Recent writings about the case

As shown in the source list, many of my sources are websites. Some are about the Tom Dooley case itself, while I used others to "support" or "document" different aspects of my story. Of the sites telling of the case (and there are many more out there), there are many who have either copied from each other or have used the same sources. That means to say that quite a lot of them don't add any new information to the story. There are however several others who do - whether you agree with this information or not. Many of them are mainly based on the legends without a critical approach to them, while others includes much more facts. Both types are interesting though, and below I will talk about a couple or three of those.

Interesting Internetsites

One of these is "Murder by Gaslight" which gives a good explanation of how and why the stories have evolved as they have: "A good storyteller never lets the facts get in the way. When an event is preserved in song and story, the tale will change at the whim of the teller." The article on the site is from 2010 so it is relatively new, and therefore includes information that older websites is missing. Some things, stated as fact, are at best speculations though, like the idea that Zebulon Vance undertook the defense of Tom pro bono. Nobody knows that for sure, or if he was paid by some unknown benefactor of Tom's. It is also claimed on the site that Pauline had accused Tom and Ann of murdering Laura, but actually she didn't, as evidenced by the testimony. Also "The case against Tom Dula was circumstantial but compelling. All of the dirty laundry was aired, the promiscuity, the syphilis, and the threats made by Tom against Laura Foster. While there were many witnesses who testified on each of these aspects, the most damaging testimony came from Pauline Foster who held nothing back." But in fact there were not that many who testified about these matters. Only Rufus D. Hall, who testified about Toms threats and from his testimony we learn that these threats were not directed against any named person. But apart from small things like these, the information on the page is actually mostly based on facts, and it is a good page to visit, it you want to learn about the story.

Doc Watson's story adds a lot of new information, but unfortunately the news are not based on facts. It is nonetheless interesting reading because it reflects a tradition that existed in the area, when Watson was a kid in the 1920s. It also tells the story that Doc Watson based his version of the dsong on. The most interesting "information" is: "There were two men and two women involved in the whole affair. Mr. Grayson, the sheriff, had courted both Miss Laura Foster and Miss Annie Melton, as had Tom Dooley. Almost everyone around affirmed that Annie Melton had stuck the knife in Miss Laura's ribs and then hit her over the head. Tom Dooley, however, actually buried the girl, making himself an accomplice." What is new is that Sheriff Grayson (who probably never existed), had courted both Ann and Laura. What caused him to go courting a married woman is not clear. The stopry is well known on  other websites, only its normally told about a schoolteacher Bob Grayson (or Cummins). It is also interesting that Laura was hit over the head. Not even the doctor who examined her mentioned that in his testimony. Watson also tells that Grayson later went on to marry Ann Melton, which is quite impressive as she was already married to James Melton and remained his wife until her death. Anyway the story is interesting and also contains the story of Ann Melton's last words.

Planet Slade is one of the sites that has the most information about the songs and the case itself. The site is pretty much based on the books by John Foster West and thus brings a great many facts. The writer of the site comes to the conclusion (unlike many others) that it was actually Tom, who killed Laura, not Ann and not anyone else. The site bases its conclusion partly on crime statistics from 1999. Even I have included modern crime statistics, but it's
probably taking it a bit to far basing a conclusion on such statistics as the times were different then. It's actually admitted on the site that it is difficult to establish when Tom would have had time to commit the murder. There are also other small things. From the site I qouote: "Two days later, calls for Tom's arrest were circulating, and Happy Valley's citizens organised their biggest search party yet. This was led by a man called Winkler, who formed everyone up into a long line and told them to walk slowly up the ridge from Mary Dula's house towards the north, examining the ground as they went." It is possible that it was Winkler, who organized the search, but in court he simply told that he had taken part in the search. By the way it must have been close to the worst search ever, because if you walk in a long line along the ridge north from Mary Dulas house, one the participants must have passed almost directly over the spot where the grave was. When the warrant for Tom's arrest was issued by Justice of the Peace, Carter, it mentioned Tom, Ann and two other people which this site claims were Tom's second cousins, but they actually were his first cousins, which of course is nothing but a detail. Like myself and all other sources I have read, PlanetSlade offers no explanation of why these two cousins were included in Wilson Foster's accusations. Besides from these minor things, the page is very interesting and readable.

The best of the sites that I've visited in my quest for knowledge a
bout the case, is in my opinion The PapioTom Papers. Not because it actually gave me much information that I did'nt know before, but because it its largely based on facts. Moreover, it has some pretty sharp comments on some of the things that emerged during the proceedings, such as the map that James Isbell drew for the proceedings and which he confirmed in court was an exact reproduction of the area. It was not, however, and PapioTom express it like this: "I'm certain James Isbell's map, made for the trial, represented his best effort. His veracity is unimpeachable but there is no precision in the drawing, and distances are approximated." Like PapioTom explains, you only have compare Isbells maps with modern maps of the area, to discover, that it is rather incorrect. Like for example, on Isbell's map, the Yadkin River is drawn almost as straight line, but in reality is very winding at this particular stretch. This site is also one of the few that mentions Ann Meltons daughter, who was never mentioned at trial, and apparently have been forgotten by most of the legends.

The site seems to know that it was Col. James Horton that arranged for Zebulon Vance as Tom's defense lawyer, and perhaps that actually was the case, but we do not know, and Vance himself doesn't mention the Dooley case at all in later writings. This site comes the conclusion that Tom killed Laura in the morning, and buried the corpse shortly after. As mentioned in other articles on my site, I don't belive Tom would have had time enough to commit the murder, even if he had dug the grave in advance. On the other hand PapioTom arrives at the same conclusion as I about Tom Dooleys confession, namely that it was not a real confession, but more on this in the article on my own theory about Laura's death.

I will not go into detail on any more websites, but will just refer anyone interested to also read "Tom Dooley - Bound to die." and "Tom Dooley - A Wilkes County Legend".

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