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Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
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  • Monument Name

    Laura Foster, Kings Creek

  • Type

    Marker

  • Subjects

    Local History

    Women Monuments

  • City

    Kings Creek

  • County

    Caldwell

  • Description

    The memorial marker to Laura Foster is a square, two-feet high, poured concrete block with a bronze tablet attached to the top. Although the tablet is dated 1991, the dedication ceremony was held in May 1992. Foster was the murder victim associated with the legend of Tom Dooley made famous by the Kingston Trio with their recording of the song “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley” in 1958.

    Images: Gravesite of Laura Foster

  • Inscription

    LAURA FOSTER / DIED MAY 28, 1866 / MAY SHE REST IN PEACE / ON THE 28TH OF MAY 1866, LAURA FOSTER, A BEAUTIFUL BUT FRAIL / GIRL, WAS DECOYED FROM HER FATHERS HOUSE AT GERMAN HILL IN / CALDWELL COUNTY TO A PLACE IN WILKES COUNTY AND WAS MURDERED. / TOM DULA (TOM DOOLEY) WAS LATER HANGED FOR HER MURDER. SHE / WAS BURIED ON THE BANKS OF THE YADKIN RIVER ON THE FARM OF / JOHN WALTER WINKLER.

    LAURA'S GRAVE IS ACROSS THE ROAD, SURROUNDED BY THE WHITEWASHED / LOCUST FENCE. THE LAND FOR THIS PARK IS PROVIDED BY JOHN CHRISTIAN / BERNHARDT. / THIS HISTORICAL MARKER IS PROVIDED BY / WOODMEN OF THE WORLD LODGE 95 / LENOIR, NORTH CAROLINA /1991

  • Custodian

    Kings Creek Community

  • Dedication Date

    May 16, 1992

  • Decade

    1990s

  • Geographic Coordinates

    36.049430 , -81.447280 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      "Thomas C. Dula, 1844-1868," The Historical Marker Database, HMdb.org, (accessed July 20, 2017) Link

      "Tom Dula's Own Ballad" performed by Sheila Clark, from The Legend of Tom Dula and Other Tragic Love Ballads, provided to YouTube by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and published on May 31, 2015, (accessed July 20, 2017) Link

      Watson, Keith. “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooly,” North Carolina Public Radio, wunc.org, June 18, 2013, (accessed July 16, 2016) Link

      “Group Erects Marker at Grave Linked to Dooley Legend,” Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), May 17, 1992

      “Laura Foster,” The Historical Marker Database, HMdb.org, (accessed July 16, 2017) Link

      “Laura Foster,” Waymarking.com, (accessed July 16, 2017) Link

      “Statesville, N.C., May 7, 1868,” The Rutherford Star (Rutherfordton, NC), June 9, 1868

      “The Death Penalty,” The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH), May 7, 1868

      “Thomas C. Dula,” North Carolina Historical Marker Program, www.ncmarkers.com, (accessed July 16, 2017) Link

  • Public Site

    Yes

  • Materials & Techniques

    Bronze on concrete

  • Sponsors

    Woodmen of the World Lodge 95 (Lenoir, NC)

  • Subject Notes

    The story of Tom Dula, or Tom Dooley, is one of North Carolina's best-known contributions to a genre of songs called "murder ballads". These songs, some with origins in England and Ireland, are retellings of historic murders in folk ballads. On June 18, 1866, the pregnant body of 21-year-old Laura Foster was found buried in Wilkes County. Thomas C. Dula (Tom Dooley), was tried and convicted twice of the murder after the NC Supreme Court overturned the first verdict. He was hanged on May 1, 1868, in Statesville. Controversy surrounded the trial and conviction which was covered widely in national newspapers.

    Dula was known as a "ladies' man," and was romantically involved with both Laura Foster, his fiancée, and her married cousin Ann Melton. Dula is often painted in stories and oral history as a rogue and ne'er do well. A news story from the time called him the “most hardened, desperate devil that was ever hanged in this or any other state.” Over the years, suspicions grew that in fact it may have been Ann Melton who jealously murdered Laura Foster. It has also been reported that Dula contacted syphilis from Laura Foster and passed that on to Melton.

    The story of Tom Dooley was put to music and recorded as early as 1929, but the best-known version is that of the Kingston Trio from 1958. It sold over a million copies and reaching No. 1 on the singles chart in November of that year. Another song about this tragic event is titled "Tom Dula’s Own Ballad”.

  • Location

    The memorial marker is on State Highway 268, on the left when traveling east, Caldwell county, NC. The Kings Creek Community is 20 miles northeast of Lenoir and about 20 miles southwest of Wilkesboro, NC. Laura Foster's grave is located on the other side of State Highway 268, ca. 300 feet from the marker.

  • Landscape

    The memorial marker stands in a small clearing surrounded by woodlands with open farmland across the road.

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