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.
Furlong was a philanderer, wife 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).
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 no 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 negro 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.
- The Ghost of Ben Furlong, Berrien County Desperado
- 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