Murder of Laura Foster, The [Laws F36]
DESCRIPTION: Laura Foster's fiance and his new sweetheart kill her and bury her. Her parents find the body, and it is agreed that she has been murdered. In the Brown texts, at least, the fate of the murderer is not mentioned
AUTHOR: Almost certainly Thomas Land
EARLIEST DATE: 1947 (Brown)
KEYWORDS: homicide corpse family
1866 - Murder of Laura Foster by Thomas C. Dula (and his new sweetheart Ann Melton). Dula apparently killed Foster because he had contracted a venereal disease from her
May 1, 1868 - Dula is hanged for the murder.
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Laws F36, "The Murder of Laura Foster"
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 302, "The Murder of Laura Foster" (1 text plus mention of 3 more)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore4 302, "The Murder of Laura Foster" (2 excerpts, 2 tunes)
ADDITIONAL: Gardner: Rufus L. Gardner, _Tom Dooley, The Eternal Triangle_, Gardner Enterprises/Reliable Printing Company (Mount Airy, NC), 1960, pp. 12-16, "The Murder of Laura Foster" (1 text)
John Foster West, _The Ballad of Tom Dula_, Moore Publishing Company, (second printing) 1977, pp. 17-34, (various titles) (gives Land's text starting on p. 31, following 12 texts and fragments plus 4 tunes of "Tom Dooley")
Sheila Clark, "The Ballad of Laura Foster" (on LegendTomDula)
cf. "Tom Dooley" [Laws F36A] (plot)
cf. "Tom Dula's Lament" (subject)
NOTES [293 words]: Laws does not name an author for this ballad, but the attribution to Thomas Land (a Confederate veteran) seems to have been well known to Brown's informants, and the poetry has the stilted feel of a composition which, at the time of collection, was still close to its composed origins.
For background to this song, see the notes to "Tom Dooley." - RBW
John Craig, the source for [Sheila] Clark's version, learned it from his great-grandmother, Zora Church Lee. He describes the ballad as having been "taken from a popular local account" written by Land. So it sounds like Land wrote the story in prose, which was then made into poetry by an unknown author. Clark's song retains the stilted feel Bob mentions. - PJS
In fact Land wrote it; see the text in Gardner cited above. But Fletcher, p. 138, explains that Land wrote the piece as a poem, not a song. So possibly the person who found the "popular local account" was the person who set it to music. This would also explain why the song doesn't describe Dula's fate. Land published "The Murder of Laura Foster" in 1866, and Dula's case bounced around the courts until 1868, when he was hanged. (Again, see the notes to "Tom Dooley").
As for Land's account being local, Land himself was a witness at Dula's trial, although we don't know what he said. (There is no transcript of the trial, just some notes by the judge and clerk.) Land, according to Fletcher, was a former Confederate officer who was also a schoolteacher.
According to Fletcher, p. 140, the text of the Sheila Clark version is very close to Land's original, which sometimes forces her to some tricks to deal with his poor metrical sense.
West, p. 31, in printing the text, comments crisply, "The events described are chiefly imaginary." - RBW
Last updated in version 6.3
- Fletcher: John Edward Fletcher, PhD (with a foreword by Edith Marie Ferguson Carter), The True Story of Tom Dooley: From Western North Carolina Mystery to Folk Legend, History Press, 2013
- Gardner: Rufus L. Gardner, Tom Dooley, The Eternal Triangle, Gardner Enterprises/Reliable Printing Company (Mount Airy, NC), 1960
- West: John Foster West, The Ballad of Tom Dula, Moore Publishing Company, (second printing) 1977
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