Daily Archives: February 14, 2012

Love on the Dark Side

As we turn our attention to “Love in the Archives” and #loveheritage today, we should remember that love doesn’t always end in hearts and flowers. Sometimes it ends in murder.

The story of Tom Dula (pronounced Dooley) may be one of the most famous murder mysteries in North Carolina history. That’s due in large part to the folk song “Tom Dooley” made popular in the 1960s by the group The Kingston Trio. But the song glosses over a few aspects of the real historical case and, even with all the facts that we can find in the archival records in our collections, there are still many things that we don’t know about what happened on that day in 1866.

If you don’t know the story, it goes like this:

A woman named Laura Foster disappeared in Iredell County, N.C. on May 25, 1866. One of the last people to see her alive saw her riding a horse and carrying a bundle of clothes in her lap. When asked, Laura replied that a man who she fancied, Tom Dula, had come to see her and that she was on her way to meet him. She was found in a shallow grave in September of that same year, stabbed near the heart. Tom Dula left the county a few weeks after Laura Foster disappeared, but he was tracked down in Tennessee on July 11, 1866 and was eventually charged with her murder. During the court case, several witnesses testified that Dula was having a relationship with Ann Foster Melton and that both he and Melton had been acting suspiciously during the days before and after Foster’s disappearance.

The original map drawn by Col. Isabel in the trial of Tom Dula, used as exhibit A

The original map drawn by Col. Isabel in the trial of Tom Dula, used as exhibit A; learn more on our Educational Resources website.

Dula was found guilty of Laura Foster’s murder and sentenced to be hung on February 14, 1868. He was eventually executed on May 1, 1868, but the question remains: did he do it? Or, perhaps a better question: did he do it alone?

A few years ago one of our summer interns, Carrie Misenheimer, created a Educational Resources website which featured the story of Tom Dula and Laura Foster. The students side of the website includes a brief description of the case, a map of the paths Tom and Laura allegedly traveled on the day of Laura’s disappearance, a summary of the main players in the case and their relationships to each other, and several documents from the court case. The teachers side includes lesson plans and additional background on the court case.

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North Carolina’s Cyrano de Bergerac

Love in the Archives” and #loveheritage are our themes on the blog today as we point you towards love themed materials in our collections. A couple of days ago I asked Debbi Blake, head of our Public Services Branch, to think about what kind of romantic archival items she had run across in our collections. Almost immediately she reminded me of our George Moses Horton materials – “a bit of Cyrano de Bergerac going on there,” she said.

Acrostic poem by George Moses Horton

Acrostic poem by George Moses Horton; learn more on our Educational Resources website.

She’s right, of course. George Moses Horton was a slave who became well-known for writing, reciting, and selling acrostic poems to students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The acrostics featured the names of students’ sweethearts and were used by the students to woo the young ladies in question although, as materials in our collection prove, their efforts were not always successful. Horton used the money that he made selling poetry and fruit at the university to buy his time from his master at 25 cents (and later 50 cents) per day.

As a slave Horton was not legally allowed to marry, which makes his writing love poetry on behalf of young men who could even more tragic.   However, in 1829, Horton published a book entitled The Hope of Liberty –  it was the first book published in the south by an African-American.

A few years ago one of our summer interns, Carrie Misenheimer, created a Educational Resources website for us and one of the subjects she focused on was George Moses Horton. The students side of the website includes a brief description of Horton’s life and various items from our collections related to him. The teachers side includes lesson plans on Horton; I encourage you to check out both sides if you have time, particularly if you are a teacher in North Carolina.

The Emblem of Language and Flowers

Emblem of Language of Flowers, a list of flowers and their symbolic meaning

Emblem of Language of Flowers, a list of flowers and their symbolic meaning, from the Williams-Womble Papers

As part of our celebration of “Love in the Archives” and the #loveheritage Valentine’s Day event, below is a transcription of “The Emblem of Language and Flowers,” a list of flowers and their symbolic meaning, likely written as a school exercise by an unidentified student. This item is from the Williams-Womble Papers, which you can read more about on our Civil War 150 blog.

The Emblem of Language of Flowers
Apple blossom Preference
Aeacia yellow Concealed love
Ambrosia Love returned
Aloe Religious superstition
Almond tree Indiscretion
Ash tree Grandeur
Bachelors button Hope in love
[unlegible]lm Sweets of social intercourse
[unlegible]alsam Impatience do not approach me
Broom corn Industry
Broome Humility
Buttercup Riches
Brumble Envy
Burdock Touch me not
Cedar You are not entitled to my love
Cattehfly I am a willing prisoner
China aster duble Your sentiments meet with return
China aster single You have no cause for encouragement
Pink duble red Love
Pink white Fair and fascinating
Plum tree Keep your promises
Rose bud white Too young to love
Rose bud red Pure and lovely
Rosemary Keep this for my sake I will remember
Iris Message
Ivy Friendship
Holly Domestic Happiness
Holly hock Ambition
Indian pink Always lovly
Jasmine You beare a gentle mind
Ipomala I attach myself to you
Peach blossom Here I [unlegible] my choice