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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


    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: