Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Story of Laughing Ben Ellington


LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE



















One of the most popular members of the Dublin community in the early years of this century was a Black man known as "Laughing Ben" Ellington. Ben Ellington got his name from his loud laugh and humorous story telling. Ellington toured the
country performing at festivals, fairs, and expositions. For a time he was managed by Captain Hardy Smith. G.P. Houser and Jule Green visited the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901. (One of the three men pictured above. They reported that Ben was one of the more interesting attractions at the exposition. He allegedly celebrated his 100th birthday, while performing at the Centennial Exposition of the Louisiana Purchase. Ben claimed to have been born in 1804 and lived as a slave for sixty years or so.

Ben's favorite story involved his former master. The master promised Ben that he would give him a quarter for every chicken that Ben could fetch. Ben went to the plantation coop and picked up a fat fryer. The master told him to put the chicken in the coop and gave Ben the quarter. Ben had the last laugh. "I stole that chicken seven times that night. Then I went back and stole him again and ate him myself."

Ben took a job with a traveling carnival after returning from the Pan American Exposition. When the carnival went bankrupt at Brunswick, Ben was stranded with no money. Ben telegraphed his friend W.W. Robinson to send ten dollars from his checkingaccount. Mr. Robinson instructed the Brunswick bank cashier that Ben would laugh for his identification. This was probably the only time in history that a cashier required a laugh before cashing a check.

After he returned to Dublin, Ben went to the state fair in Valdosta. He disappeared for several months. His wife finally received a letter from Ben who was performing in San Francisco.

After returning home by stage coach, Ben left for Coney Island, New York, where he was a big hit and made a lot of money.

During his visits to Dublin, Ben was a mail carrier on the Dublin to Stephensville Route. He was loved by everyone he met. While visiting in Dublin, Gov. Bob Taylor of Tennessee invited Ben to come and live on his farm. Ben died at his home in northern Laurens County in 1905. Everyone smiled when they remembered "Old Ben." When Ben's laughter or funny story brought a smile to the face to of someone who was sad, his mission as a comedian was accomplished. It is true what they say - "laughter is the best medicine."

Ernest Camp, editor of "The Dublin Times", penned his
thoughts about Ben Ellington is this poetic obituary:



LAUGHIN' BEN ELLINGTON

He laughed down here in Laurens an' he laughed
throughout the state,
An' jes' everywhere he traveled he would
laugh an' imitate;
He laughed from sunny Dixie to the deep
Pacific shore,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any
more!

He laughed sometimes for money an' he
sometimes laughed for fun,
He would laugh in bleakest weather and
then laugh beneath the sun,
He would laugh in such a manner as you
you never saw before,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any
more!

He would laugh for any person an' he'd
laugh at any place,
There was allers laughter runnin' down each
wrinkle on his face,
He would oftimes laugh at nothing till his
very sides were sore,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any
more!

He laughed because he liked it - ne'er a
shadow out for him,
An' he often carried sunshine where the hope
was growin' slim,
But he laughed his way to glory, far beyond
this mortal shore,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any more!

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