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.


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).



Alapaha Star

October 2, 1886


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.


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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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