The Tom Dooley Project …. Love, Lies and Murder

Posted at 9:49 PM on Apr 19, 2019


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2019 marks the 151st anniversary of Tom Dooley’s trial and his demise in Statesville. Tom’s story ended in Statesville with his public hanging in May 1868 for the murder of Laura Foster, a murder that he may or may not have committed. His defense attorney was Zebulon Vance and he was convicted on circumstantial evidence.

Tom Dooley’s childhood sweetheart, Ann Foster Melton, was married to an older, prosperous man, James Melton. Ann’s plan was to stay married and continue seeing Tom when he returned to Wilkes County. Ann and Tom had been together from an early age and nothing -- not the war, not her marriage, and not the disapproval of their families -- had kept them apart.

Tom started seeing Laura Foster to get back at Ann for not leaving her husband. Ann was angry, jealous and determined to put an end to Tom’s relationship with Laura. In traditional versions of the story, Laura was expecting Tom’s baby. Tom and Laura planned to meet at the Old Bates Place and then run away to Tennessee to get married. Then Laura disappeared. Several months later her body was found in a shallow grave. Laura Foster had been stabbed through the heart. Ann and Tom were charged with murder.

The Tom Dooley Project, in its third year, is a presentation of selected scenes from the play “Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend” written by Karen Reynolds. The drama, in two acts, tells Tom’s story, starting in Wilkes County with the murder of Laura Foster, his entanglement with Ann Melton, the events that led to his trial and the end of his story in Statesville.

Local actors and musicians make up the cast and provide live music, which includes bluegrass, traditional Appalachian folk music, Piedmont blues and gospel performed as part of the play.

Professional sound and lighting is provided by All-American Stage-Sound-Lights, a full-service production company.

All performances take place in the historic Iredell County Courthouse, which was built in 1899. The courtroom is handicapped accessible.

The Tom Dooley Project is presented and produced by the staff of WAME Radio, 92.9FM/550AM Real Country, Statesville’s local, hometown station.

Schedule of Events

Tom Dooley Project
Court Room, Old Iredell County Courthouse, 200 S. Center Street, Statesville
► Tuesday, April 30, 8 p.m. -- Special Access Dress Rehearsal. Proceeds donated to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
► Thursday, May 2; Friday, May 3; Saturday, May 4, 8 p.m. -- Evening Performances 
► Sunday, May 5, 3 p.m. -- Matinee Performance

Tom Dooley Day Festival on Court Street
► Saturday, May 4, 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. -- Meet the characters, Classic Cars from AP Vintage Motors, street musicians, history displays, and local downtown breweries, Fourth Creek Brewing Company and Red Buffalo Brewing Company, will be there. Sponsored by Statesville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Tom Dooley BBQ Dinner
Historic Sharpe House, 402 South Center Street
► Thursday, May 2; Friday, May 3; and Saturday, May 4


Tickets for the play and the pre-show BBQ dinner are available online at or Tom Dooley Project on Facebook. Tom Dooley Day on Court Street is a free event.

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