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tom dula
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George Moses HortonMillie-Christine McKoyTom DulaThe Futch FamilyThe Wright Brothers

Tom Dula

Who was Tom Dula?

Year of Birth:1844
Date of Death: May 1, 1868

The story of Tom Dula (pronounced Dooley) is a complicated web of characters and their actions that lead to the murder of Laura Foster in Iredell County, North Carolina. It’s a story made infamous not only by sensational court trials but also by several versions of a folk song written about the Tom Dula case.

Read more about those involved with the case here.

Listen to the folk song based on his trial. (YouTube)

Read an overview of the testimonies given by characters at the trial (pdf)

Scroll through the images at the right to see original documents that help tell Tom Dula’s story.  

"Exhibit A" Map
Roll over the map with your mouse to reveal the paths walked by Tom Dula and Laura Foster on the day of her murder.


Exhibit A Map
The Original Map drawn by Col. Isabel in the trial of Tom Dula, used as “exhibit A” [Jan 1867]

more characters
Laura Foster
A 21 or 22 year old woman, daughter of Wilson Foster with whom she lived along with her youger siblings; last seen on May 25, 1866

Ann Foster Melton
A 23 year old woman, wife of James Melton, cousin of Pauline and Laura Foster, childhood friend of Tom Dula, illegitimate daughter of Lotty Foster. Mrs. Melton had two daughters and died in the mid 1870s

James Melton
A shoemaker and husband of Ann Melton, married Ann Melton when she was 14 or 15; after Ann Melton's death he married Louisa Gilbert

Pauline Foster
Cousin of Ann Melton, staying with the Melton's since March 1866

Wilson Foster
Tenant farmer, father of Laura Foster

Lotty (Carlotta) Foster
Mother of Ann Melton


Col. James Isbell
Large landowner in the area

Dr. George Carter
Large landowner and only doctor in the area

Thomas Foster
Brother of Ann Foster Melton and illegitamate son of Lotty Foster

Mary Keaton Dula
Widowed mother of Tom Dula, her deceased husband had been Thomas. P Dula, her daughter Eliza Dula was married to Anderson Dula and lived with Mrs. Dula sometimes

Col. James Grayson
Large landowner in Tennessee near the NC state line, employed Tom Dula briefly and it was on his farm that Dula was arrested

Neighbors and other tenant farmers
Martha Gilbert, Washington Anderson, James Scott, Betsy Scott, Carl Carlton, and J.M. Winkler

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Last Updated July 31 2009