Tom Dooley - The legend and the facts

On the First of May 1868 Thomas C. Dula was hanged for murder in the city of Statesville in Iredell County, North Carolina, USA. He was accused of having murdered and buried Laura Foster in May 1866. Throughout the proceedings, he declared himself not guilty of murder, but in the end he was convicted and executed anyway. The case attracted great attention in the U.S., and journalists from as far away as New York came to Statesville to attend the proceedings and not least the execution. Why this particular case caused such a furor is unclear as there were several murder cases around the Civil War-ravaged United States, which did not get even close to the same attention.
After the proceedings were completed several local stories about the murder began to rise and some of these turned to legends. Some of these were in the form of poems and songs and some remained stories that were passed down orally. Some of these were later written down and some of the songs were
recorded, including a version with folk singer Frank Proffit and another with guitarist Doc Watson. In 1958, one of the versions became a hit for The Kingston Trio and the same year a Danish version was recorded and released by the group The Four Jacks. I heard this sad song several times in my childhood, but it never occurred to me, that it was based on real events. In 1959 a movie about the case was made, "The Legend of Tom Dooley" with actors Michael Landon and Jo Morrow, starring. Since 2001, every summer The Wilkes Playmakers have performed their version of the story in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, one of the places where Tom Dooley was imprisoned before his execution.
How I became interested in the story is told in my travel pages, in the article
How I got Interested in the Tom Dooley case. Anyway on and off since 2004 I have researched the story, and on this page I will bring some of my findings. The story is now complete, but if I learn anything new, I will of course update.

I have rewritten the articles on the main cast of the case and these are now split into separate articles on each person. All photos on these pages, not credited to others, are my own work, primarily from my visits to the area in 2012, 2013 and 2014 though a few are from my visits in 2002 and 2004.

Tom Dooley - An update: I
Tom Dooley - An update: II

Tom Dooley - An Update III

Tom Dooley - An update IV
Pictures about the case and it's geographical area (4-10-16)

North Carolina, Wilkes County, Elkville - history, nature, geography.
Tourist in Dooley Country

The legend of Tom Dooley
The main characters: Tom Dooley, Laura Foster, Ann Melton, James Melton, Pauline Foster and James Isbell
Supporting Cast
Family Ties
The Story of Tom Dooley I, Background and beginning
The story of Tom Dooley II, Laura disappears
The story of Tom Dooley III, The months that followed
The story of Tom Dooley IV, The discovery
The story of Tom Dooley V, The Grand Jury Hearing
The story of Tom Dooley VI, Trials and appeals
The Story of Tom Dooley VII, Execution and aftermath
Circumstantial Evidence
Strange and missing testimonies
Discrepancies about the date of the murder
Rulings from the appeals

What really happened I, Was Laura murdered at all?
What really happened II, Did Tom Dooley kill Laura Foster?
What really happened III, Did Ann Melton og Pauline Foster kill Laura Foster?
What really happened IV, Who killed Laura Foster
What really happened V, Did the witnesses tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
What really happened VI, A very different theory

End of story I: Miscarriage of Justice?
End of story II-a: Another third hand story
End of story II-b: Interesting internet pages

End of story II-c: Articles in The Recorder Online
End of Story II-d: Tom Dooley in fiction

End of Story II-e: A Pardon for Tom Dooley?

End of Story III-a: Introduction to my own theory on what really happened
End of Story III-b: Tom and the
End of Story III-c: The Murder of Laura Foster
End of story III-d: Conclusion

My sources for this page
A critical review of "The True Story of Tom Dooley"

Article in New Herald from Saturday, May 2nd 1868
Article in The Binghamton Sunday Press, Sunday November 30th, 1958
The Judicial System in North Carolina in the 1860s


Mrs. Edith Ferguson Carter in Memoriam

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