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.

 

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Edward M. Henderson Mortally Wounded at Brushy Creek

Death came for Edward M. Henderson, Sheriff of Lowndes County, GA  on July 20, 1836, he having been mortally wounded in the Battle of Brushy Creek five days earlier.  In death he joined those killed in action at Brushy Creek –  Pennywell Folsom and Edwin Shanks of Lowndes, and Burton Ferrell of Thomas County. Nine other settlers were wounded in the battle. The names of the Native American dead, “who had been goaded into madness”  are not known.

Captain Levi J. Knight, original settler of the Ray City, GA,  arrived at Brushy Creek with a company of men just after the conclusion of the fighting, having marched across the county from and earlier engagement at  William Parker’s place. Knight and the troops from Brushy Creek were then  engaged in actions along Warrior Creek.

1834 Lowndes County, GA Tax Digest assessment of the property of Edward Marion Henderson.  For his 1,215 acres, Henderson paid $0.78 cents in property taxes.

1834 Lowndes County, GA Tax Digest assessment of the property of Edward Marion Henderson. For his 1,215 acres, Henderson paid $0.78 cents in property taxes.

Edward Marion Henderson, also known as Edwin Henderson, was born in 1810, a son of David A. Henderson. He was born and raised in Liberty County, GA before moving with his parents to Ware County, GA. On July 3, 1829, he was commissioned as Postmaster at Waresboro, Ware County, GA, and served until June 4, 1830. He was Tax Collector of Ware County from 1828 to 1832.

In 1832, he came to settle in Lowndes county, GA on Land Lot # 168, 15th District, in that area which was later cut into Brooks County. He was elected Justice of the Peace for the 659th District of Lowndes, serving from 1833 to 1834. He was elected Sheriff of Lowndes County on April 4, 1834, while Franklinville was still serving as the County Seat. Martin Shaw was his Deputy Sheriff.

According to Lowndes County Tax Digests for 1834, Edward M. Henderson  owned 965 acres on lots 168 and 155 in the 15th District, near the Withlacoochee River, and 250 acres on Lot 150 in the 15th District in Thomas County. In 1835, he retained only the land on Lot 168.

Edward M. Henderson married Martha McMullen in 1835; she was born 1813 in Telfair County, GA, a daughter of James McMullen. Her father was a prominent citizen of Lowndes, and served as a representative in the state legislature.

Child of Edward Marion Henderson and Martha McMullen:

  1. Rebecca Henderson: born 1836, Lowndes County, GA; married Joel M. Morris, April 13, 1854 in Madison County, FL;

When Indian troubles began in 1836 following the uprising at Roanoke, GA, Edward M. Henderson served with the Lowndes County militia. He was mortally wounded in the Battle of Brushy Creek and died a few days later on July 20, 1836, leaving behind his young wife and infant daughter. The site of his grave is not known.

† † †

The estate of Edward M. Henderson was administered by his brother, Samuel T. Henderson, and his home place on Lot 168, 15th District was sold at auction in December 1838.  His widow, Martha McMullen Henderson, with baby Rebecca Henderson returned to her father’s home.  She never re-married.  When Rebecca married Joel M. Morris in 1854, Martha moved into her son-in-law’s household in Jefferson County, FL.

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Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers

EARLY POSTAL SERVICE

In was not until after the Civil War that mail service  at Rays Mill (Ray City, GA) became available.  But the mail was one of the earliest public services provided in the Wiregrass frontier of Georgia and the postal service for the region of present day Ray City stretches back more than 185 years.

Access to this early postal service was hardly convenient.  When pioneers like Levi J. Knight brought their families to Beaverdam Creek in the 1820s, this area of what was then Lowndes County was on the remote southern frontier.   A small frontier community was beginning to grow about ten miles to the east, near the Alapaha River where Lakeland now is, where a settler named Joshua Lee had established a grist mill a few years earlier.   Joshua Lee and his brother Jesse had come to the area in 1820 , and in 1821 began using slave labor and free labor to construct a dam to impound Banks Lake for a mill pond.

But, in 1825  no postal service had been established at the Lee Mill  nor anywhere else in the region. In 1827, when an official post office finally was established, it was situated on the Coffee Road, some 25 miles from where the Knights homesteaded on Beaverdam Creek.

McCRANIE’S POST OFFICE
The first post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was established on  March 27, 1827, at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road.  Coffee’s Road was the first road in Lowndes County, but it was only a “road”  in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them.  Officially,    McCranie’s Post Office was designated simply as “Lowndes.”

The Waycross Journal-Herald
April 8, 1952 Pg 3

The McCranie Family

Daniel McCranie settled on the Coffee Road on lot of land No. 416, 9th District of present Cook County, according to the writer’s information.  It was at his home there that the first post office in Lowndes County was established March 27, 1827, and he became the first postmaster; was also there that the first term of Lowndes Superior Court was held in 1826.  The next year 1828, the post office was moved down Little River to a new place called ‘Franklinville’  which had been designated the county seat, and there William Smith became the postmaster.  The mail in those days was carried by the stage coach except to those offices off the main lines of travel when it was carried in saddlebags on horseback.

1830 Georgia map detail - original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

1830 Georgia map detail – original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

SHARPE’S STORE POST OFFICE
The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828 announced that Hamilton W. Sharpe had opened a post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe's Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
May 17, 1828

A Post Office has been recently established at Sharpe’s Store, in Lowndes county, Geo. on the route from Telfair Courthouse to Tallahassee – Hamilton W. Sharpe, Esq. P.M.

Hamilton W. Sharpe served as Postmaster at Sharpe’s Store until 1836.  At that time the name of the post office was briefly changed to Magnum Post Office, with John Hall appointed as Postmaster.

FRANKLINVILLE POST OFFICE
Franklinville, having been selected in 1827 as the public site new county of Lowndes, was situated near  the Withlacoochee River at a location about 10 miles southwest of  Levi J. Knight’s homestead (see Reverend William A. Knight at old Troupville, GA; More About Troupville, GA and the Withlacoochee River.)

…the post office was moved down the Withlacoochee River to the home of William Smith on lot of land No. 50, 11th district of present Lowndes where the court house commissioners had only recently decided to locate the first court house and name the place ‘Franklinville.’  On July 7, 1828, the Post Office Department changed the name of the post office to ‘Franklinville’ and appointed Mr. Smith as postmaster.

Postmaster Smith’s annual salary in 1831 was $16.67.

FRANKLINVILLE
    The erstwhile town of Franklinville did not exist long –  only about four years.  At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house.

    The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00.  The first term of court in it was held in the fall of 1829.

    William Smith was the first one to settle there, and was living there when the site was chosen.  The only other families to ever live there, so far as can be determined were John Mathis, James Mathis and Sheriff Martin Shaw.  After a short residence there the three last named moved to that part of Lowndes cut off into Berrien in 1856.

    There began to be dissatisfaction about the location of the court house.  It was off the Coffee Road which was the main artery of traffic and communication, and from the beginning was not an auspicious location.  The legislature in 1833 changed the county-site to lot of land No. 109 in the 12th district, about three miles below the confluence of Little River and the Withlacoochee River.  It was named ‘Lowndesville.”  The post office however was not moved there, but the little court house was torn down and moved there.”

Newspaper accounts of the time indicate the courthouse remained at Franklinville at least as late as 1835, when a big Fourth of July celebration was held there.  Among the speakers celebrating the “Declaration of American Independence” at Franklinville that day were Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, Reverend Jonathan Gaulden, William Smith, John Blackshear, James Williams and John Dees.

By 1836, the federal government acted to ensure reliable postal routes to the post office at Franklinville to serve the residents of Lowndes County (although the county seat had been removed to Lowndesville.)

 CHAP. CCLXXI.- An Act to establish certain post roads, and to alter and discontinue others, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following be established as post roads:

***

In Georgia—From Franklinville, Lowndes county, Georgia, via Warner’s Ferry, to Townsend post office, in Madison county, Territory of` Florida.From Jacksonville, Telfair county, via Holmesville, in Appling county, and Wearesboro, in Weare county, to Franklinville, in Lowndes county.

***

Approved July 2, 1836

This post road, built with slave labor, ran through Allapaha (now Lakeland), passed just south of L. J. Knight’s place, and continued west to Franklinville. With a public road established, a stagecoach route went into service from Thomasville, via Frankinville, to Waycross.

Detail of J.H. Young's 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of J.H. Young’s 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of Burr's 1839 map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

Detail of Burr’s 1839 postal map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

TROUPVILLE POST OFFICE
Only a year after the clearing of the post roads to Franklinville, it was decided to move the Lowndes county seat  yet again, this time from Lowndesville to a new site, named Troupville, at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and the Little River  (Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents).

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel E. Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA and reporting Indian activity in the area. Captain Samuel E. Swilley was a militia leader in the 1836-1842 Indian Wars in Lowndes County, GA.

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA had franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA hand franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

In 1837, the transfer of the post office and Postmaster William Smith from Franklinville to Troupville inconvenienced many residents of north Lowndes county, possibly prompting the resumption of postal service at Sharpe’s Store on Coffee Road.  The name of Magnum Post Office reverted to Sharpe’s Store Post Office, and Hamilton W. Sharpe was again Postmaster.

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe's Store. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe’s Store on the Coffee Road, Lowndes County, GA. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837.

Unfortunately,  Sharpe’s Store was even farther distant from Beaverdam Creek;  the Knights, Clements, and their neighbors were left with a forty mile round trip to Troupville fetch the mail.  Sharpe himself served as Postmaster 1837 to 1848.  James Perry took over as Postmaster at Sharpe’s store from 14 December, 1848 to 16 August, 1849, when Sharpe returned to the position. John G. Polhill took the position 5 July, 1850, and Norman Campbell took over 21 August, 1850 to 21 July 1853 when the post office was moved to Morven, GA.

By 1838, Postmaster William Smith at Troupville was receiving weekly mail via routes from Waresboro and Bainbridge, and from San Pedro, Madison County, FL. In 1847 weekly mail was coming and going from Irwinville and Bainbridge, GA, and from Madison, FL.  William Smith continued as the Troupville Postmaster until  October 30, 1848 when attorney Henry J. Stewart took over.  On  August 16, 1849 William Smith resumed as Postmaster at Troupville.

Weekly service extended in 1851 to Waresboro, Albany and Irwinville, and to Columbus, FL.

Travel in the South in the 1830s

Travel in the South in the 1830s

 ALLAPAHA POST OFFICE
By the late 1830s, Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA), had grown into a bustling trade center with several mills and businesses. Ten miles east of Knight’s farm, Allapaha was situated at the point where the Franklinville-Jacksonville Post Road crossed the Alapaha River. In 1838 a post office was established there , and Benjamin Sirmans was the first postmaster.  Weekly mail service berween Waresboro or Waynesville and Troupville came by Allapaha.

Early Postmasters of Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA)

Benjamin Sermons Postmaster 06/27/1838
Isaac D. Hutto Postmaster 05/03/1841
James S. Harris Postmaster 03/05/1842
Samuel H. Harris Postmaster 09/12/1846
Peter Munford Postmaster 01/28/1848
James S. Harris Postmaster 02/09/1849
Andrew J. Liles Postmaster 11/27/1849

While Andrew J. Liles was Postmaster, the name of the town was changed from Allapaha to Milltown, GA.

FLAT CREEK POST OFFICE
Another early  Berrien post office was located at Flat Creek, about 15 miles north of present day Ray City, GA. This post office was established on August 9th, 1847. At that time, Flat Creek was a growing community located on one of the first roads in Berrien County, and warranted the establishment of a post office. The community center was built largely by Noah Griffin with the aid of his sons and African-American slaves.  “At the time of the establishment of the post office there was a saw mill, grist mill, cotton gin, a country store and farm, all owned and run by Noah Griffin and his sons…”   The J. H. Colton Map of Georgia, 1855 shows the Flat Creek community situated on Lyons Creek, a tributary of the Alapaha River now known as Ten Mile Creek. The store at Flat Creek was located on a road that connected Irwinville and points north to the town then known as Allapaha (now known as Lakeland, GA).

HAHIRA POST OFFICE
On May 7, 1852, a post office was opened at Hahira, GA and Barry J. Folsom was appointed as the first postmaster. Randal Folsom took over as postmaster in 1858. The post office at Hahira was closed in 1866, and postal service did not resume there until 1873.

STAR ROUTES
When Berrien County was created in 1856, there were still very few post offices in the area. “These were supplied by star routes, the carrier rode horseback.”   Prior to 1845, in areas inaccessible  by rail or water transportation delivery of inland mail was let out to bid by contractors who carried mail by stagecoach.  On March 3, 1845 Congress  established an Act which provided that the Postmaster General should grant contracts to the lowest bidder who could provide sufficient guarantee of faithful performance, without any conditions, except to provide for due celerity, certainty and security of transportation.  These bids became known as “celerity, certainty and security bids” and were designated on the route registers by three stars (***), thus becoming known as “star routes.”  In rural areas, a bidder who could provide delivery by wagon, or even horseback, could win a Star Route mail contract.

NASHVILLE POST OFFICE
With the creation of the new county of Berrien in 1856, a public site was selected and Nashville was established as the county seat. The site was near the geographic center of the county and located on the Coffee Road, one of the earliest public roads in Georgia. “Previous to the creation of Berrien County there had been for many years a farm and public inn located at this point on the Coffee Road.” “The new county site had been laid out and christened and stores, shops and eating houses and other industries had been launched, where only a few months before there had been a farm and cow pens.”  In 1857 a post office was established at Nashville to serve the new town and the county residents. The early road from Nashville to Milltown passed through the Rays Mill community by way of the residences of General Levi J. Knight, Isben Giddens, and John M. Futch. Although Levi J. Knight’s farm was situated at the midpoint on the Nashville – Milltown(Lakeland) road, it probably became a matter of convenience to post mail at Nashville as that was where the business of the county was conducted.

CONFEDERATE POSTAL SERVICE
With Secession, the services of the U.S. Post Office were lost to the South and to Berrien County. The Southern Recorder, Dec 29, 1863 reported on Acts passed by the [Confederate] Legislature and signed by the Governor, Joseph E. Brown, which included an act, “Requesting the establishment of a mail route between Milltown and Nashville in Berrien county.”  The 1864 Census for the Reorganization of the Georgia Militia shows that A. K. Harmon was then serving as a postmaster for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, which was centered on Ray’s Mill. After the war, Nathan W. Byrd, a Nashville farmer and father-in-law of Matthew H. Albritton, served as the mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (Lakeland), GA.

RAY CITY POST OFFICE

After the Civil War postal service was established at the present site of Ray City, GA.  The previous post, Posting Mail at Ray City, describes how the grist mill built by General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray on Beaverdam Creek became the first post station here.

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Early Berrien Settlers Traded at Centerville, Georgia

Way back in the early days people living in south Georgia had no markets near and so the people would gather their little plunder together, go in carts to Centerville on the St. Maria river, in Camden county, Ga.

Early settlers of  Ray City, Berrien County and the surrounding area traveled about 95 miles to trade at Centerville, also known as Center Village or Centreville, in present day Charlton County, GA.

1864 map detail showing locations of General Levi J. Knight's residence (Ray City), Nashville, Troupville and Center Village (Centerville), with route from Berrien County to Centerville highlighted.

1864 map detail showing locations of General Levi J. Knight’s residence (Ray City), Nashville, Troupville and Center Village (Centerville), with route from Berrien County to Centerville highlighted.

Berrien county cattleman Harmon Gaskins, who from about 1835 to 1875 resided at Five Mile Creek near present day Ray City, GA, was among the local residents who conducted business with the merchants at Centerville.  In his 1932 History of Charlton County, Alexander McQueen observed of Centerville, “…Those merchants bought the produce brought in by the farmers and sold in exchange flour, sugar, shot, powder, coffee, nutmeg, etc. and every store sold whiskey. One could buy New England rum for $1.00 per gallon or foreign whiskey for $1.25 per gallon. In those days no store was complete without several barrels of whiskey.”

Centerville truly was at the center of an important crossroads of commerce for Wiregrass Georgia.  Located on the St. Mary’s River about two miles east of Folkston, GA, Centerville was situated with convenient river access to the harbor at St. Mary’s and the Atlantic trade,  the Kings Road, and also  the Alachua Trail, an ancient and important commerce route from the Altamaha River, in Georgia, down into East Florida.

THE BAKER COUNTY PRESS
Thursday, July 31, 1980 Pg 2

THE WAY IT WAS – Gene Barber

“The Alachua Trail was until the latter years of the nineteenth century one of east Florida’s most heavily traveled routes. It brought pioneers and mail down from the Centre Village-Camp Pinckney – Traders Hill-Fort Alert area (all in the neighborhood of the present Folkston) into central Florida and took Territorial Florida planters’ products and Indian traders back to the busy Saint Mary’s River for shipping and trading. In the 1840’s into the ’70’s, stage coaches coursed its ruts with mail and visitors…”

According to the Georgia Genealogy Trails: Charlton County History website:

Center Village, a town downriver from Trader’s Hill and established in 1800, was a border town devoted to defense and trade. Camp Pinckney housed border soldiers, and a ferry provided service across the St. Marys between Georgia and Florida and merchants. Tradesmen and other Crackers bartered, bought, and sold their wares on the town streets, settled disputes in public “fist and skull” fights, and wagered on horse racing. Waresboro, a hub for passenger, mail, and freight service on the Okefenokee’s north side, was established in 1824. It was fairly isolated initially, depending on mail service from the distribution station at Camp Pinckney, but gained population and prominence as Ware County’s seat during the antebellum period. All four of these towns faded away as the larger cities of Folkston (Charlton County) and Waycross (Ware County) became rail-road junctions in the postbellum era. But in the years before 1860, they were thriving trading centers and sites of sociability for the area’s white residents.

A historic marker on US1 in Folkston, GA  commemorates the old trading village:

Two miles Northeast of here is the site of old Center Village, or Centerville, settled about 1800 and for many years an important trading center. To this village came the inhabitants of Ware, Pierce, Clinch, Coffee and Appling Counties, bring staple cotton, beeswax, honey, jerked venison, hides, furs, etc., to exchange for flour, sugar, coffee, shot, powder and other commodities they did not produce. Here, too, disputes were settled and sports enjoyed. A regular stop for stage coaches traveling the King`s Road, old Center Village went out of existence after the coming of the railroad.

Historic Marker for Centerville, GA

Historic Marker for Centerville, GA. Image source: http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=12993

  A 1976 article, CENTER VILLAGE, GHOST OF THE PAST, by Carolyn DeLoach, Charlton County Herald, provides further reading.

Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County

In 1836, a band of Indians raided the homestead of William Parker, pioneer settler of Berrien County.  Since the spring of that year, pioneers all across Wiregrass Georgia had been facing increasing hostilities from the Native Americans who were being forced out of their ancestral lands.

A previous post recounted a story by Martha Guthrie, and the role of her family in the last Indian encounters in Berrien County (see Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars).  Her parents, Dred Newbern and Bettsy Sirmons, were the nearest neighbors of William Parker. The Newbern’s homestead was located on the east bank of Five Mile Creek, perhaps about eight miles northeast of Ray City. This was probably somewhere in the present day vicinity of the Highway 168 bridge over Five Mile Creek. The Parker place was located a few miles further to the east, at the Alapaha River.

Coffee County historian Warren Preston Ward gave the following 1922 account of the raid on the Parker place, which was a prelude to the Battle of Brushy Creek.   According to Ward, the timing of the event was in the winter of 1836, but the letters of Levi J. Knight state the engagement occurred on July 12, 1836:

Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County

The Atlanta Constitution
Warren Preston Ward
December 6, 1922 pg F15

About the year 1836 William Parker, (Short-Arm Bill) as he was called, and the father of C.G.W. Parker, and later a well-known doctor, was living in Berrien county on the old Patterson place. 

One winter day when Mr. Parker was away from home, several Indians appeared at the foot of the hill, at a spring, where the family got water. It is said that the Indians began to beat on logs, thereby attracting the attention of the people.  It appears that the Indians meant to rob and not to murder, but as there were no men at home the women ran through the field , a back way, a distance of five miles to the home of Dread Newborn. The Indians robbed the house, broke open a trunk and got $300 in cash, cut the feather beds open, emptied the feathers out and took the ticks with them.  A company of men soon collected together, under the command of George Peterson, Dread Newborn, William Parker, and others.  The Indians were overtaken at the Allapaha river and three were killed, others made their escape but were overtaken at the St. Illa river [Satilla River], at what is now known as Indian Lake, about two miles northeast of the town of Axson, Ga.  They were all shot and killed, except one squaw; it was reported that she was captured and shot.  Dread Newborn, the son of Dread Newborn, who followed the Indians, informs me that the Indian woman was kept in prison for a while and then by direction of the government was returned to her own people. About this time a whole family by the  name of Wilds was killed by the Indians, near Waresboro, Ga.  One little boy, Reuben Wilds, made his escape.  Of course there are a great many Indian stories, but the narratives I have given you are facts testified to by living witnesses and most worthy tradition, for the first time they are put into history of the Wiregrass country.

1927 Atlanta Journal account of the massacre of the Wildes family, 1832.

1927 Atlanta Journal account of the massacre of the Wildes family, July 22, 1838.

The Wildes Family Massacre

I will tell you one more incident, because it puts the ingenuity of white men to test against the cunningness of the Indians.  It is only through tradition that I have been able to get this story, which  runs thus: Way back in the early days people living in south Georgia had no markets near and so the people would gather their little plunder together, go in carts to Centerville on the St. Maria river, in Camden county, Ga.  The Indians robbed and killed a good many of these people going to market, at a point near the Okefenokee swamp.  A company [under Captain Elias Waldron] of brave pioneers decided to put a stop to this nefarious business, and, if possible, make it safe for people to go to market.  And so with guns and such other necessaries as they would need, they went to the point near the Okefenokee swamp and pitched their camp, they cut small logs into pieces five or six feet long, about the length of a man. They laid the logs around the camp fire and covered them over with quilts and blankets. On the ends of the logs they placed hats and fixed it up in such a manner as to make it look very much like a bunch of travelers lying around the camp fire.  The men, with their guns, went a short distance from the camp fire and concealed themselves in the woods.  Away in the midnight hour, as the fire burned low, the pioneers saw the heads of Indians beginning to peep out from behind trees and stumps and from over logs. In a minute there was a volley of shots fired and the Indians sprang to their feet and with the war-whoop charged upon the campfire. As they pulled off the hats at the end of the logs, instead of finding the heads of white men they saw the joke.  For a moment they stood still in bewilderment; at that moment every Indian was shot dead, not one of them made his escape.  Every hat had a bullet hole in it. That was the last of the robberies committed at Centerville by the Indians…
      By the year 1841 there was not an Indian in Georgia, who had a right to be here.  The people of Georgia, and especially south Georgia, were happy indeed to be rid of the Indians and to have the Wiregrass land without fear of molestation.  Some one wrote a song, about this time, which reads as follows:

“No more shall the sound of the war whoop be heard
The ambush and slaughter no longer be feared,
The tommy hawk buried shall rest in the ground.
And peace and good will to the nation round.”

More about the Wildes Family