Atlanta Constitution 1881

The following six articles highlight an interesting time in the life of one John W. Follansbee, born about 1838.

Thursday, May 19



Matrimonial Ventures in Decatur

By Mail and Wire to The Constitution.
    DECATUR, May 19. -- One of the most notable society events that has enlivened our town for many months was the marriage this afternoon at 3 o'clock of Miss Mary C. Hunter, eldest daughter of our worthy sheriff, Captain James Hunter, to Mr. John W. Follansbee.  The Ceremony was performed by Rev. Donald Fraser, at the residence of the bride's parents, in the presence of a number of relatives and friends.  The bride is a lovely brunette, of exceeding grace in form and carriage, and Mr. Follansbee is to be congratulated upon his good fortune in winning so winsome a bride.  The happy couple were the recipients of the smiles and blessings of all present, and bright auguries of the future were bespoken with lachrymose tenderness.  The bride and groom, accompanied by a number of friends, left on the evening train for Atlanta.  May the sunbeams of hope and joy ever stream in dazzling rays along their pathway, and the comforts of heaven's rain descend in peaceful showers upon their heads. --Miss Carrie Clyde Tommey, the universally admired daughter of Mr. V. R. Tommey, will be married to-night, at the residence of her father, on Candler street, to Mr. M. M. Turner, one of the popular salesmen of Mr. David H. Dougherty, of your city.  The marriage will be strictly private, no one but the immediate relatives and a few special friends being invited.

Sunday, May 29


The Daughter of The Sheriff of DeKalb County the Victim of a Bigamist.
    J. T. Buchanan, station-house keeper, has brought to light a crime which renders two homes desolate and fills another convict garb.
    Tuesday[sic] last one week ago John W. Follansbee, an Atlanta resident, married Miss Hunter of Decatur.
    The marriage was opposed by the young lady's father, but with a fidelity that actuates woman in such matters, Miss Hunter disobeyed her father, and thereby wrecked her life.
    Follansbee came to Atlanta in 1875 and soon found employment with Longley & Robinson, on Decatur street.  To his associates he said that he came from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and that he was a married man.
    In '76 Longley & Robinson discharged Follansbee.  He went to Cherokee county where he remained until January last.  Then he went to Decatur, where he entered the government service.  During his abode there he met Miss Hunter, and after a short courtship was married.  The marriage was published in THE CONSTITUTION, and thus Follansbee's crime leaked out.  Mr. Buchanan happened to be an associate of Follansbee during his service with Longley & Robinson, and when he read the wedding notice, remembered that Follansbee had told him that he was married.  At once communication was opened with Fond du Lac and evidence of the truth of Follansbee's statement to Buchanan secured.
    About 5 o'clock Mr. Buchanan, with this information to support him, procured a warrant charging Follansbee with bigamy, and went immediately to his boarding house on Marietta street.  Follansbee and his wife were out and the officers remained until 2 o'clock this morning, when the couple returned.  As they entered the yard the officers approached and arrested him.  To Mr. Buchanan's remark "you are my prisoner." Mrs. Follansbee asked why he was arrested.  Mr. Buchanan said, "Mr. Follansbee can tell."  Turning to the man who had made two lives miserable she said, "why are you arrested?" but Follansbee declined to answer.  Finally Mr. Buchanan informed Mrs. Follansbee that her husband(?) had a wife and five children in Fond du Lac, Wis.  This intelligence staggered the lady and rendered her speechless for a short while, but soon realizing her ruined condition, the lady rallied, and in plain language denounced the scoundrel, but when the officers started off with their prisoner she relented and begged for his freedom.
    Follansbee is in the city prison awaiting the penalty of his crime.  He is about 5 feet, 4 inches high, weighs 140 pounds, is about 45 years of age, well educated and decidedly good looking.  He takes his arrest quietly and assured his last victim that all would come out right.
    The lady, who is rendered an object of pity, is the daughter of James Hunter, sheriff of DeKalb county, and related to some of the best families in Georgia.  She is about nineteen years of age and was quite a society favorite.  She was well known in Atlanta, where she was highly respected and esteemed.  She married Follansbee against the will of her father and friends.  That the scoundrel is thus brought to justice is due solely to the untiring energy and exertion of Mr. James Buchanan.

Tuesday, May 31



How the Enterprising Son of Wisconsin Threw off the Old Love and Put on the New--The History of the Ones Fully Told by Those Who Knew it All.

    Follansbee, the man who is supposed to have two wives, spent Sunday and Monday in the city prison, cell  No. 5.
    Early Sunday morning he was visited by a CONSTITUTION representative, but beyond the denial of the existence of a wife in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, nothing could be drawn from him.
    Yesterday Mr. Buchanan, at whose instance Follansbee was arrested, said to a CONSTITUTION reporter: "I knew Follansbee in 1876.  He was then working for Longley & Robinson.  I was also working there.  Follansbee said that his home was in Fond du Lac, Wis., and that he had a wife and five children living there.  On one occasion he showed me a letter written by his oldest daughter.  After Follansbee quit Longley & Robinson I lost sight of him for a while, but occasionaly[sic] saw him.  One day after I was elected station house keeper I was glancing over a book in which there is kept a record of rewards, wants, etc.  Among other letters of inquiry I found the following two, asking for Follansbee:"
FOND DU LAC, October 27, 1879.--To the Chief of Police, Atlanta, Ga.--Dear Sir: I wrote to you some time ago (about a year and a half, I judge) and you kindly offered to assist me in the future if I requested it.  I did not think of calling upon your kindness so soon, but necessity compels me to.  You well remember I wrote you in regard to one John W. Follansbee.  I would be very much obliged if you could tell me if he is in Atlanta yet and where he is stopping.  I have mislaid your letter to me and have forgotten your name.  I would like an answer as soon as possible.  One of his children is very sick.  By the way an agent from Memphis, Tenn says he saw him in that place last spring: that he sent a message by him, but he had forgotten it, Yours sincerely,
Fond Du Lac, Wis, Box 426
On the letter was the following endorsement:
Colonel L. P. Thomas: I suppose this note is intended for you.  I cannot find any such man, and she says your letter was a year and a half ago.  Can you give me any light on the subject?  Respectfully,            G. T. ANDERSON.

FOND DU LAC, November 17, 1879.--George T. Anderson: Your postal received and contents noted.  I am writing by the request of Mrs. John W. Follansbee.  She would like to know his whereabouts, but would prefer that he know nothing of your trying to find him if you can get along without it.  John W. Follansbee left Fond du Lac for Atlanta the 30th of October, 1875.  He has been heard from until almost two years ago; is a short man, about five feet four inches, forty-three years old, dark eyes and dark, curly hair.  I inclose his photograph.  I believe the gentleman's name I wrote to before was Athy; cannot recall his initials, as I have mislaid his letter.  That gentleman said he was in Atlanta, stopping at the Atlanta house.  It might have been a little over a year and a half ago.  Is there a jobber in Atlanta by the name of William Binsel?  You might obtain some information from him, as he left Fond du Lac in company with John W. Follansbee.  Please do not mention for whom you are getting the information, as it might not have the desired result.  Anxiously awaiting your reply, I remain, yours respectfully,

P.S.--Inclosed please find stamp.  Would prefer you do not send a card; do not like to have anything made public.  Many thanks for your kindness.
    "As soon as I read these letters I knew that the Follansbee I knew at Longley & Robinson's, and the Follansbee for whom these letters were inquiring to be the same man, and so I informed Chief Anderson, but as Follansbee was charged with no crime I took no action except to look up his whereabouts.
    "In glancing over the CONSTITUTION one morning, I read of his marriage to Miss Hunter, and at once recollected his telling me that he had a wife and five children in Fond du Lac, Wis.  I also remembered the letters and knew at once that he was a bigamist.
    "The Mr. Binsel spoken of in one of the letters is working at Messrs. Fred Hart & Sons, Marietta street, and knows that Follansbee is a married man.  He knew him and his family in Fond du Lac.  They came south together.  Mr. Fred Hart knew him there and Follansbee may say what he wants; he has two wives and I will prove it."
    Mr. Binsel was hunted up by the CONSTITUTION representative.  He was busily engaged shaping a sash at Hart's planing mill.  In response to the reportorial queries, he said that he knew Follansbee in Fond du Lac; that Follansbee had worked for him for some time in Fond du Lac; that he had five children, the eldest a girl about twenty-one years of age and was living with the mother of those children who was passing as his wife.  He felt no doubt, in fact was certain, that she was Follansbee's wife.  Since Mr. Binsel's residence in Atlanta he has received letters from Fond du Lac inquiring about Follansbee.
    Soon after Follansbee married Miss Hunter, Mrs. Binsel clipped the marriage notice from THE CONSTITUTION columns and sent it to a friend of her's who resides just across the street from Follasnbee's wife in Fond du Lac.  As soon as the lady in Fond du Lac read the notice she went across to Mrs. Follansbee's home to show it to her, but when she entered the house she found Mrs. Follansbee reading the same notice, which someone in Atlanta had sent her.  This was learned through a letter which Mrs. Binsel has received from Fond du Lac since sending the marriage notice.
    In addition to Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Binsel, there are several persons in Atlanta who know Follansbee.  One of these furnishes the CONSTITUTION with a brief history of Follansbee since 1875.  During that year, said our informant, he arrived in Atlanta, but remained only a few days, he then went to Dahlonega where he secured work.  Whilst in Dahlonega he began paying attention to the daughter of a widow lady, but soon the story of his wife in Fond du Lac leaked out and Follansbee got the set back.  This information was given the lady's mother by Mrs. Binsel.  Soon after this escapade Follansbee left Dahlonega for Atlanta.  He came down the Chattahoochee to Iceville in a dugout.  Then it was that he began work for Longley & Robinson.  In '78 this firm discharged him and he went to Marietta and from there to Woodstock, in Cherokee county, where he worked in a gold mill until February last.  During that month Collector Andrew Clark appointed him store keeper and gauger, and assigned him to Hunter & Crockett's distillery, near Decatur.  Here it was that he became acquainted with Miss Hunter.
    At the time Follansbee was seeking the appointment at Collector Clark's hands, he met Mr. Binsel and asked him to indorse his application.  During the conversation he informed Mr. Binsel that he had heard from his wife a short time previous.  He also said that there was a mortgage on his house and lot in Fond du Lac, and that he was seeking the appointment in order to cancel it, and it is said that Mr. Binsel not only signed the application, but that Mr. Hart attached his signature thereto, hoping to thereby aid the man.
    Miss Hunter has returned to her father's home in Decatur.  Mr. Hunter says that he cannot help thinking Follansbee a bigamist.
    Late yesterday evening Follansbee granted the pencil pusher an audience.  He said that he had employed a lawyer and would stand trial.  He says that the woman in Wisconsin is not his wife, but admits that he lived with her for more than twenty years, during which time she passed as his wife, and as such obtained credit, but to Mr. Buchanan he has since his incarceration admitted having a wife in Fond du Lac.
    His preliminary trial will occur Thursday next in Decatur.  The prosecuting witnesses are Mrs. Eisbenery[sic], with whom Follansbee boarded; Mr. Dyer, to whom he has frequently said that he was a married man; Mr. Fred Hart, Mr. Buchanan and Mr. and Mrs. Binsel.
    Intelligence of the coming of Follansbee's oldest daughter reached THE CONSTITUTION reporter late last night.  It is said that she is en route to Atlanta, where she will arrive to-day, for the purpose of attempting to extricate her father from his position.

Wednesday, June 1

Station House Intelligence

    Charles Croft, Will Cullom and Thomas Green were fined by the recorder yesterday morning for disturbing public worship.  The first paid $15 each, whilst the last one anted $10.
    Joe Caldwell is awaiting an investigation.  He is charged with larceny.
    John Key, a lunatic, was lodged in the city prison last night by Officers Crim and Brenning.
    James Jones is booked for obtaning goods under false pretenses.
    William Robinson was tried yesterday for larceny.  He gave bond in the sum of $100.
    Oscar Bone, the juvenile burglar, was given a preliminary trial yesterday.  Judge Pitchford required a bond of $300.
    Follansbee still lingers in cell No. 5.  He clings to his story, as indicated in yesterday's issue, and says that he can readily establish the fact that the woman in Fond du Lac was only his mistress.  The people at Decatur are indulging in some plain talk about the case.  R. Richardson, a Wisconsin gentleman, was in the city yesterday.  He knows the Follansbee family and says that the father of the accused is a wealthy Jaynesville, Wis. citizen.  He also has a wealthy uncle in Chicago.
    Chastain is still at large.
    Oscar Jones, the wounded negro, is improving.
    A big fisticuff occurred on Peters street last night.
    At 2 o'clock this morning Captain Starnes caged two mulatto boys who are thought to be professional burglars.
    Officers Garmany and Menkin made an addition to the calaboose occupants about one o'clock this morning.  This case will likely develop a big burglary.

Friday, June 3


Is What Follansbee Must Ante for Liberty
    Promptly at 12 o'clock yesterday the preliminary trial of J. W. Follansbee, the alleged bigamist was begun in the Fulton superior court room, Judge Hillyer sitting as trial justice.
    For the prosecution there appeared H. P. Farrow, of Atlanta, and H. C. Jones, of Decatur, who conducted the case with great credit to themselves.
    The defendant was represented by John A. Wimpy, who made a stubborn, but unsuccessful fight for his client.
    The court room was well filled with an anxious crowd, whose curiosity induced them to attend the trial.
    For the state five witnesses were examined--Messers. Buchananm Dyer, Hart and Bensell, and Mrs. Eisenberg.  Messers. Buchanan and Dyer testified to the same facts.  They detailed conversations which they had with the defendant and in which he admitted to them that he had a wife in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  These were made at different times within the last three years, and as recently as last January and February.
    Mr. Bensell, formerly a resident of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, but for the last six years a resident of Atlanta, testified that he knew the lady whom the defendant called his wife.  He knew that they lived together as man and wife in Fond du Lac, as he himself lived there six or seven years, during which time he had frequently met them.  The witness did not see them married, but felt certain that they were man and wife.  Every person in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, who knew them, so thought.
    Mrs. Eisenberg, a widow lady, testified that she was in Dahlonega on a visit to her brother, and whilst there was introduced to [the] defendant.  She received some attentions from him, and was notified that he had a wife in Wisconsin.  One night as she and Follansbee were returning from church she told him that she had a pointed question to put to him, and that she wanted a pointed answer.  She then asked him if he was not a married man, when he acknowledged that he had a wife and five children in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  Again, in conversation with Follansbee the Sunday preceding last Christmas, he spoke of his wife in Wisconsin, and also of a young lady of whom his wife as jealous, and about whom he and his wife had had, as he said, a quarrel.
    The counsel for defense objected to this admission by defendant being received as evidence, but the objection was overruled by the court.
    Here the prosecution rested the case.
    The defense introduced no evidence, but briefly argued the case.  Mr. Wimpy said that the evidence did not show that the Wisconsin wife was alive now and until that fact was established no case could be made against the defendant.  He admitted that his client had lived with a woman in Fond du Lac, who passed as his wife, but added she was only his paramour.  At the conclusion of Mr. Wimpy's remarks the case was submitted to the court without argument by the prosecution.
    Judge Hillyer briefly reviewed the evidence and said that he thought it sufficient to warrant the detention of the prisoner.  He notified the prosecution the [sic] that evidence deposed was not enough to convict, but added that the charge was of such a nature that the very ground work of society was affected thereby.  In conclusion Judge Hillyer fixed Follansbee's bond at $3,000.
    Being unable to give bond Follansbee was lodged in the Fulton county jail, Judge Hillyer so ordering, because, as he said, the relation of the jailer of DeKalb county to the wife(?) of the prisoner incapacitated him from being the prisoner's jailer.
    Follansbee will now rest a short time.

Saturday, June 4

Great Interest is Felt in Follansbee's Escapades.

    The following was received at THE CONSTITUTION office yesterday:
FOND DU LAC, Wisconsin, June 1.--City Editor Constitution--Dear Sir:  With this mail we send you copies of our daily.  We should like to exchange with you.  The man J. N.[sic] Follansbee, arrested in your place for bigamy, has a wife and children here.  Being well known, particulars of the affair are of interest in Fond du Lac.  Could you make it a personal matter, and send me copies of your paper containing any proceedings in the case?  Yours truly,
City Editor Commonwealth.
    Soon after its perusal a reporter was dispatched to the jail.  Follansbee was again interrogated and again denied the existence of a Fond du Lac wife.  The letter was shown him, but had no effect other than to induce a reiteration of his former statements.
    Follansbee said that this was his first trouble and that it would be his last.  He seems confident of his ability to secure an acquittal.
    Miss Hunter has not visited Follansbee since his arrest.  Follansbee says that he knows she is restrained by her parents from doing so.  He seems to think he has a friend in the lady.
    At his request Mr. Wimpy will write to Fond du Lac and attempt to secure bail, but as to the result there is no way to arrive but by waiting.
    Thomason, the man arrested for having a mail key made, was yesterday tried before a United commissioner and in default of a $1,000 bond committed to jail.  He says that he will be able to give bond as soon as his friends know his trouble.