The True Story of Tom Dooley
enough, the place where I was camping in North Carolina was only a short ways from the
site that inspired a famous folk song.
Shortly after the Civil War, a man named Tom Dula (pronounced
"Dooley") lived in nearby Wilkes County, North Carolina. Dula, a
Confederate war veteran, had lively relationships with several local
ladies, including a young woman named Laura Foster. Though the details are
hazy, Dula apparently spun a lot of romantic webs because he also
had a relationship at the same time with a married woman named Ann Melton and with yet another
Foster woman named Pauline.
Here's the Kingston Trio
singing Tom Dooley.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
morning in 1866, Dula wakened Laura Foster and told her to pack her things
because he wanted to marry her later that day -- an approach to romance that
probably wouldn't get a big "thumbs-up" from Oprah. Anyway, Laura
disappeared soon afterwards and Tom Dula fled to Tennessee.
prolonged search, Laura's murdered body was found and Dula was tracked down in
Tennessee by Sheriff Grayson. Dula was brought back to North Carolina,
where he was tried for murder and was found guilty. He was hanged in
Statesville, North Carolina, and was buried in Wilkes County, as was Laura.
soon hit the newspapers, some as far away as New York City, and eventually a
song was written about the whole affair. In 1930, a fiddler named G.B.
Grayson, a relative of Sheriff Grayson, recorded a version of the song which,
in 1958, was sung and popularized by the Kingston Trio. Their song set off
an explosion of folk music that swept across the U.S. in the late 1950s and
early 1960s, and it's always been one of my favorites. Today, you can
even visit Tom's grave in Wilkes County -- if you're into that sort of thing.
left: The Cheoah River in North Carolina.
center: Here's something that I'd never seen before: steam rising from a lake during a hot afternoon.
Now THIS is humidity!
right: Instead of B&B, it's D&D (dinner and downloading
photos) while camping at
Fontana Lake, North Carolina. Yep, it's brats again -- good thing I'm not
in a rut!
Travels (2001-02) >
Story List >
U.S. Stories > The True Story of