in a horse lot with a hundred and —–y yards of his house.  A number of persons, white and black, had every reason to believe that a murder had been committed in their midst, and yet not a syllable was uttered that might lead to the punishment of the perpetrators of this great crime until the principal actor had hurled himself into eternity and his accomplices had fled. The first news of this terrible tragedy that reached Alapaha was on Friday evening of last week, the evening on which Furlong died. At the inquest some of the witnesses testified that they knew they would be killed if they mentioned their suspicion to outsiders, and it was this fear of Furlong that clogged the machine of the law for three weeks. 

Henceforth, let every man, black and white, in Berrien county, to bring the offenders against the law —–punishment —————crimes as the one mentioned above.

 

 

 

 

The Vanceville Affair

Reader comments on this blog have expressed further interest in the life and death of Benjamin William Furlong, perhaps Berrien County’s most infamous desperado of all time.

See The Ghost of Ben Furlong, Berrien County DesperadoMore on Berrien County, GA Desperado, Benjamin William Furlong, and   Back Story on Benjamin William Furlong

In particular, there have been questions about what became of the children  of Ben W. Furlong and his wife, Pocahontas, after his death in 1886.

Their youngest son, Jack Alsea “Joe” Furlong was born in February, 1886 just months, before his death. The mid decade birth of Joe Furlong explains his early childhood absence from census records –  he was born after the 1880 census, and the 1890 census records for Georgia were lost in a fire.

The father, Benjamin William Furlong, desperado of Berrien County, GA, died in 1886 by his own hand. Afterward, it appears that the children of Ben and Pocahontas were divided among other family members for care.  Jack Alsea “Joe” Furlong went to live with his Aunt, Ellen Furlong Gray, and her husband, Benjamin B. Gray. Benjamin Gray operated a sawmill at Pinebloom about a mile from Willacoochee, GA. He was also the owner of the Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta Railroad, and principal owner of the Nashville Sparks Railroad.

Jack Alsea “Joe” Furlong is enumerated as Josie A Furlong  in the census of 1900 in the household of B.B. Gray and Ellen Gray residing at Willacoochee, GA.

Later, Jack Alsea “Joe” Furlong regarded and referred to his Gray foster parents, “Ben and Ellen,” as his real parents, and his cousins with whom he was raised, as his siblings. You can view photos of B.B. Gray and Ellen Gray at the Berrien County Historical Foundation: Historical Photos website.

The transcripts of 1883 news clippings below provide further details on the Benjamin William Furlong and the brutal beating of his wife, Pocahontas,  which roused the citizens of Wiregrass Georgia.  The news stories establish that Benjamin B. Gray is the brother-in-law of Benjamin William Furlong.

“Vanceville, at the 125 mile-post, is a new and bright looking little settlement. Here Furlong Bros. have a sawmill which cuts 15,000 feet of lumber per day. They have a tramway started, the engine and iron on the ground. The country is rolling and beautiful. There are many lovely building sites on this road Nature has made them beautiful, and in a few short years our eyes may be permitted to see beautiful gardens, vineyards and orchards, where now the wiregrass flourishes. Lawrence & Guest have here a turpentine farm. Vanceville is their postoffice. They run twenty crops. Mayo & Sons have also a turpentine farm of twenty crops.” – Railroad Advertising Pamphlet

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Brunswick Advertiser and Appeal
August 4, 1883 pg 6

Wife Beating.

A disgraceful affair occured at Vanceville, on the B. & W. road, the past week.  Mr. Ben Furlong, becoming enraged with his, chastised bere severely with a whip, and because she attempted to get away, struck her with the butt of the whip, knocking her senseless.  He then stood in his doorway with a double-barrel gun and told all outsiders to keep off or he would kill the first man who attempted to enter.  He remained master of the situation for several days, and finally surrendered.  Meanwhile his poor wife was lying extremely ill without attention.     Later. – He has had a preliminary trial and been bound over in the sum of $2500.

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Americus Weekly Republican
August 10, 1883  Pg 2

The Albany News and Advertiser says that Furlong, the man who beat his wife near Tifton last week, was tried before a committal court Wednesday and bound over in the sum of $2,500 for assault with intent to murder.  Judge G. J. Wright, of that city, was retained by the prosecution.

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Albany Weekly News and Advertiser
August 11, 1883  Pg 3

The more we hear of the Furlong wife beating, at Furlong’s Mill, the more diabolical it appears.  Furlong, it is said, most brutally beat his wife, and stamped her to such an extent that it is thought she will die.  We have heard related the particulars of her injuries, and they are of such a nature that we can not publish them.  The idea of such a brute being out under bond is perfectly horrible.

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Americus Weekly Republican
August 17, 1883  Pg 3

Ben Furlong was in the city to consult with his lawyer – Col. W. A. Hawkins and Ed. G. Simmons, Esq.,  – Friday.

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Americus Weekly Republican
August 17, 1883 Pg 2

The Vanceville Affair.

Worth Star.

     We have so far abstained from mentioning the Vanceville affair, because we have heard several versions of it, and feared we might publish the wrong one.  We hoped to get a correct report of the matter in last week’s Berrien News, but as it was not mentioned, we must confine ourself to what we know to be true, i.e., that Furlong beat his wife unmercifully, that he was arrested, that a committal trial was held and that he was bound over to the Superior Court in the sum of $2,500.     We have no plea to make in behalf of Furlong, for there is none that could be made, but we want to place the blame for this brutal outrage where it properly belongs – at the door of whiskey. Had Ben Furlong not been drunk, his hand would never have been raised against his defenseless wife.  A gentleman who lived neighbor to him a number of years said to us the other day: “I have known Ben Furlong a number of years, and I never had a better neighbor and friend in my life, and all the time I lived near him I never heard of him mistreating any one.”     No, it was not Ben Furlong who beat and bruised his wife, it was a hellish demon created within him by a too free indulgence in whiskey – that great and towering curse, the priviledge to sell which, according to some of the whiskey advocates, was purchased by the blood of our ancestors.  Out upon such a blasphemous charge against the honored dead! An intelligent people will never believe that our ancestors shed a single drop of blood in order to bequeath such a blighting, withering curse to their posterity.     We point to the bruised and bleeding wife of Ben Furlong, and charge the crime to WHISKEY.

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Albany Weekly News and Advertiser
October 20, 1883 Pg 3

On the Rampage Again.

Furlong, the Wife Beater, Jumps His Bond.

    B. W. Furlong, who will be remembered by the readers of the NEWS AND ADVERTISER as the man who beat his wife o mercilessly at his home in Berrien county, on the B. & W. railroad, some time ago, and who spent several days in jail in this city, has been on the rampage again for the last week or two, and although under bond to keep the peace and for his appearance at the next term of Berrien Superior Court, has been into two or three more difficulties and making himself a nuisance generally.     Upon learning that Furlong was not keeping his promise to them, and that he was behaving badly again three of his bondsmen, Messrs. W.J. Nelson, of Alapaha, B. B. Gray, of Gray’s Mills, and Col. L. J. Boyt, of Dougherty county, notified the Sheriff of Berrien county that they would not remain on his bond any longer.  The Sheriff refused to relieve the of their responsibility, however, until Furlong was delivered to him.     With the intention of arresting Furlong and delivering him over to the Sheriff, Mr. Nelson, accompanied by Mr. A. J. McCrea, Marshal of Alapaha, started Sunday night to Albany, where the expected to find Furlong.  They met him at Sumner, however, and started back to Alapaha with him.  They did not tell him what their purpose was, but he evidently suspected that something was wrong, and just after the train started, jumped off, and has since been making himself scarce.

LATER.

    Furlong came to the city on Tuesday night, and was jailed  between 10 and 11 o’clock.  He got drunk and  ‘rared round’ considerably, abusing his best friends and making himself disagreeable generally.  Some of his bondsmen were in the city and had him arrested for the purpose of giving him up and getting released from his bond. Marshal Westbrook and Policeman Bennet made the arrest, and carried him to jail.  He swore at first that he would not go to jail, but he went all the same.     Furlong is wanted in Berrien county, but will not be turned over to the authorities of that county until he is either tried on three indictments which stand against him in Dougherty, or gets his cases continued and makes a new bond.  Two indictments for carrying concealed weapons were found against him at the last April term of Dougherty Superior Court, and Messrs. C. M. Mayo and John Ray became his bondsmen.  There is also an indictment against him here for assault and battery. Wednesday morning Messrs. Mayo and Ray notifed Sheriff Edwards that they desired to be relieved as his bondsmen.  This leaves him without bond in the cases standing against him here, and he will be kept in jail until tried unless he succeeds in giving a new bond.  He will probably be tried for his offenses here at the present term of the Superior Court.
We learn that his brother-in-law, Mr. B.B. Gray, who is also one of his bondsmen in the case that grew out of his assault upon his wife, desires to get him back to Berrien county for the purpose of having him committed to the lunatic asylum – he being satisfied that the man’s reason has been destroyed by strong drink.  It matters not whether his conduct be due to insanity or to liquor, something ought to be done with him, for he has gotten to be a man of such violent disposition and habits that he is not only a nuisance to his friends, but a terror to the community.

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Brunswick Advertiser and Appeal
October 20, 1883 pg 6

B. W. Furlong, who will be remembered as the man who beat his wife so severely some time since in Berrien county, and who was in our city a few weeks since raising quite a stir, has been behaving so badly of late that his bondsmen concluded to give him up, and started with him to the Sheriff, but he jumped from the train, and, up to this writing, has not put in his appearance.  His bondsmen in Brunswick will feel somewhat uneasy, as he will be wanted here at the next term of court to answer certain charges.     Later. – He has since been captured in Albany, and is now in jail.

Related Posts:

Back Story on Benjamin William Furlong

Previous posts on this blog have concerned 1880s Berrien County desperado Benjamin William Furlong.  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.)

Ben Furlong was a  wiregrass  sawmill man and at the same time an outlaw whose infamous deeds were published around the globe. While Ben Furlong had no direct connection to Rays Mill (nka Ray City), GA  he was well known to the citizens of Berrien County, and to all of south Georgia. His ‘stomping grounds’ centered around the town of Alapaha, which in the 1880s was the rail head for Berrien County.  Anyone doing business with the Brunswick & Western Railroad risked crossing paths with Furlong. Indeed, his orneriness was known all up and down the B & W line from Brunswick to Albany.  Dozens of criminal charges were levied against him in the Superior courts of Berrien and Dougherty counties.

As previously told, his final victim, Jesse Webb, was  shot, knifed, brutalized and murdered at Sniff Mill, situated on the route of the Brunswick & Albany Railroad near the county line between Berrien and Coffee counties.  Furlong was directly implicated in the murders of at least three other men, and his brother and partner, John Furlong, was gunned down in Texas after fleeing Georgia.  Ben Furlong was feared by foes, friends, lovers and lawmen.  Previous posts provide additional information on Ben Furlong’s “life of singular desperation.”

Ben Furlong was born about 1854 in Louisiana.  Some time before 1869 he came to Georgia with other Furlong family members.  By the age of 15 he was working for his brother-in-law ” in a responsible position” at a sawmill located in Pine Bloom, GA in  Coffee County.  The timber trade is one that he would follow for his short life, when he was not pre-occupied with drinking, drugs, murder, or other mayhem.

Furlong fled Pine Bloom after a fight in which he cut the throat of one of the sawmill workers. He was gone from the area for several years, but eventually returned. He was never charged with the murder.

Later he worked at other Berrien county sawmills at Vanceville and Sniff, GA.

Detail of Augustus S. Mitchell's 1883 County Map of the States of Georgia and Alabama, showing location of Vanceville, Alapaha, and Rays Mill, GA. The mapped location of Pine Bloom is in error - the actual location of Pine Bloom was about two miles east of Willacoochee. [Special thanks to Bryan Shaw for this explanation - see comment below.]

Detail of Augustus S. Mitchell’s 1883 County Map of the States of Georgia and Alabama, showing location of Vanceville, Alapaha, and Rays Mill, GA. The mapped location of Pine Bloom is in error – the actual location of Pine Bloom was about two miles east of Willacoochee. [Special thanks to Bryan Shaw for this explanation – see comment below.]

1880 Census enumeration of Ben W. Furlong in Ware County near Waycross, GA.

1880 Census enumeration of Ben W. Furlong in Ware County near Waycross, GA.

It appears that Ben Furlong married sometime before 1874. In the census of 1880 he and  his wife, Pocahontas (age 22), were enumerated in Ware County in the 1231 Georgia Militia District, near Waycross, GA. Ben was working there as a “timber sawyer” while Pocahontas was keeping house.  Their children were John W. Furlong (age 5), William Furlong (age 3), Benjamin Furlong (age 2) and Charles W.  Furlong (age 4 months.) (see  10th census, 1880, Georgia at Archive.org)

1881 South Georgia Pamphlet.

1881 South Georgia Pamphlet.

The following year, when Ben Furlong was about 27 years old, may have been the high point in his short life. (Here, the timeline of his documented activities seems to differ from the chronology given in the accounts of his life that were written after his death.)   That year, 1881, he and his brother, John Furlong,  were operating a sawmill at Vanceville, GA,  a stop on the Brunswick & Albany railroad a few miles west of Alapaha, GA.  The Brunswick & Albany provided a direct connection to the port at Brunswick, GA and access to world markets. There was a Navy yard at Brunswick, and it was said, “Hardly any other point along the Atlantic, from Maine to Florida, affords such facilities for ship building, with an unlimited supply of materials at hand.”  At Vanceville, the Furlongs were in the perfect position to profit from the demand for lumber and naval stores.

The railroad pamphlet Southern Georgia described Vanceville GA:

Vanceville, at the 125 mile-post, is a new and bright looking little settlement. Here Furlong Bros. have a sawmill which cuts 15,000 feet of lumber per day. They have a tramway started, the engine and iron on the ground. The country is rolling and beautiful. There are many lovely building sites on this road. Nature has made them beautiful, and in a few short years our eyes may be permitted to see beautiful gardens, vineyards and orchards, where now the wiregrass flourishes.

1883 Stock certificate of the Reppard Land, Lumber & Sawmill Company of Georgia. R. B. Reppard provided financial backing for the sawmill operated by John and Ben Furlong at Vanceville, GA.

1883 Stock certificate of the Reppard Land, Lumber & Sawmill Company of Georgia. R. B. Reppard provided financial backing for the sawmill operated by John and Ben Furlong at Vanceville, GA.

Furthermore, the Furlong Brothers secured the financial backing of  R. B. Reppard, a timber magnate of Savannah.  Reppard’s company, the Reppard Land, Lumber & Sawmill Company of Georgia,  owned a dozen sawmills and vast tracts of timber in South Georgia. Reppard invested $30,000 dollars in a sawmill at Vanceville, and set up Ben and John Furlong to run it.

It was perhaps the very success and prosperity of their enterprise that brought about Ben Furlong’s downfall.  Later newspaper reports asserted, “The charge of such a large business turned Furlong’s head completely. He began drinking heavily, neglected his wife and family, and took to the companionship of wantons.”

By July of 1882 the growing aberration in Ben Furlong’s behavior was becoming apparent to everyone. Reports of his alcohol fueled aggression began appearing in the press, even in staid publications such as The  Sunny South,  a weekly literary magazine published in Atlanta from 1874 to 1907.

Sunny South
July 1, 1882

B. W. Furlong a lumber merchant of Vanesville, has been arrested in Albany for shooting at Mr. Will Harrell on the train. Whiskey.

At the western terminus of the B& W railroad  the local newspaper, The Albany News and Advertiser, gave an expanded account of the shooting:

Atlanta Weekly Constitution
July 11, 1882 Pg 3

Shooting on a Train

From the Albany News and Advertiser.
    B. W. Furlong, a prominent lumber man who operates at Vanceville, on the Brunswick and Albany road, was arrested in Albany on Thursday night, at the insistence of Mr. Will Harrell, who swore out a warrant charging assault with intent to murder.  Both parties came up on the train that evening and got into a row with each other. Furlong was quite drunk, drew a pistol and fired at Harrell.  Quite a row ensued before matters grew quiet.  When the train reached Albany the warrant was sworn and the arrest made, as stated.  Furlong was not incarcerated, but was allowed liberty under the surveillance of an attending officer.  He claims to have been crazed by drink, and did not know what he was doing.  He was brought before Judge Warren late yesterday afternoon and waived a committal trial.  Bond was fixed and given for his appearance here ond day next week.

In the summer of 1883, further stories about the excesses and abuses of Ben Furlong were appearing in newspapers all over the state, from The Valdosta Times, The Brunswick Advertiser,  The Columbus  Daily Enquirer, to The Atlanta Weekly Constitution :

The Atlanta Weekly Constitution
August 7, 1883 pg 2

Albany was full of rumors Sunday and Monday to the effect that a Mr. Furlong, of Furlong’s mill, about four miles this side of Tifton, had cruelly whipped his wife, and when she ran from him, he took the large end of his buggy whip, with which he had been beating her, and struck her on the head.  One report was to the effect that he killed her, but it was learned since that such was not true.  The deed was committed on Thursday, and Furlong defied arrest.  A large posse of men, however went down and arrested him.

The Atlanta Weekly Constitution
August 9, 1883 pg 2

A white man named Furlong, in Coffee county, brutally beat his wife – Mrs. Furlong, is in a deplorable condition – not expected to live. Her body is only a mass of bruised flesh, while one of her jaws is broken.  The cause of the trouble was a woman – another man’s wife, with whom Furlong was too intimate.  She has been arrested as an accessory to the crime.

 The Columbus Daily Enquirer
August 7, 1883 Pg 3 Brunswick Advertiser:  A disgraceful affair occurred at Vanceville on the Brunswick and Western road, the past week.  Mr. Ben Furlong, becoming enraged with his wife, chastised her severely with a whip, and because she attempted to get away struck her with the butt of the whip, knocking her senseless. He then stood in his doorway with a double-barrel gun and told all outsiders to keep off, or he would kill the first man who attempted to enter.  He remained master of the situation for several days, and finally surrendered.  Meanwhile his poor wife was lying extremely ill without attention.

By the fall, Furlong was again in trouble in Albany, GA the western terminus of the Brunswick & Albany, which by then had become the Brunswick & Western. The story from The Albany News was repeated in The Atlanta Weekly Constitution:

Atlanta Weekly ConstitutionOctober 18, 1883 Albany News:  B. W. Furlong, who beat his wife so mercilessly in Berrien county some time ago, and who spent several days in jail in this city, has been on the rampage again for the last week or two, and although under bond to keep the peace and for his appearance at the next term of Berrien superior court, has been into two or three more difficulties and making himself a nuisance generally.  Upon learning that Furlong was not keeping his promise to them, and that he was behaving badly again, three of his bondsmen, Messrs. W. J. Nelson, of Alapaha, B. B. Gray, of Gray’s  mills, and Colonel J. L. Boyt, of Dougherty county, notified the sheriff of Berrien county that they would not remain on his bond any longer.  The sheriff refused to relieve them of their responsibility, however, until Furlong was delivered to him.  With the intention of arresting Furlong and delivering him over to the sheriff, Mr. Nelson, accompanied by Mr. A. J. McRea, marshal of Alapaha, started Sunday night to Albany, where they expected to find Furlong.  They met him at Sumner, however, and started back to Alapaha with him.  They did not tell him what their purpose was, but he evidently suspected that something was wrong, and just after the train started, jumped off, and has since been making himself scarce.

A few days later, The Cuthbert Enterprise supplied a brief follow-up report which was repeated in The Atlanta Constitution:

Atlanta Constitution
October 20, 1883 Pg 2

B. W. Furlong, the wife-beater of Berrien County, has been surrendered to the sheriff by his bondsmen. Two indictments against him at the last April term of Dougherty superior court, and Messrs. C. M. Mayo and John Ray became his bondsmen.  There is also an indictment against him for assault and battery.

Columbus Daily Enquirer
October 23, 1883 Pg 3

Furlong the wife-beater, got drunk in Albany, Wednesday night, and has been surrendered by his bondsmen who thought that he had left them in the lurch.

Alarmed by Furlong’s scandalous and violent behavior, R.B. Reppard sent a man to Vanceville to take over the operation of the lumber mill. Ben’s brother, John, didn’t wait to be discharged and absconded with $10,000 dollars of the company’s funds.   He was later shot and killed by a Texas lawman in a dispute over payment in a land auction.

Meanwhile, Ben Furlong’s “reckless and dangerous” behavior continued to infuriate his neighbors.  In the summer of 1884, O.R. Giddens came gunning for Furlong, seeking satisfaction for some wrong. This time fate intervened, and the man was killed before he could confront Furlong.  Perhaps Giddens’ rage drove him to the fatal error…another man killed after crossing paths with Furlong.

The New York Times
June 17, 1884

Vindictive Mr. Giddens Killed.

Albany, Ga. Jun 16.  The night train on the Brunswick and Western Railroad ran over and killed O. R. Giddens, a well-known citizen of Berrien County, near Allapaha.  Mr. Giddens had a grudge against a man named Furlong, and it is claimed, was in waiting for the purpose of killing him. The train was delayed several hours, however, and Mr. Giddens, in walking up and down the track to pass away the time, fell asleep on the track and so came to his death.

Detail from an 1895 railroad map, shows the location, from East to West on the line of the Brunswick & Western Railroad, of Sniff, Alapaha, Enigma, Vanceville, and Sumner,GA.

Detail from an 1895 railroad map, shows the location, from East to West on the line of the Brunswick & Western Railroad, of Sniff, Alapaha, Enigma, Vanceville, and Sumner,GA.

A detail from the   George Cram Railroad and County Map of Georgia, 1885  shows the location of Sniff, Georgia.  According to The Mercantile Agency special edition of Bullinger’s postal and shippers guide for the United States and Canada, January 1883 edition,  Sniff, GA was located in Coffee County, placing it on the east bank of the Alapaha River.  Sniff, GA would be the stage for the final desperate acts of Benjamin William Furlong. In June of 1886,  state newspapers were again reporting on Ben Furlong’s violent encounters,  this time involving the shooting of a Brunswick and Western railroad engineer.

Milledgeville Union Recorder
June 22, 1886 pg 6

Probably Fatal Difficulty

News reached the city [Albany, GA] by the Brunswick train on Wednesday night that B. W. Furlong shot Church Brock, at Sniff, on Wednesday morning.
    The News and Advertiser was unable to get full and reliable particulars of the difficulty, but it seems that Furlong owed Brock some money, and that when the latter asked him for it on Wednesday morning hot words followed.  Furlong cursed Brock, using very severe language, and when Brock started to strike him Furlong drew his pistol and shot him.  The ball taking effect in the abdomen.
   One of the News and Advertiser’s informants stated that Brock had a monkey-wrench in his hand, and another said he did not think he had anything.  We give both statements with knowing which, or whether in fact either, is strictly correct.
    It is thought that Brock will die.
    Furlong is well known in Albany, and Brock has been an engineer on the B. & W. Railroad, but was running as a fireman on a freight train on Wednesday.  He is a Brunswick man, and was carried home on Wednesday.  – Albany News

The Macon Weekly Telegraph
June 29, 1886  Pg 5

    John Brock, an engineer on the Brunswick and Western railroad, was shot while the train was stopping at Lee’s Mill on Wednesday afternoon, by Ben W. Furlong, a mill manager.  The men had some difficulty  previously, on account of a small sum alleged to be due Furlong by Brock, and when the train stopped, Brock went into the depot, and furlong followed, abusing Brock. The latter was about to strike him, when Furlong pulled out a self-cocker and shot Brock, the ball entering his right side and passing out on the left below the navel.  The wound is painful, but not serious.

Just a few weeks following the shooting of Church Brock, Furlong’s despicable behavior slid even further into the depths. The End of a Noted Desperado told the story of Furlong’s torturous execution of Jesse Webb in early September, 1886. Before that month was out Furlong took his own life, overdosing on Laudanum.  Laudanum, essentially a liquid heroin, was also known as opium tincture or tincture of opium. It was an alcoholic herbal preparation of opium that was popular in patent medicines in the late 1800s.     The obituary of Benjamin William Furlong appeared in the Macon Weekly Telegraph:

Macon Weekly Telegraph
September 28, 1886   Pg 11

DEATH OF B. W. FURLONG.

A Well Known Mill Man Ends His Life With a Dose of Laudanum.

Albany News.
    News reached the city yesterday morning of the death of Mr. B. W. Furlong, at his home at Sniff, on the Brunswick and Western railroad, on Friday evening.  He died from the effects of a dose of laudanum which he took, it is supposed with suicidal intent.
    Coupled with other reports as to what caused him to end his own life, it is rumored that he killed a negro not many days ago and sank his body in the Alapaha river.  He had been on a protracted spree just before his death, and had involved himself in a good deal of trouble.
    Mr. Furlong was well known in this city and all along the line of the Brunswick and Western railroad, having been engaged in the saw mill business on this line of road for several years past.  While he was a very clever and companionable man when sober, he appeared to place no value upon his own life when on one of his protracted sprees, and was generally regarded as a reckless and dangerous man.

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More on Berrien County, GA Desperado, Benjamin William Furlong

By request, an additional follow-up on Benjamin William Furlong.  His ghost was said to haunt the mill where he worked at the time of his last heinous crime.  The location was the “Sniff Mill,”  situated at or near Alapaha, GA on the route of the Brunswick & Albany Railroad.  So far, no additional details as to the actual site of the mill are known.

In 1886, the story of the Berrien County, GA desperado Benjamin W. Furlong made the national newspapers, and was published as far away as Maitland, Australia.

The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser
Thursday 25 November 1886, Pg 7

End of a Noted Desperado.

Allapaha, Ga., Oct. 8.-Benjamin W. Furlong, who committed suicide here two weeks ago, had led a life of singular desperation. From the time when he was a boy to the hour of his death he was a terror to every neighbourhood in which he lived. At the age of 15 a responsible position in a sawmill, owned by his brother-in-law, at Pine Bloom, was given him. One day a coloured teamster was found in his waggon dead, with his throat cut. It was developed that young Furlong had had a quarrel with the teamster, which ended in the tragedy. The murderer disappeared, and was gone several years. When he returned he resumed his desperate career, without ever having been called to account.

A little over two years ago Mr. R. P. Reppard, a wealthy gentleman of Savannah, fitted up a sawmill at Vanceville, on the Brunswick and Albany road, in which he invested 30,000 dols. He placed Ben Furlong and his brother John in charge of it, and, having the utmost confidence in them, left it entirely to their management. The charge of such a large business turned Furlong’s head completely. He began drinking heavily, neglected his wife and family, and took to the companionship of wantons. One day he rode up to his house with a woman from Savannah, and, taking her in, presented her to his wife, saying :

” Pocahontas, how do you like this. Ain’t she a beauty ?”

The dishonored wife broke into tears, whereupon her husband seized her by the hair and dragged her across the floor, stamping upon her and breaking a chair to pieces across her body. The pair then re-entered the buggy and drove off, leaving the wife unconscious upon the floor. There she was found several hours later by some passing neighbors. When her story became know the utmost indignation prevailed. Parties of men started out in pursuit of the recreant husband. He was caught up with at a country house, where he sat with a Winchester rifle across his knee.

” I’ll blow the brains out of the first man who dares to come near me,” he said determinedly.

For several hours the posse stood at a respectful distance, deeming discretion the better part of valor, and then retired and left Furlong master of

the situation.

Mr. Reppard soon became aware of the state of affairs, and dispatched a trusted agent to Vance- ville to take charge of the business. When the agent arrived at the mill he found that John Furlong had received information of his coming, and, had scraped together 10,000 dols of the mill’s money and skipped out for Texas. Three months later news was received of John’s tragic death in that State. He bid in some property at the Sheriff’s sale, and offered part payment in notes.

“That was not in the bargain,” said the Sheriff, “You are a liar,” retorted John.

The reply was a bullet from the Sheriff’s revolver, which pierced John’s heart.

In the meantime Ben Furlong threw off all restraints. Whenever he made his appearance, all the officers seemed to withdraw in his favour. On one occasion he boarded the train bound for Brunswick, and going into the colored coach, took a seat. In front of him sat a negro.

” Throw that cigar out of the window,” ordered Furlong.

” I have paid for my seat and do not want to be disturbed.”

Instantly, Furlong caught the negro by the head, pulled it back over the seat, and made several lunges with his knife into the negro’s throat. Furlong jumped off the car and escaped into the woods.

On another occasion Furlong sought out Engineer Brock on the Brunswick and Albany road, and asked him if he wanted the money which was due him. On Brock making an affirmative reply, Furlong said: “If you do, just take that,” firing at the same time and striking the engineer in the abdomen.

About six months ago Furlong gave some evidence of reformation, to encourage which his friends united and started him once more in the business, with headquarters at Sniff, on the Brunswick and Albany road. But his reformation was of short duration. He always went armed, and would shoot into a crowd of coloured people just for the purpose of seeing them scatter. On September 1 he started on a big debauch, and was so desperate that even his confederates feared him. On the night of Thursday, September 23, he called his wife and children to him, asked them to pardon him for his past bad conduct, and declared that the morning’s light would find him a new man. After kissing them he retired to his room, where he was found, an hour later in a comatose condition, and by his side was an empty laudanum vial. The end came before morning, and with the news of Furlong’s death went rumours of a darker crime. No one would speak for over a week, and then the story came out, which established the fact that Furlong had been driven to suicide because of a murder which he had committed two weeks before, and in the commission of which he had two confederates.

On the down freight train on Sept. 7 was Jesse Webb, coloured, who was in search of employment. He was put off the train at the Sniff mill, where Furlong spotted him as a man who had previously entered into a contract with him. Webb refused to go with Furlong, whereupon the latter seized him, and, handcuffing him, put him under guard of J. M. Lofton, a white man from Atlanta, and Tom Sharon. Webb made a break for liberty, running toward the swamp, with Furlong in full pursuit. A discharge from Furlong’s rifle brought Webb to the ground in a clump of bushes about 400 yards from the house. When Furlong returned to the house he put all under notice that he would kill the first one that “peached.” Furlong, Lofton, and Sharon, each carrying a double-barreled shot- gun, went down to where the wounded negro lay. Furlong, in his desperation, cut the victim’s throat. For three days and three nights they kept the victim there in sight of help and yet giving him none. On the third day they killed him, and dragged the body into the back yard, where it was buried. When the body was exhumed by the Coroner it was found that the skull was crushed in three places. In the man’s mouth was a roll of waste as is used for packing boxes on car wheels.

The strange part of the story is that for three weeks fully fifty men knew of the murder, talked of it among themselves, and yet stood in such mortal dread of Furlong that they did not dare to tell the story until his suicide removed all danger. The two accomplices in the murder have fled the country.

End of a Noted Desperado. (1886, November 25). The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843-1893), p. 7.   http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18898807

End of a Career of Blood. (1886, October 9).  The New York SunQuick View

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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More Haints of Berrien County

Is Berrien County haunted?

The Columbus Daily Enquirer reported on a “mysterious apparition” that appeared in Berrien County, GA in March of 1879:

 

The Berrien county News has information of a ghost of some other mysterious apparition. It says: “On last Sunday night, as Captain Austin and Mr. J.A. Slater were returning from church, they beheld a strange phenomenon, in the shape of a ball of fire, about the size of a half bushel measure. When first seen, it was near the earth, and about five or six hundred yards distant from them. It rose rapidly until it attained a height of fifty feet when it took a northerly course and traveled at the rate of about twenty miles an hour. After going in that direction for perhaps a quarter of a mile, it turned suddenly and came back to where it started. When it arrived over the place where it was first seen it began a vibratory motion and continued it a few moments, when it fell to the earth and became extinct. The light from this strange body was of a pale, whitish color. Our informant assures us that, at a distance of six or eight hundred yards, the light from it plainly revealed the rough bark on the pine trees it passed.

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The Haints of Berrien County

Georgia ghost stories are told far and wide.   Even the New York times reported on Georgia ‘haunts’, or ‘haints’ as they called the spirits in the old days.  Haints of Berrien County include ghostly sawmill men and the Lantern Man of Ray City.  From the 1850’s to the 1890’s, Georgia’s ghosts were found in the press and literature of America.

“Haunted!”said I; “Do people here [in Georgia] really believe in ghosts?”

“Yes,” said the landlord, “There are thousands, both in this state and South Carolina, who believe in them as firmly as they believe in anything. The old time people all believe  in them.”

                                                                           – in The Roving Editor, James Redpath, 1859

One Berrien County, GA ghost story concerns the ghost of murderer Ben W. Furlong. The Furlong story may not be specific to Ray City History, but more information on the subject would still be interesting.

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