“Murder Will Out”

The Gazette
August 24, 1898

On December 16, 1888 – more than a decade ago – J. N. Ferguson, the constable of the eighth ward, was assassinated while riding along the Farmerville and Shiloh road about two miles beyond Stein’s Bluff. At the time of the commission of the horrible deed, the assassins left no trace that would lead to their identity; and the matter has until recently been enveloped in mystery.

But the old saying, “murder will out,” has proved itself true in this instance, provided the statement  of a negro named Wiley Bragg, one of the self-confessed conspirators to the deed, can be believed.

Bragg says that on the afternoon of the Ferguson assassination, Columbus Straughter, John Johnson and himself waited for their victim at the roadside, and seeing Mr. Ferguson approach, the former fired upon him with a shot gun causing him to fall from his horse, and as he lay prostrate on the ground Staughter fired a second shot producing almost instant death.

Bragg says that Johnson had a gun but did not fire, and that he himself had no gun. His statement tallies very well with the physical facts as the coroner’s jury found them at the holding of the inquest. A little girl who was living with Mrs. Butler said that she heard two shots fired, after which she saw two men running across a field, and that accords with Bragg’s statement. After the killing Bragg says the three men went to their respective homes.

Bragg claims that robbery was the motive that prompted the assassination, and that the murderers mistook Mr. Ferguson for Mr. G. W. Moore.

Moore, it is said, went to the Bluff that day and sold considerable cotton, carrying the money received therefor home with him. A desire to get this money, coupled with a grievance the negroes held against Moore, led them to the commission of their terrible crime.

It is said that Mr. Moore and Mr. Ferguson resembled each other in many respects and had horses very much alike; and as the day of the assassination was cloudy and cold, Ferguson wearing a heavy overcoat buttoned about his neck, it is not surprising that the negroes made the mistake in their victim that they did.

The identity of the assassins came to light in the usual manner where negroes are concerned. Bragg told a negro woman about the crime, the gang afterwards fell out, and thus the matter was told to some of Mr. Ferguson’s friends.

Straughter, Johnson and Bragg are now in jail under an indictment for murder. A Gazette representative saw them in their cells, and Bragg’s statement was practically the same as he made when first arrested. Straughter and Johnson stoutly protest their innocence.

The Gazette
August 24, 1898

Last week a typographical error made us say that Constable Ferguson was assassinated Dec. 16, 1888. It should have bee Dec. 16, 1887.


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