Tom Dula (Dooley)


Thomas Dula (June 22, 1845-May 1, 1868)


Tom Dooley (Dula) was not just the influence behind the song the Kingston Trio made popular in 1958 “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley”. He was a very talented musician in his own right.  His passion for fiddle playing gained him the reputation throughout the rural county of  Wilkes, North Carolina .  He played at all the events in the area and was reportedly, a very talented musician.  On his military documents, his special interest was listed as “Musician”. Tom was a good soldier and would often be found sitting around the Army camp playing his music.

And now for the story about the Civil War veteran who entangled himself in a love triangle after his return from the Civil War:

There are many versions of what happened, as most of the stories were handed down through generations from a rural community that was uneducated and poor.  The basic story, however, is undisputable.  Tom was convicted of the brutal murder of his pregnant fiancé’, Laura Foster, and hung for the crime.

Tom Dooley returned to his home in Happy Valley on the Yadkin River in Wilkes County, North Carolina after the Civil War

Before the war, Tom, a happy-go-lucky young man, was very popular with the ladies.  Two of these ladies were Laura Foster and her cousin,  Ann Foster, who had been his main love since school.  Both girls were infatuated with Tom but it was Ann who laid claim to his heart.  But before the war was over and Tom returned home, Ann's infatuation had taken a turn  and she married James Milton.  Once he returned home and discovered Ann had married James, Tom took up with Laura Foster once again.  Soon, however, he secretly resumed his love affair with Ann.

Much to Ann’s dismay Laura announced she was pregnant with Tom’s baby. Tom, planning on doing the right thing, made plans with Laura to run away and get married.  In the middle of the night she took what clothes she could carry on horseback and left home for her rendezvous with Tom.  Being very poor, she took the only horse her father owned.  Her mother had died when she was young.

The following day Tom was seen walking down a road near her home but Laura was nowhere around. She seemed to have disappeared.  Her father searched for her, but to no avail.  As time went on, people suspected she may have run away.  More search parties were formed, as the father was not giving up hope of finding her. About three weeks after Laura disappeared, the horse returned with a broken halter.  The searchers found where the horse had been tied to a tree.  Her shallow grave was soon found nearby. Her father identified her from her teeth and the one pair of worn out shoes she owned. It was verified that she had been stabbed in the heart.

Tom, hearing rumors he was a suspect, left the area on foot to escape being arrested.  He was tracked down and brought to trial.  Anne was also arrested but eventually set free.

Tom spent two years in jail before being found guilty.

He was hung for the crime but always maintained his innocence.  Anne died of injuries from an accident two years later.  Folklore has it that upon her death bed and with her last dying breath, she whispered something in her husbands ear.  It upset him so much, that after she died, he packed up his remaining family and moved to another state. Perhaps a confession of the crime?  She was very jealous of Tom’s affection for other girls and there were incidents reported about her violence and rage. Witnesses had told of physical confrontations she had with those that crossed her.

My personal opinion after much research and going over the trial transcript is that he did not kill Laura.  I believe he helped cover up the crime but that he did not actually commit the murder.

Apparently, I am not the only one as Two Republican state senators and others, petitioned the courts to exonerate Tom posthumously.  The governor denied the request.  No reason given.


Rest In peace Tom


P.S. Tom, Laura and Ann are all buried a few miles apart from each other.  The grave site locations form a triangle. Hmm!!!


The End

From Civil  war hero and prisoner of war


...Accused Murderer

Tom Dula

I vividly recall my brother and I finding this site. We had been looking for Laura’s grave site and found Tom’s instead.  We paid our respects and solemly left Tom to rest in peace.