Friday, January 13, 2012

John Dula Dollar

I’ve always loved the song Tom Dooley…I can remember hearing the song with the Kingston Trio’s smooth voices imploring Tom to “hang down his head.”  I used to think that my great great grandfather was named for Tom Dooley…but I doubt that the connection.  My great great grandfather was named John Dula Dollar…sometimes it is spelled John Dooley Dollar.  I’m not sure what is exactly correct, but I suspect that Dula might be correct.  From what I have read about the name Dula is pronounced Dooley and it is the Appalachian pronunciation.  It is possible that John Dula’s parents knew of or knew Tom Dooley.  That in itself is an interesting coincidence.

John Dula Dollar was born 3 Oct 1863 in Creston, Ashe Co., NC and died 6 Dec 1933 in Atlanta, Fulton Co., GA.  He was the son of Alexander Monroe Dollar and Elizabeth Pennington.  Alexander Monroe Dollar was a confederate soldier who served in the 58th North Carolina Infantry which was one of the units that had the most desertions in the Confederate Army.  Tom Dula also served in the Confederate Army and was in the 42nd North Carolina Infantry.  Tom Dula was from Wilkes Co., NC and Alexander Monroe Dollar lived in Ashe Co., NC near the Tennessee border.  Sometime in the early 1880’s Alexander Monroe Dollar, his wife Elizabeth and three of their children moved to Laurel Bloomery, Johnson Co., TN.  Now…I don’t really think that John Dula was named for Tom Dula but it is in interesting coincidence…especially since the notorious murder occurred in the same stomping grounds.

Tom Dula was supposed in love with Ann Melton (maiden name Foster) and was also involved with her cousin Laura.  He was carrying on an affair with Ann and was supposedly engaged to marry Laura Foster.  Laura and Tom were supposedly going to elope and get married.  Laura left with some clothes and her father’s horse.  She disappeared and was found a few months later stabbed and dead with only the clothes that were with her to help identify her.  Soon after, Tom Dula was considered to be the main suspect and he took off to get out of town.  He was captured in Trade, Johnson Co., TN and taken back to Wilkes Co., NC to be tried.  A local lawyer took his case and got the case moved to Iredell Co., NC.  Tom Dula was hung in Statesville, NC in 1868.   His lover, Ann was also held in jail and considered to be his accomplice.  She died two years after Tom Dula having gone insane despite being acquitted based on a letter that Tom Dula wrote that absolved her.   Sharyn McCrumb wrote an interesting article about that Tom Dula story  which is an interesting read and located at

John Dula Dollar holding Sophia - Claude on the left and Bessie on the  right.  Probably taken in 1895.
It is a great story and became the stuff of legend and song.  I’m not sure that my John Dula Dollar was ever quite that interesting.  John married 16 year old Buena Vista Bailey in 1889 and had three children within five years.   Buena Vista died at the age of 21 about 3 months after giving birth to my great grandmother.  John left his children with his father and step mother and went out to work.  He married Cleopatria Josephine Gentry and had 7 more children with her.  He brought his older two children to live with him and left the youngest with his father.  John Dula worked as a logger and builder and eventually ended up in Atlanta, GA where he died at the age of 70.  John Dula was 3 years old when the murder occurred and 5 years old when Tom Dula was hanged.  I wonder if Alexander Monroe Dollar’s family knew the story and if they did – did they find out by gossip or by newspaper.  I’m not sure which version was more salacious.  When I first did a little a research on the story – I was surprised to learn all of the details that were involved.  If anything, the song is a pretty sedate version of the whole ugly episode....the real story is a whole lot more complicated and would be fit for today’s tabloid reporting.  It certainly was a major topic in the newspapers of 1868.

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