A real-life love story inspired a folk song making Tom Dooley and Laura Foster immortal.
Chorus Lines Of The Ballad Tom Dooley
Here are the chorus lines of Tom Dooley:
Hang down your head Tom Dooley,
Hang down your head and cry;
Hag down your head Tom Dooley,
Poor boy, you're going to die.
Tom Dooley Early Life
Born Tom Dula, pronounced Dooley, was born June 20, 1844, in poverty in North Carolina and raised by his widowed mother, yet he managed to teach himself how to read and play the fiddle. Tom was exceptionally good-looking, and very much a lady's man playing the field. In 1862 during the Civil War, Tom joined the Confederate Army. He was later captured and sent to Ft. Lookout, Maryland, as a POW for three months. Tom, being illiterate, had to sign his enlistment papers with an "X."
After the war, he returned to Wilkes County, North Carolina, and took up with Laura Foster, ignoring his old flame Anne Melton. Ann was an insanely jealous lover, and she was also married at the time, still yearning for Tom.
On May 25, 1866, Laura left and told a friend, "I'm going to meet Tom Dula, and we'll get married." Days later, she was reported missing, and people began suspecting Dula as responsible, and others believed Anne Melton was also involved. Tom was aware of his being suspected and fled to Tennessee.
Laura was killed at the abandoned farmland called the "Bates Place." The "Bates Place" is depicted on the cover of the book by Sharyn McCrumb, The Ballard of Tom Dooley.
Tom was a cad, yet he had the honor of a Southern gentleman and refused to let Anne be accused or prosecuted. He took full responsibility for the Murder of Laura.
On September 1, her body was discovered. Both Tom and Anne were arrested and sent for trial. Tom was convicted, but Anne was acquitted. His verdict was appealed, and his conviction was overturned. But it didn't end there. Another trial was set. Again he was convicted and sentenced to be hanged.
The hanging was set for May 1, 1868, near the old depot in Statesville. A crowd estimated to be about 3000 lined the streets, even climbing trees for a better view. Unfortunately, the fall was only two feet without Tom's neck breaking. He was left strangled for five minutes and declared dead after thirteen minutes.
After The Trial
Ann Melton returned to her husband and family. Rumors hint that she confessed to killing Laura. Unfortunately, it will probably never be known who was truly responsible for Laura's death. Many of the witnesses and people were unreliable, illiterate, and unsure of any dates about the case.
Rumors also said that Ann confessed on her deathbed but this cannot be collaborated.
Was Tom a martyr, or was he guilty? Hard to say with so many conflicting pieces of the crime. But both he and Laura are immortalized in the Ballad, TOM DOOLEY.
Tom Dooley is buried in a homemade cemetery in an unmarked grave. The road is closed to the public, and a previous marker was vandalized so often that it has been removed.
The Kingston Trio released their folk son in 1958, selling over three million records and placing them #1 in the Music Charts. The Tom Dooley song revived America's love of folk and country music. Before 1958 no one outside of North Carolina had ever heard of Tom Dooley. A few years later, after the Kingston Trio's song was released, he was known worldwide in Australia, Canada, Norway, and America.
In 1959, the film Hanged In Statesville was released, starring Michael Landon.
In conclusion, there was no legal guilt. Tom was illegally captured, arrested, convicted, and executed. In 2001, the National Endowment of Arts placed Tom Dooley's song on its Songs of the Country.
In 2008, The Library of Congress admitted the Kingston disc to the National Record Preservation Board.