Classroom Building and Soup Kitchen at Ray City School

Classroom Building  and Soup Kitchen at Ray City School

Classroom Building at Ray City School.

Classroom Building at Ray City School.

The white wooden classroom building  was already an old building on the campus when Diane Miley attended second grade at Ray City School in 1939.

This building, which was originally located where the kindergarten is now situated, and was later moved further back from Pauline Street to its present location. The entrances to this building were on the north and south sides. A
central north-south hallway ran through the building. On the east side were two big classrooms for the 1st and 4th grades, and a small room used as the Soup Kitchen. On the west side were 2nd Grade and 3rd Grade classrooms. There were no bathrooms in this building, or in the main brick school building for that matter. The toilets at that time were outdoor toilets. the Ray City school did not get indoor toilets until after WWII.

The teachers in this wooden building were:

1st Grade: Mrs. P.M. Shultz
2nd Grade: Miss Josephine Collier
3rd grade: Eloise Johnson
4th grade: a young unmarried teacher

Other Ray City teachers around that time were Jesse Francis Webb, Hazel Tabor, Dorothy Chisholm, and Mary Peele, James Garland Grady.  Julius Glen Tatum was an Ag teacher.

This building housed the original “soup kitchen” lunch room at Ray City School. Off of the 4th grade classroom was a small room which was used as the lunch room. It measured about 10 feet by 12 feet and was equipped with  a cook table, but no sink counter. A big cast iron wood-burning stove occupied one corner of the room.  There were counters and benches along two walls where the children ate.  The lunchroom ladies  could not feed many children at a time. The charge for lunch was 10 cents, but not all children could afford to get a hot lunch. Many brought their lunch from home and ate in the school yard.

Mrs. Hun Knight worked hard to bring the soup kitchen to the school and worked in the kitchen. Mrs. Eula Swindle Hall was the first cook. She was followed by Mrs. Allie Purvis Starling. Leila McConnell also cooked. Martha Burkhalter was a lunchroom “waitress.” Agnes Knight Guthrie also helped in the kitchen. For the paying students, soup was served every day, with brown whole-wheat flour biscuits and butter. The kitchen was supplied with surplus government commodities supplemented with fresh produce that was brought in by local farmers in trade for their children’s lunches. Rossie Futch brought in sweet potatoes in trade for a hot lunch for his children.

Later, after the first school cafeteria building was constructed on the Ray City School campus in 1941, the small soup kitchen was turned into a trigonometry classroom for the high school students.

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Ray City School Gets Lunch Room, 1941

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Senior Class of 1951, Ray City School

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Queen of the Harvest celebrated Ray City Gymnasium

Tri-Hi-Y, 1939

 

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.

 

1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-inquest
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.

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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

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