Letter from Statesville, N. C. about the hanging of Tom Dula (Tom Dooley)


Date Written

May 1, 1868

Member of Series

Margaret Reynolds was 21 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Reuben Reynolds, was 55 when it was received.

Margaret Reynolds died 70 years, 1 month, 12 days after writing this.
It was written 155 years, 5 months, 2 days ago.
It was a Friday.

Statesville. Friday morning
May 1, 1868

My Dear Father,

I have been waiting for the promised letter, but knowing it to be labor for you to write, while it is comparatively easy for me to do so, I defer no longer.
I consider it not only a pleasure and great privilege to write to you but a solemn duty, for most certainly what I am as a letter writer and indeed everything else morally and intellectually, or in other words, for all that is good or worthy in my character, I feel indebted to you, and you above all others should receive the benefit.

This is a beautiful morning, exceedingly warm when in the sun, but very pleasant in the shade, the little birds are singing sweetly, everything looks bright and joyous, and one could feel happy were it not for being continually reminded of the depravity of this world–a great many people are coming in to town to witness the dreadful scene of hanging a fellow creature.

They do not seem to realize how terrible a thing it is. I am astonished at the hardness of heart displayed, so many coming, even women–one wagon passed by just now with two men, three women, and two little boys in it–Why I would not witness such a sight for worlds–even the thoughts of such are horrible to me.

Poor Tom Dula, what must his feelings be this morning. I believe the English language is inadequate to express–Oh! How sad to think of the depravity of human nature and his poor mother, how distressing for her to think of her only son being hung–poor woman how much she needs sympathy. I pity her from the deepest depths of my soul and most willingly would I comfort her did it lay in my power.

He has said that he would make a confession today. If I hear before time to seal my letter, I will insert his confession.

I do not believe I can say much more about politics than you have heard through other letters already. We have not heard yet whether the Constitution has been ratified or not, that is, we have not heard definitely, but think it almost certain that it has been. Our country gave between 700 and 800 majority against the Constitution.

I am more anxious than ever to leave this country and glad to know that you are so well pleased with the country you have been in. I think the sooner we leave here the better.

Well really Pa, I can scarcely write I am so nervous and excited, can think of nothing but the hanging. Do wish if it had to be, that it had been somewhere else than here.

(We are all well. My health has been better than usual for this season of the year, hope it will continue so. I have not gotten any trunk yet–cousin Andrew came down this week with his wagons, suppose he brought it but don’t know yet. He was sick which was the reason, together with other things, that he did not come sooner, did not call but said he would on his return. Calvin Benham was with him. I was anxious to get my trunk, need some of my things badly. Uncle Cowles did not come down when we looked for him. Cousin Billie stayed with us the night after you left. Carrie went home Tuesday morning very much disappointed because I did not go with her, indeed the whole family fully expected me. Please do not forget to have your photograph taken.

Uncle Lu has just come down the street–says my trunk is at the depot, also that Tom Dula has made a partial confession, says he is guilty–if I have omitted any news, you will hear through Mr. James as Uncle Lu is writing to him. All join me in love.

Affectionately your daughter

Scans of Letter