Inspired by the Kingston Trio’s 1958 international hit ballad Tom Dooley plus 30 years of in-depth research into the life and times of Thomas C. Dula, led Charlotte Corbin Barnes to write The Tom Dooley Files: My Search for the Truth Behind the Legend, which she published in 2016. This nearly 500-page memoir, filled with its facts, fables, trial summaries, newspaper articles and invaluable family oral histories, won the prestigious North Carolina Society of Historians Book of the Year Award for 2017.

“Dooley!” is Barnes’ latest literary achievement…a factual novel that deftly chronicles the multiple sides of the Tom Dooley legend from the perspective of the New York Herald newspaper reporter who was assigned to cover the hanging. This time around, she relies on the wealth of information she’s collected about the legend to tell what she believes really happened during that fateful spring of 1866 and in the years before and after the tragedy.

“Edith Carter, my dear friend and founder of the Tom Dooley Museum in Wilkes County, North Carolina, challenged me to first publish the factual book. ‘Its information is priceless!’ She said. ‘Then, write a novel that reveals what you believe, according to what your research and your gut tell you could be the real story behind the murder of Laura Foster.’ So that’s what I’ve done. Thanks Edith!” – Charlotte Corbin Barnes

Who really killed Laura Foster and why?

Was Tom even at the crime scene and if not, where was he?

What was Colonel James Grayson’s role in the tragedy? Was he Laura Foster’s lover, too?

Who was the mysterious Yankee schoolteacher named Bob Cummings?

Why did Confederate North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance agreed to defend Tom and Ann?

What did Tom confess to the  minister that administered his last rights the morning of his hanging?

What happened that fateful day for young Robert Springs Jurney to be forever haunted by Tom’s hanging?

The answers to these questions and a whole lot more await you in:


             A factual novel by Charlotte Corbin Barnes



Read Our First Book Review!

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THE TOM DOOLEY FILES BOOK REVIEW by John O. Hawkins for The Lenoir News-Topic.

Charlotte Corbin Barnes did not realize in 1958 the role Tom Dooley would play in her life. As

an eleven-year-old child, she was confined to her bed for several months with an illness. To keep her

occupied someone brought a radio into her sick room, and that is when she first heard the Kingston Trio’s

recording of “The Ballad of Tom Dooley.” She was enthralled by the story. Assured by her mother that

Tom was a fictional character, and with the recovery of her health, she soon forgot the song. She married

Bill Barnes, lived in Michigan for a while, and had a daughter. Bill’s career as a television

producer/director brought them to the Charlotte area where they eventually started their own video

production company. A 1986 article in The Charlotte Observer that Edith Carter was planning a museum

of Tom Dooley memorabilia in the Ferguson community caught her eye, reminded her of what had once

been a passion, and started her on a journey that has ended with the publication of a 496-page book, “The

Tom Dooley Files: My Search for the Truth Behind the Legend.”

The couple started out to do a video production of the story, and for several years they worked

with that goal in mind. They taped interviews with many individuals who knew the story for possible

use. Many of these people who were taped in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s are no longer with us, but

their story lives on. When they decided a documentary was not the route they needed to take, Charlotte

transcribed the interviews, and they have found their place in her book. These interviews have added a

human element to the story, and she has been quick to point out that some of the stories are obviously oral


In addition to the multiple interviews, she has also included the official court records of the two

trials that Tom faced. She has quoted the transcripts liberally. She also has researched the people who

testified, and she has given as much information as she has about them. Many of them were related to the

main characters or to each other to show what a close-knit community Elkville was at the close of the

War Between the States.

She has also quoted others who have written about the story, i.e. Tom Ferguson, Nancy

Alexander, and John Foster West., among others. West is quoted as saying, “You are a good researcher!

I sure wish you’d been around to help me when I wrote the first book. We’d have made a great team.”

West is referring to his book, “The Ballad of Tom Dula.” He also did a revision entitled “Lift Up Your

Head, Tom Dooley.”

The final chapter of the book’s sixty-four chapters is a heart-warming tribute to Edith Ferguson

Carter, who single-handedly has kept the Tom Dooley legend alive. Edith passed away May 12, 2014.

Her legacy continues in the Whippoorwill Village in Ferguson.

Barnes’ book has more information about the Tom Dooley story between two covers than any

other publication to date. Any person who is serious about knowing all there is to know about the facts

should be able to find them in this volume. It is really a textbook study.

The book can be purchased by mail at Bill Barnes Video, 14238 Honeysuckle Ridge, Matthews,

NC 28105-6403. The cost including shipping is $46.

[John O. Hawkins is a native of Caldwell County with an interest in local history. He resides in Buffalo

Cove, and he has heard the Tom Dooley story his entire life.]

Look for our first magazine article about Charlotte Corbin Barnes’ new book The Tom Dooley Files in the May/June People issue of Yadkin Valley Living Magazine. For more information about the magazine, visit www.yadkinvalleyliving.com.



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We just received the LIMITED EDITION hardcover copies of rising author Charlotte Corbin Barnes’ new 500-page non-fiction book The Tom Dooley Files: My Search for the Truth Behind the Legend.  Visit our website www.thetomdooleyfiles.com to learn more about the contents.  For pricing and shipping information contact Bill Barnes: bill@thetomdooleyfiles.com or toll free at 888 893 7331.  We can’t wait for you to see it.   It’s a treasure of local history!

For the past few decades, Charlotte Corbin Barnes has been researching and just completed writing her first non-fiction book, “The Tom Dooley Files: My Search for the Truth Behind the Legend.”  What started out as a television documentary back in the late 80s, morphed into a 500-page book due to the vast amount of materials she uncovered during her research.   For those unfamiliar with the legend of Tom Dooley, a.k.a. Thomas C. Dula, he was made internationally famous back in the late 1950s by The Kingston Trio’s release of the ballad Tom Dooley…”Hang down your head, Tom Dooley; Hang down your head and cry.  Hang down your head, Tom Dooley; Poor boy, you’re bound to die.”  Thomas C. Dula was hanged May 1, 1868 in Statesville, NC for the murder of his sweetheart, Laura Foster.  The story is a love triangle [some say quadrangle] set in Wilkes County, NC.  Tom was many things…a musician, a lady’s man, a drinker of the shine, a Civil War veteran [NC 42nd Regiment, Co K], a POW at Point Lookout, MD until after the end of the war in 1865.   Following the disappearance of Laura Foster on May 25, 1866, Tom came under suspicion and fled to Tennessee where he worked on the Grayson farm to pay for a pair of new boots, which turned out to be his undoing when the posse discovered him soaking his sore, blistered feet in Doe Creek in Pandora.   Tom was returned to Wilkes County to stand trial defended by ex-Confederate Governor of NC, Zebulon Vance.  The trial was later moved to Iredell County.  Tom was in jail for two years along with his accomplice to the crime, Ann Foster Melton.  Ann was released after Tom was hanged and reportedly died a few years later as the result of an ox cart accident.  That’s the blog version of the story.  The Tom Dooley Files: My Search for the Truth Behind the Legend goes into great detail.  It is a bonanza for anyone interested in music, the Civil War, Reconstruction Era, genealogy, history, archeology, etc.  Did Tom murder Laura?   You’ll just have to read the book.  For more information about this hardcover, limited edition book, visit www.thetomdooleyfiles.com or contact Bill Barnes toll free at 888 893 7331 or by email… bill@thetomdooleyfiles.com.  NOW AVAILABLE!


Tom DooleyTom Dooley 1


Portrait by Edith Ferguson Carter