June 12, 2011

Tom Dula

Remember the 60's hit Tom Dooley by The Kingston Trio?  It was a ballad about the young Thomas C. Dula who was tried (twice), found guilty both times and finally hung on May 1, 1868 for the death of Laura Foster.

Tom was born to Thomas P. and Mary Keaton Dula on Jun. 20, 1844 in Wilkes Co.  According to tales, he was as promiscuous as most young men when they reach puberty and had been known to have been intimate with Laura as well as other young women, married or single, in his neighborhood in Wilkes Co.

He enlisted in Co. K, 42d NC Infantry Regiment on Apr. 24, 1862.  Following enlistment, Tom spent Nov. 1 through Nov. 24 in the hospital at Petersburg, VA.  On Dec. 3, 1862 he was in the Episcopal Church Hospital at Williamsburg, VA and on Dec. 25, 1862 rejoined his regiment.  In Jan. and Feb., 1863 he was present with his unit but reported sick.  His rank was Musician.

He and his unit were in defense of Petersburg, VA for four months beginning Jul. 17, 1864.  He was again reported in the hospital at Richmond in Oct. 1864.  He had been admitted to the hospital on Aug. 10, 1864.

In March of 1865 he and his unit were in battle at Kinston, NC where he was captured and sent to Point Lookout in MD.  It was from there that he was paroled after signing the oath of allegiance on Jun. 11, 1865.

 Ann Foster was the illegitimate daughter of Carlotta "Lotty" Foster.  She was sometimes known as Angeline Pauline Foster and sometimes as Angeline Pauline Triplett.  Her father has never been determined.  Ann eventually married James Melton on Jun. 22, 1859 and had a daughter, Martha Jane, born c1861.  Some people contend, unto today, that Tom was the father but that has never been proven.

Laura Foster was some distant cousin to Ann.  She was the daughter of Wilson and Martha Bowman Foster, born c1843 in Caldwell Co.

Pauline Foster was a second cousin to Ann Foster Melton and had come to Caldwell Co. from Watauga to work for Ann and her husband.  She was eventually a "key witness" against Tom but described by a reporter for the New York Herald as "remarkable for nothing but debasement...".  Someone had overheard an argument between Pauline and Ann Foster Melton, apparently related to the death of Laura.  Authorities were notified and Pauline agreed to testify.

What's this to do with Coffey?  Well, Thomas P. Dula, father of Thomas C. was brother to John Dula; both sons of Bennet and Anna Stowe Dula.  John Dula married Mary Trivette and had a number of children, including Thomas Wesley, born Jan., 1837, died Feb. 16, 1924.

Thomas Wesley married Laura E. Laxton on May 19, 1856 in Caldwell Co. and, among others, had Arthur Hill Dula who married Mary Jane Coffey, the daughter of Thomas Avery and Louisa Gragg Coffey.  Arthur's sister, Mary Laura, married John Wesley Coffey, brother to Mary Jane.

To read more about Tom Dula and his trial, check out Death in North Carolina Piedmont by Francis H. Gasstevens, The History Press, Charleston, SC, 2006.  See also the Blue Ridge Country article by Sharyn McCrumb.

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