"Tom Dooley" Born, 1845
|The real Tom Dula.|
Tom Dula was a real person, however. He was born on June 22, 1845 and was executed on May 1, 1868 for the murder of Laura Foster. Other than that, the details are a little hazy.
We do know that Tom was born to a poor family in Wilkes County, North Carolina. He joined the Confederate Army three months before he turned 18, and served there until the war ended.
He appears to have been somewhat of a ladies' man. He and a neighbor, Ann Foster, had been lovers before he left for the war, and they apparently resumed the relationship when he returned, even though Ann had married James Melton in the meantime. (Some accounts indicate she was married before he left.)
He also seems to have been involved with Pauline (sometimes called Perline) Foster, a cousin of Ann's -- some say at Ann's instigation, to prevent her husband about finding out about her own affair with Tom. He also may have had an affair with another cousin of Ann's, Laura Foster. It seems that all four individuals had syphilis, and it seems that Pauline was most likely the one who infected Tom.
|James Grayson turned him in.|
Mr. Foster did get his horse back. It returned a few days later with a broken rein, as though it had been tethered and had escaped. No one looked for Laura for awhile; she was assumed to be safely in Tennessee. Tom, however, was still in town. If Laura had eloped, it had been with somebody else.
According to local lore, it was Pauline who found the body. She told officials that Ann had told her where it was buried, and when they looked, there she was. She had been stabbed multiple times with a large knife. One of the stab wounds had pierced her heart.
At about this time, rumors began to circulate that Tom Dula had done the deed. He found it expedient to leave town, and started making his way for the state border, to Tennessee. Along the way, his boots wore out, and he found it necessary to take temporary employment, at least until he could afford a new pair of boots. He found work with James Grayson, a former lieutenant colonel in the Union Army.
|The former Governor defended him.|
Tom was brought back for trial, and defended by Zebulon Baird Vance, the former Governor of North Carolina. He insisted that he hadn't killed Laura, but was found guilty. An appeal to the Supreme Court of North Carolina resulted in another trial, and he was found guilty once again.
Did Tom Dula kill Laura Foster, and if so, why? Was he upset about the pregnancy and didn't want to get married? Did he blame Laura for the syphilis? Was Laura actually on her way to marry someone else and had she and Tom had a falling out?
Some believe that Tom didn't commit the murder, but that Laura was killed by Ann in jealousy, or even by Pauline. Even Tom's 15-page document is a little suspicious, considering that when he joined the army he signed his name with an X -- he was apparently illiterate.
And here are the Kingston Trio singing their 1959 hit: