November 9, 1898
On Monday afternoon Columbus Straughter and Wiley Bragg, both negroes, were sentenced to life terms in the penitentiary at Baton Rouge, for the killing of Constable Ferguson near Mt. Tabor on December 16, 1887.
Thus ends a murder case that for over a decade was shrouded in the deepest mystery. Mr. Ferguson was shot and instantly killed on the public highway while returning from Stein’s Bluff to Shiloh. A rigid investigation was made at the time of the assassination, but no satisfactory clue to the the perpetrators of the crime was then obtainable.
Through the disagreement of the negroes who committed the crime, some important facts lately leaked out regarding the murderers. Mr. S. D. Nutt, a prominent citizen of Shiloh ward, heard of those reports and he at once determined to ferret out the case. One of the negroes implicated in the killing, Wiley Bragg, had gone to Arkansas, and Mr. Nutt went up there and saw Bragg. Upon being confronted with the reports charging him with the deed, Bragg made a confession involving himself, Columbus Straughter and John Neal Johnson.
The three negroes were arrested, and on the trial Bragg pleaded guilty to murder without capital punishment. The jury acquitted Johnson, but failed to agree as to Straughter. Subsequently the latter was permitted to share the same fate as Bragg, his co-partner in the crime. This consigns both Bragg and Straughter to the penitentiary for life.
After their sentence a Gazette representative visited the jail with the view of getting a true statement of the killing from the prisoners. Straughter charges Bragg with doing the shooting, and Bragg lays it on Straughter. They both, however, admit being present, and say the party who did the shooting intended to kill Mr. Ferguson, and not Mr. Moore as has been reported. Bragg and Straughter both assert that John Neal Johnson who was acquitted, was a party to the killing, while the latter states that another negro, Tom Johnson, who is now dead, was also there.
The truth of these conflicting statements may never be known, but it is quite certain that both Bragg and Straughter deserve their fate.
Mr. S. D. Nutt deserves the thanks of Mr. Ferguson’s family and friends, as well as of all good citizens who feel interested in seeing criminals brought to justice, for his successful work in ferreting out the perpetrators of this cold-blooded murder.