I seem to find the strangest things when I am not even looking. Today, I came across this weird coincidence. I have been studying the Reconstruction era of US history, and I came across a name that when I first saw it, I did not make the connection until I noticed that it was in reference to Wilkes County, North Carolina and the age-old story of the eternal triangle.
A few weeks back, I published an article titled Bad Grandma in which I talked about a fifth great grandmother on my mother’s-side who lived in the late 18th century and who was the center of a love triangle. In the post, I describe how she had married my ancestor John McMullan and had five children by him before she ran off to North Carolina with another man. Grandma’s name was Theodosia Beck Beasley, and the man she ran off with to Wilkes County was named William Dula. Like my ancestor, Capt. Dula was a veteran of the Continental Army. Yet apparently, John McMullan spent more time in the field than the captain did. John was gone most of five years serving in General Washington’s Army. It seems that Theodosia got tired of waiting for John to come home and ran off with this other man.
William Dula had a brother who also lived in Wilkes County. That brother’s name was Thomas Dula. Thomas had a great-grandson by the same name. The younger Thomas Dula was born in Wilkes County in 1845 and died in 1868 in Statesville, North Carolina. In the Appalachia South, the surname Dula is pronounced according to the same rules that turn “Opera” into “Opry,” and most folks know of Thomas Caleb Dula by the name “Tom Dooley.”
Thomas C. Dula (June 22, 1845 – May 1, 1868) was a former Confederate soldier who was convicted of murdering Laura Foster. National publicity from newspapers such as The New York Times turned Dula’s story into a folk legend. Although Laura was murdered in Wilkes County, North Carolina, Dula was tried, convicted, and hanged in Statesville. Considerable controversy surrounded the case. In subsequent years, a folk song was written (entitled “Tom Dooley“, based on the pronunciation in the local dialect), and many oral traditions were passed down, regarding the sensational occurrences surrounding Laura Foster’s murder and Dula’s subsequent execution.
The Kingston Trio recorded a hit version of the murder ballad in 1958.[4
Throughout history, there have been many songs written about the eternal triangle. This next one tells the story of Mister Grayson, a beautiful woman, and a condemned man named Tom Dooley. When the sun rises tomorrow, Tom Dooley must hang.Thomas Land