Death of Ben Furlong ~ Was it Suicide?

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

As Halloween approaches we revisit the scene of Ben Furlong, who was perhaps  most famous ghost ever to haunt Berrien County.

After the 1886 death of Ben Furlong some said his ghost still haunted the scene of his final, heinous crime. In life, Ben Furlong may have been Berrien County’s  most notorious outlaw.  Furlong, a sawmill man when he wasn’t on the bottle, frequented the communities along the tracks of the Brunswick & Western Railroad – Alapaha, Vanceville and Sniff.   He was a wife beater and a murderer wanted for dozens of criminal charges. His infamous deeds were published around the globe.

Furlong died on Friday, September 24, 1886 from an overdose of laudanum, also known as tincture of opium. The compound was commonly available in the drug stores of Berrien County and elsewhere for just five cents a bottle.

Laudanum bottle

Laudanum bottle

Certainly by  the time of Furlong’s death, the dangerous potency of opioids was well known. Still, some thought Furlong’s laudanum overdose was accidental.

The prevailing opinion in Alapaha, GA, the community that perhaps knew Furlong best, was that he intended to take his own life, either out of a guilty conscience or to escape the hangman.

The October 2, 1886 edition of the Alapaha Star examined the question:

 

Alapaha Star, October 2, 1886 questions death of Ben Furlong

Alapaha Star, October 2, 1886 questions death of Ben Furlong

Alapaha Star
October 2, 1886

Was it Suicide?

    There is a difference of opinion as to whether B. W. Furlong committed suicide, but the preponderating belief is that he did. The murder of the colored man, the closing of his mill by his creditors and the effects of a severe spell of drinking were amply sufficient to —- —– —-perate step of his life – that of self-destruction.
    It is reported that he drank two bottles of laudanum Thursday night, about twenty hours before he died, and that when he sank into the last sleep, his breathing indicated poisoning. Every effort was made to arouse him. He was walked about, slapped and rubbed vigorously, but the seal of death was upon him, and he breathed his last about four hours after he fell asleep.
    We are satisfied that Furlong while temporarily insane from the causes we have mentioned, took his own life.

Related Posts:

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).

 

1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-1a

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:

Tales from the Swamp: Snakes and Skeeters of Berrien County

The editors of Berrien County’s early newspapers were always up for a story that brought attention to their district.

The tall tale was an art form which seemed to required an outrageous allegation and an unimpeachable, civic-minded witness.

One community supporter was William K. Roberts, merchant of Nashville, GA. W. K. “Bill” Roberts was a son of Bryan J. Roberts, pioneer and Indian fighter of old Lowndes county.

Another unabashed promoter of Alapaha, GA was Dr. James A. Fogle:  veteran, physician, innkeeper, Mason, and Justice of the Peace.  Dr. Fogle was a public figure of Berrien County, well known to the citizens of Ray’s Mill. In 1884, he challenged Hardeman Giddens for bragging rights to the fastest horse in Berrien County.

Later that same year, the names of Dr. James A. Fogle and William K. Roberts, among others, were invoked to assure readers of the veracity of a summer tale of Berrien County swamps, snakes and mosquitoes.

June 12, 1884 Leavenworth Weekly Times Attending physician Dr. J. A. Fogle reports "mosquitoe cure" for snake bite in Berrien swamp.

June 12, 1884 Leavenworth Weekly Times. Attending physician Dr. J. A. Fogle, of Alapaha, GA reports “mosquito cure” for snake bite in Berrien swamp.

Leavenworth Weekly Times
June 12, 1884

The Story of a Rattler and a Prominent Citizen of Georgia.

Berrien (Ga.), News.

On last Friday, the 28th ult., Messers. R. Q. Houston, B.R. Johnson, George McMillan, and W. K. Roberts went on a deer hunt in the Alapaha river swamp, about three miles from town. After taking their respective “stands,” Mr. Houston went below about three miles to “drive” up the swamp. When he was near the Brunswick and Western railway bridge which crosses the Alapaha three miles east of this place, on his return, an immense rattlesnake sprang from the bush and buried its fangs in the calf of his leg. He at once called for help, and fortunately Mr. J. P. Loyd, section master, who was having some work done near, heard and responded to his call. By the time Mr. Loyd reached him Mr. Houston’s leg below the knee was swollen to twice its natural size and he was suffering great pain. Mr. L. bound a ligature around the leg above the knee, and then boarded his hand car to come to Alapaha for a physician. Dr. Fogle was soon found and hastened to the scene of suffering. When they reached Mr. Houston’s side, wonderful to relate he was found sweetly sleeping and the swelling was almost gone from his leg. Around him were lying dead nearly a half bushel of mosquitoes, who had drawn the poison from him. The gentlemen, in great surprise, aroused Mr. Houston, who, barring a little weakness from the loss of blood was as well as he ever was. This is a wonderful story, and some may be inclined, just as we were, to doubt it at first, be we are personally acquainted with all the parties mentioned, except Mr. Houston, and we do not believe they would vouch for a story not true in every particular. The snake was killed by the section hands and measured five feet and four inches in length, and had nineteen rattles and a button.

 

 

Gideon Gaskins and the Oak View Hotel

Gideon D. Gaskins

Gideon D. Gaskins was born September 15, 1859 and raised in the vicinity of Ray’s Mill, GA.  His father was William Gaskins and his mother was Elizabeth Clements.  The Berrien County tax digests of 1884-1886 show the twenty-something young Gideon Gaskins in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill district, although he was not a land owner.

On October 17, 1886, Gideon D. Gaskins married Lourene “Lula” Clements in Berrien County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula R. Clements, October 17, 1886, Berrien County, GA

Marriage Certificate of Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula R. Clements, October 17, 1886, Berrien County, GA

Lula was born September 5, 1866, a daughter of John C. Clements  and Mary Patten.

Some time before 1887,  Gideon Gaskins moved his family to Willacoochee, GA where he worked as a merchant.  The 1887 property tax digest show “Giddie” Gaskins owned property in the town of Willacoochee valued at $135, and $25 worth of household furnishings. His stock of merchandise was valued at $300. The 1890 property tax digests show Gaskins’ town property in Willacoochee valued at $200, as well as $50 in household furnishings and $20 in livestock.

An 1898 society item from offered a tongue-in-cheek critique of the Willacoochee merchant’s physique.  Gaskin’s fellow businessmen and neighbors were: Albert Padgett, merchant; William L. Moore, merchant; Joe Vickers, merchant; Henry Paulk, merchant.  Gid Gaskins was apparently leaner and cleaner shaven than his colleagues.

1898 personal mention of Gid Gaskins, merchant of Willacoochee, GA

1898 personal mention of Gid Gaskins, merchant of Willacoochee, GA

Tifton Gazette
June 17, 1898

Clever Joe Vickers is waxing fat, selling good goods and eating fish these days.  The same would be true of our friends Padgett and Moore, but Gid Gaskins is not quite keeping up with the boys in the matter of flesh.  Like Henry Paulk, however, he is better prepared to stand hot weather.

In the census of 1900, Gideon Gaskins gave his occupation as merchant and indicated he was working as a wage employee. By 1902, Willacoochee was a growing concern and Gideon was ready to run his own shop.  He built a brick store in Willacoochee on the south side of the tracks of the Brunswick and Western Railroad. The Brunswick & Western Railroad ran 171 miles from Brunswick, GA to Albany, GA passing through Waynesville, Waycross, Waresboro, Pearson, Sniff, Kirkland, Pinebloom, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Enigma,  Brookfield, Vanceville, Tifton and other towns.  In the 1870s and 80s the Brunswick & Western had been the stomping grounds of the notorious outlaw Ben Furlong; in the 1900s Jack Alsea “Joe” Furlong,  son of Ben Furlong, was  residing at Willacoochee, GA in the household of his foster parents Benjamin B. Gray and Ellen Gray .

 

1902-mar-21-gideon-gaskins-in willacoochee-ga

Tifton Gazette
March 21, 1902

A Growing Town

    Tifton’s sister city Willacoochee is showing more evidence of thrift and interprise than any town along the Brunswick and Western.
    The Bank of Willacoochee has just finished two handsome brick store rooms on either side of the bank building, and these are occupied by D. E. Gaskins and by Carter & Ford.
   Mr. G. D. Gaskins is erecting a handsome brick store, 25×90 feet, as is also Mr. J. J. Vickers, the former on the south and the latter on the north side of the railroad, where his store was burned last Christmas.
   Both these buildings will soon be completed and occupied. Messrs. M. Corbitt and J. F. Shearer have also put a handsome line of groceries in the post office building.
    Several more improvements are contemplated.

Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula Clements had only one child, Mattie Mae Gaskins, born October 10, 1890. A 1904 news clipping from the Tifton Gazette suggests that Mattie Gaskins may have attended the Sparks Institute as a teen ager.

1904-apr-29-gideon-gaskins-of-willacoochee-ga

The 1910 census records show that Gideon’s nephew, Thomas R. Cox, had come to live with the Gaskins in Willacoochee by that time.  It was a banner year for Willacoochee in 1910.  The opening of the line of the Georgia & Florida on October 1, 1908 had brought a second railroad to the town and by 1910 the town was experiencing a boom in construction.  The Peoples Bank building went up, along with half a dozen still-existing brick and wood commercial buildings.  and the Willacoochee Electric Plant. And in 1910,  the Oak View Hotel was built in Willacoochee; Gideon Gaskins would be the proprietor.

The former Oak View Hotel, Willacoochee, GA

The former Oak View Hotel, Willacoochee, GA, with its distinctive jerkinhead (clipped gable) roof line. The jerkinhead design roof was stronger, but more expensive than a conventional hip gable roof.

The former Oak View hotel still stands on the corner of McCranie Street and Gaskins Street in Willacoochee, GA.  The hotel was built in a prime location,  one block south of the tracks of the Brunswick & Western Railroad and two blocks east of the depot of the recently opened Georgia & Florida Railroad.   After 1908, the route of the G&F was from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL  and provided convenient transportation between Willacoochee and Ray City by way of Nashville, GA, a run of about 34 miles. The Gaskins were one of many south Georgia families that shared a Ray City – Willacoochee connection.

The costs of constructing the Oak View Hotel may have strained Gideon D. Gaskins’ finances.  In 1910 he received a judgment of bankruptcy, but later determined that he would be able to make good on all his debts.

1910-apr-29-tfg-gaskins-bankrupt

Tifton Gazette
April 29, 1910

Does Not Appear Bankrupt

     Brunswick, Ga., April 23. – The case of G. D. Gaskins of Willacoochee, recently adjudged to be a bankrupt by the local refferee in bankruptcy, will come up for a hearing in this city on May 2.
    The schedule of liabilities and assets of the bankrupt were recently filed in the court for this district, and they show that he has assets of about $7,450, while his liabilities are only about $2,982.11.
    Some of the indebtedness has been paid off since the filing of the petition, and it is expected that when he comes to the hearing he will offer to pay dollar for dollar.

Despite earlier struggles, business was good in Willacoochee. By 1916 Gideon’s nephew, Thomas R. Cox, had secured a position as bookkeeper for the Bank of Willacoochee. When Cox disappeared in May, 1916 there were allegations of malfeasance.

Gideon D. Gaskins died at his home in Willacoochee, GA on October 23, 1916.

Death of Gideon D. Gaskins reported in the Tifton Gazette

Death of Gideon D. Gaskins reported in the Tifton Gazette

Obituary
The Tifton Gazette

Oct 27, 1916

 G. D. Gaskins, Willacoochee.
Willacoochee, Ga., October 24.-(Special.)- G .D. Gaskins, proprietor of the Oak View hotel and a well-known citizen of this county, died at his home here last night about 6 o’clock. He is survived by a wife, one daughter, Miss Mattie Mae Gaskins, of Willacoochee; four brothers, Bart, Tom and John Gaskins of Ray City, and Bryan Gaskins, of Sparks, and three sisters, Mrs. Ida Sirmans, and Mrs. Catherine Roberts of Nashville, and Mrs. Mary Cox of Ray City. The funeral was held at 3 o’clock this afternoon, followed by the interment here.

The grave of Gideon D. Gaskins lies in the Willacoochee City Cemetery.

Grave of Gideon D. Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

Grave of Gideon D. Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

The information from the grave marker is somewhat problematic. First, the given name on the grave does not follow the expected spelling –  “Gidian” instead of “Gideon.” Second, the date of death on the grave -March 21, 1916 – does not match with obituaries published in local and state newspapers which clearly establish the date of death as October 23, 1916.  It appears that the marker on the grave of Gideon D. Gaskins was placed well after the time of his death, perhaps after the time of his wife’s death, and that the date of his passing or even the spelling of his name was not well known to those tending his grave.

After the death of Gideon D. Gaskins his widow, Lula Clements Gaskins, operated the Oak View Hotel for a few years, then returned to Ray City, GA with her daughter, Mattie Mae Gaskins.   They lived in a house on Main Street, Ray City, until Lula’s death in 1947.

Grave of Lula Clements Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

Grave of Lula Clements Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

Dr. Julian ~ Railway Surgeon

For a brief period in the late 1890s, Dr. Bailey Fraser Julian, Jr. made his practice as one of the Medical Men of Ray’s Mill (now known as Ray City). A fire on the night of Monday, October 3, 1898 burned out his drug store and office (see Dr. B.F. Julian Burned Out at Ray’s Mill).

For some time Dr. Julian made his home in Clinch County, GA. He also practiced medicine in Tifton, GA and in Florida.

Dr. Julian was active in the Plant System Railway Surgical Association.  The Plant System included the Brunswick & Western Railroad which ran 171 miles from Brunswick, GA to Albany, GA and passed through Waynesville, Waycross, Waresboro, Pearson, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Enigma, Vanceville, and Tifton.

RAILWAY SURGERY.

Railway surgery comes to us as one of the latter-day necessities, in the growing demand for special recognition of certain conditions which have sprung up out of the general order of medicine.  While injuries upon the railway have existed ever since the birth of the iron highway, yet anything peculiar or distinct in regard to them did not impress the observer until, as time advanced and this traffic became general, the injuries multiplied so rapidly that their peculiar features made themselves apparent to those coming into contact with such cases. As all the nowaday specialties have been born in substantially the same manner, so railway surgery takes its stand upon the ground that distinct features mark the necessity for special consideration of the wounds received in railway work. The surgeon who makes a special study of these features and their appropriate treatment, by coming more frequently into contact with this class of injuries, is entitled to be recognized as a railway surgeon.

1899 Hospital Car. Railway Surgery: A Handbook on the Management of Injuries.

1899 Hospital Car. Railway Surgery: A Handbook on the Management of Injuries.

Fig. 5. - 1899 Hospital Car (Plant System, Fla.), looking from the transportation room into the operating room, showing operating table and other arrangements; also shows the passageway to the opposite end of the car.

Fig. 5. – 1899 Hospital Car (Plant System, Fla.), looking from the transportation room into the operating room, showing operating table and other arrangements; also shows the passageway to the opposite end of the car.

Fig. 6. - 1899 Hospital Car (Plant System, Fla.), looking from the operating room into the transportation room, showing beds made up ready for occupancy.

Fig. 6. – 1899 Hospital Car (Plant System, Fla.), looking from the operating room into the transportation room, showing beds made up ready for occupancy.

1899 Hospital Car. Railway Surgery: A Handbook on the Management of Injuries.

1899 Hospital Car. Railway Surgery: A Handbook on the Management of Injuries.

Related Posts:

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.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

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:

More on the 1887 Family Feud at Rays Mill, GA

James Thomas Beigles

James Thomas Biggles

In the winter of 1887, a family  feud at Rays Mill, Georgia turned deadly when J.T. Biggles gunned down Madison Pearson from the porch of Henry Harrison Knight’s store.

At that time Knight’s store was  one of the few commercial establishments at Rays Mill and was a community meeting place.  The store was situated on present day Pauline Street, approximately opposite from the Ray City School.  In front of the store was an area known as the “court ground”  and the building served as the court house when there was need.   Knight’s store was also occupied by Dr. Guy Selman, one of the first doctors in the area,  and after David Ridgell departed in 1905 it was the location of the Ray’s Mill Post Office.  Henry Knight’s son-in-law, Cauley Johnson was postmaster. The building was destroyed by fire, probably in the 1940’s.

James Thomas Biggles was born in Georgia in October, 1860, a son of John Jefferson Beagles and Catherine Wright Biggles. (There was obviously some confusion over the spelling of the family name.)

Mary Elizabeth Pearson

Mary Elizabeth Pearson

J.T. married Mary Elizabeth Pearson on July 26, 1879. The ceremony was performed by Jonathan D. Knight, Notary Public.  James Thomas Biggles  appeared in the census of 1880 in District 5 of GMD#1144 as Thomas Beagle, farm laborer, age 19, with wife, Elizabeth, age 21. In the cemetery of Union Church (aka Burnt Church), next to the grave of Mary E. Biggles, stands a small headstone with the inscription “Infant of Mr. & Mrs. J.T. Biggles, Born and Died Apr. 15, 1879.”

J.T Biggles had a running feud with his brother-in-law, Madison G. Pearson.  At first Biggles tried to work through the court, but he soon took the law into his own hands and murdered Pearson before a crowd of citizens.  Biggles became a fugitive for twelve years before returning to stand trial.

The state press reported on the Murder in Berrien:

The Columbus Enquirer-Sun
Nov. 11, 1887 — page 3


Terrible Result of an Old Feud.

     Nashville, Ga., Nov. 9. – At Ray’s mill in this county, on Tuesday evening last, a dreadful encounter occurred in which M. G. Pearson was shot and instantly killed by J. T. Beagly, the cause being a family feud. It appears the parties had met to amicably settle the trouble if possible, but soon engaged in some hot words, when Pearson said to Beagly:
“Come out in the sand and we will settle the trouble.”
     They started out. Beagly drew his pistol and fired upon him as he went out, and shot him dead the first fire, then took to the swamp and has not yet been captured.

The Valdosta Times provided additional details:

The Valdosta Times
November 12, 1887

MURDER IN BERRIEN

J. T. Beigles Kills Madison G. Pearson at Ray’s Mill – A Family Feud which ends in the murder of a Brother – in- law.

Madison G. Pearson was killed by his brother-in-law, J. T. Beigles, at Ray’s Mill, in Berrien County, last Friday, the 4th, inst. A Family feud was at the bottom of the difficulty.

Beigles had married Pearson’s sister. The mother of the latter lived for sometime with her son, but a family quarrel, it seems, drove her to her daughter’s home. After she took up her abode with the Beigles family, some questions arose about the division of her small property. One report says that she willed all she had to Mrs. Beigles, and thus aroused her son’s indignation, and another rumor says that Beigles killed a beef which belonged to the Pearson estate, and that this was the cause of the trouble between the two men. At any rate there was trouble between them, and the old lady took the side of her son-in-law. Pearson, it seems, made some threats, and Beigles had him arrested under a peace warrant. Friday, the day of the tragedy, was set for a hearing before the Justice of the district, and Beigles and his wife and old Mrs. Pearson appeared at the Court ground at Ray’s Mill as witnesses. The bailiff had Madison Pearson under arrest, and the parties at interest, and about forty interested neighbors, all met at Mr. H. H. Knight’s store. Beigles’ father was among those present, and he approached Pearson about a compromise, but Pearson thought he had been greatly outraged, and freely expressed his indignation. He refused to accept the proposals made by the elder Beigles. A witness to the whole affair at the Court grounds informs us that the elder Beigles’ attitude and manner was not such as indicated any real desire for a fair compromise, and that his actions and his words were the immediate cause of the conflict, if it can be called a conflict. In reviewing the difficulty, the elder Beigles, who was standing between his son and Pearson, made some assertions which the latter vehemently denied or disputed, and the younger Beigles shouted to Pearson that he was a liar. At this Pearson, replied hotly that if Beigles would step with him to the ground from the porch upon which they stood, he would whip him, and as he spoke he sprang off at right angles from Beigles, but he struck the ground a dead man. Beigles fired at him on the spring, and the ball entered the side of the head near the left temple. Pearson doubled up as he lie fell and his head hit the ground first. He never spoke a word, and died in a few moments. Pearson had two brothers on the spot, and one ran to the dying man and the other started upon Beigles, but he met a cocked pistol in his face, and was warned to stand back, or else share the fate of his brother. Beigles kept his face to the awe-stricken crowd, pistol drawn, while his father pushed him backward some thirty feet, then he turned and they both fled. There was not a gun or pistol on the hill that could be found, and the two Beigles escaped. A pursuit was quickly organized, but they had gotten out of sight, and are yet at large. Pearson was not armed.

Pearson’s mother and sister witnessed the murder of their son and brother, so an eye witness informs us, without shedding a tear. After some little time Mrs. Pearson walked up to the dead man laying upon the ground, and stooped down and kissed him. She then rose calmly and walked away without any signs of emotion.

Thus a Justice’s court was sadly and suddenly transformed into an inquest court. The coroner lived forty miles away, and the bailiff, who held Pearson in custody as a prisoner when he was killed, summoned a jury, and the Justice, who was about to convene his court to try Pearson on a peace warrant, instead of proceeding with the trial, swore in an inquest jury to sit upon the dead body.

After swearing numerous eye witnesses the jury found that the killing was done as outlined above, that the same was willful murder; also that the elder Beigles was an accessory to the dead.

We are indebted to a neighbor of the parties, and an eyewitness to the tragedy, for the above statement of the circumstances connected directly and indirectly to the killing. All the parties were sober.

In 1899 the Valdosta reported the follow up on the trial of the Biggles case.

The Valdosta Times
October 17, 1899

BERRIEN SUPERIOR COURT. CONCLUSION OF THE BEAGLES-PEARSON CASE.

Berrien Superior Court after a four days’ session adjourned Thursday afternoon. The session was devoted entirely to criminal business, no civil cases being called. The principal case of importance was the trial of Madison G. Pearson, Nov. 4, 1887, twelve years ago as was stated in Friday’s Times.

Beagles was married to Pearson’s sister, and there had been considerable bad blood between them, culminating when Mrs. Pearson left the home of her son and went to live with her daughter, Beagles’ wife.

Pearson threatened to kill Beagles on several occasions and a few days before his death went to Beagles’ house and cursed his wife and children.

Beagles then swore out a peace warrant for Pearson, and he was arrested under it and carried to the Court House at Ray’s Mill for trial. A large crowd was on the court ground, among them Beagles, and Pearson challenged him for a fight, pulling off his coat and starting out the door as he did so. Beagles was standing on the porch of the house, within a few feet, and as Beagles stepped out fired at him, shooting him through the head, the ball entering just in front of the right ear and coming out behind the left ear, producing instant death.

Beagles skipped the country, and spent several years in Florida, returning just before his arrest. He was admitted to the bail, and staid under bond until two months ago, when his bondsman gave him up, and since that time he has remained in jail.

At his trial he was represented by Col. Joseph A. Alexander of Nashville and W. H. Griffin of Valdosta, while the state was represented by Col. W. M. Hammond of Thomasville and Solicitor General Thomas. The trial lasted a day and a half, and every inch of ground was stubbornly fought. The principal evidence against the dead man was the ante-mortem statement of his own mother, made four years ago, which was exceedingly bitter in denunciation of her son.

Six hours were spent by Cols. Griffin and Hammond in their strong and eloquent arguments of the case, and he jury remained out on it seven hours before returning a verdict of manslaughter with recommendation to mercy. Col. Griffin made a touching appeal to the court for mercy, and Judge Hansell fixed the sentence at two years in the state penitentiary.

In the U.S Census of 1900 James T. Biggles was enumerated on June 23, 1900 as a convict in the Fargo Convict Camp in the Jones Creek District of Clinch County, GA.

In 1910, the Biggles were back together in Rays Mill, GA where they were enumerated with several boarders living in their household.

James Thomas Biggles died May 11, 1911 in Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia. He was buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA. On his tombstone his name appears as J.T. Biggles.

Grave Marker of James Thomas Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave Marker of James Thomas Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Reports on the disposition of his estate were reported in the Nashville Herald:

Nashville Herald
Aug 7, 1911

Administrators Sale

Pursuant to an order of the Court of Ordinary, will be sold before the court house door in Berrien County, all the real estate belonging to J.T. Biggles, deceased, to wit: one lot in the town of Milltown, on Howell Ave., known as the H.L. Kelly lot; also ten acres of lot No. 473 in the 10th district in the southeast corner of said lot; also, 36 acres in the ? district, the last two tracts known as the Margaret Horsby lands; also, 100 acres, bounded on the west by Milltown and Nashville public road, east by Dog Branch, and lands of Jas. Johnson and Banks lands, on the north by lands of Mary E. Biggles, said tract known as land sold by E.M. Giddens to J.T. Biggles; also, lot 6 in block 32, lot 8 in block 73, lot 1 in block 69, lot 6 in block 59, lot 10 in block 48, all in the new survey in Milltown, Ga., also, one-half acre in town of Milltown bounded east by lands of M.E. Patten, south and west by lands of R.L. Patten, north by old Brunswick & Western right-of-way; also lot No. 3 in block No. 29, Roberts survey of Milltown, Ga., Sold as the property of the estate of J.T. Biggles, deceased, to pay debts and for distribution. August 7, 1911

Nashville Herald
Sept 5, 1911

Administrator’s Sale

Georgia, Berrien County. Will be sold before the court house door on the first Tuesday in October the following land: 1/2 acre of land in the town of Milltown bounded east by lands of M.E. Patten, south and west by lands of R.L. Patten, north by old Brunswick & Western right-of-way on which is situated one gin house and one barn, five double Foss gins, one short cotton gin, one conveyor, one double Monger box press, one seed conveyor and all belts and pulleys now used in the gin house. Terms cash. Sept 5, 1911. M.W. Bargeron, W.A. Biggles, Administrators of Estate of J.T. Biggles.

Mary Elizabeth Biggles died May 7, 1923. She was also buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church. Her tombstone reads, ” Mary Elizabeth Biggles, May 7, 1923, Aged 70 Yrs., A loving mother and grandmother.”

Gravemarker of Mary Elizabeth Pearson Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, Georgia

Gravemarker of Mary Elizabeth Pearson Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, Georgia

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 (now 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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