Recent writings about the case
When I completed this article, it had gotten so long, that I decided that to make it more readable, I would have to break it down to smaller portions, of which this is the first. As they are all in the End of Story part, I have simply decided to name them End of Story II a, End of Story II b and so on. So I will start out with a story, that is not so recent after all.
Another third hand report
The account in question was told in 1969 to John Foster West in connection with his research for his first book on the Tom Dooley subject, "The Ballad of Tom Dooley." The story was told by the then 81-year-old Wade Gilbert, who was the grandson of Louisa Gilbert, James Meltons second wife. Therefore you should think that he had first hand information, but as you will see that he hadn't. His story was as much based on rumors and storys from the neighborhood as anybody else's.
Gilbert was the son of Ellen
Gilbert, Louisa Gilbert's daughter out of wedlock from before she married James
Melton. Ellen was born in 1862 and was therefore four years old when the events
in question took place. As Ellen was only four at the time her knowledge can't
possibly be first hand. She must have picked stuff up as she grew up, perhaps
from her mother or stepfather, but even that is not very likely though and even
if she did get some information from her mother, that would already be third
hand information as Louisa Gilbert was not involved in the case at all. Also
Ellen lived from her birth in 1862 to at least sometime after 1880 with her
mother's uncle, Rufus D. Hall (second cousin to Tom Dooley and also related to
Laura Foster by marriage). In 1900 Wade was living with his mother, Ellen, with
a Mary Hall, who must have been related to his grandmother's uncle. Mary was
seven years younger than Rufus D., so she might have been a younger sister.
FamilySearch claims that Wade was the son of Mary, but in that case it would be
strange to name him Gilbert, not Hall, so this must be due to a misreading
of the orginal census records. In the original Mary Hall is mentioned as
"Head of Household". She has a tenant, Ellen Gilbert, and then comes Wade,
recorded as "son" followed by another tenant. This must mean that Wade is the
son of Ellen, as children of the "head of household" usually always precede any
tenants or lodgers. FamilySearch by the way called the second tenant, who was a
male, "Lillian," but when I look at the records I'm pretty sure that it
actually says "William", which would also fit better for a man. Evidence
suggests that Ellen Gilbert and Wade never lived with Ellen's mother and
stepfather, neither before or after the wedding, perhaps because the Melton home
was so small that to accommodate both the children he already had and the ones
he would have with Louisa, that there was no room for Ellen. As far as I can see,
Ellen never lived together with her mother at any time after Louisa's marriage.
Of course Ellen would have visited her mother, but it's not likely that Louisa
or James was the source of Wade Gilberts story, excelpt maybe for the family
Gilbert knows that Ann had two daughters, and he knows their names, but he doesn't know when they were born. He don't know that the youngest, Ida, wasn't born until 1871, several years after Tom's execution. But, he can tell that she moved to Caldwell County, and he does not know what happened to her later. (Fortunately I do, see the article Family Ties.) Jane stayed in Wilkes*, where she married and had nine children. He concludes by saying that after Ann's death Melton married his grandmother, and that James was a good man.
* Actually she and her
husband moved to Watauga County for some years and most of their children were
born here, but they later returned to Wiles and stayed there for the rest of
their lives, which may be what Gilbert remebered.