He Met Her on the Mountain and There He Took Her Life

A court document from Dula’s murder trial. Image from the State Archives.On June 18, 1866, the body of Laura Foster was found in a shallow grave in Wilkes County. She had been stabbed in the chest and reportedly was pregnant at the time of her death.

Foster had last been seen on May 25 riding a horse down Stony Fork Road. Tom Dula, who had liaisons with both Foster and Ann Melton, was charged with her murder. Dula, a Confederate veteran, was returned to North Carolina from Tennessee, where he had fled.

Melton and Dula were brought to trial for murder during the fall term of Wilkes County court, but a change of venue moved the trial to Iredell County. Dula was convicted but Melton was found not guilty. The North Carolina Supreme Court overturned Dula’s conviction and he was tried again in January 1868 only to be convicted a second time. This time the verdict was sustained by the Supreme Court.

Dula was hanged in May 1868 in Statesville. The subject of mountain folk ballads sung even before his execution, Dula and Foster were immortalized in the best-selling “ Tom Dooley,” recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1958.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

This Day Categorization: