Thomas Caleb “Tom Dooley” Dula

Thomas Caleb “Tom Dooley” Dula

Elkville, Wilkes County, North Carolina, USA
Death 1 May 1868 (aged 22)
Statesville, Iredell County, North Carolina, USA
Burial Ferguson, Wilkes County, North Carolina, USA
Memorial ID 2473 · View Source
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Folk Figure. Born in Wilkes County, North Carolina to Mary Keeton and Thomas P. Dula. He was alleged to have begun an affair with Ann Foster at an early age, at about the time of her marriage to James Melton in 1859. At 17, he was conscripted and joined the 42nd Regiment North Carolina Infantry and fought for the Confederacy. At war's end he returned home and was alleged to have continued his affair with Ann. By 1866, he was also said to have been carrying on affairs with Ann's cousins, Pauline Foster (also known as Perline) and Laura Foster. Eventually diagnosed with syphilis, he told a friend that he intended to “put through” the woman who gave it to him. When Laura Foster disappeared in late May 1866, rumors began that she'd been murdered. Pauline Foster eventually led searchers to a shallow grave, and identified the remains therein as Laura Foster's, an exam found she had been stabbed to death. Pauline further implicated her cousin Ann and Tom Dula. He was arrested for murder, and throughout his trial maintained his innocence, and refused to implicate anyone else. He was convicted and condemned, but an appeal led to a second trial which was delayed twice, finally beginning January 20, 1868. The conclusion found him guilty of murder, and he was sentenced to death. When he was taken to the gallows, and according to the “New York Herald,” he spoke for nearly an hour about his childhood, about politics, and about all the people who had lied about him at his trials, claiming it was only lies which put him on the scaffold. He was executed by hanging, and his story became romanticized in a Thomas Land poem which was adapted and revised in 1958 by the Kingston Trio as the popular balled, “Tom Dooley.” The case has been argued for over 150 years, and publications about it include, “The Ballad of Tom Dula: The Documented Story Behind the Murder of Laura Foster and the Trials and Execution of Tom Dula” by John Foster West (2002) and “The True Story of Tom Dooley” by John Fletcher (2013). His surname was apparently pronounced with a long A in the local dialect, and was eventually corrupted into Dooley in the popular mind.

Bio by: Iola

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 2473
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Caleb “Tom Dooley” Dula (22 Jun 1845–1 May 1868), Find a Grave Memorial no. 2473, citing Tom Dooley Gravesite, Ferguson, Wilkes County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .