william Harold Pflughaupt - Grand aunt Laura Cutler's son
History Occupies Prominent Position Published in the Heart of the Dairying and Industrial Region of Piedmont North Carolina STATESVULE RECORD a LANDMARK Centennial Edition •;' : f''i'-f'' "• i -- f ; '• •''•'"' '''-'- '•'•"' '•''•'"' '• Section J Statesville Record & Landmark 100th Anniversary Edition FT. DOBBS — Built in 1756 on Fourth Creek about two miles east of Statesville, Ft. Dobbs became the most active active outpost in this section. It was from Ft. Dobbs, shown here from an early sketch, that Daniel Boone was outfitted for his famous trailblazing journey into Kentucky. Today Ft. Dobbs is a state historical site and is to be reconstructed on the original footings. Tom Dula's Conviction, Hanging Involved Iredell Tom Dula killed Laura Foster With his true love in his arms He has his trial at Wflkesboro But ArmfteW wouldn't come. Hang your head, Tom Dula, Oh, hang your head and cry; You killed poor Laura Foster And now you have to die. By HOMER KEEVER John M. Sharpe, Iredell County historian of Depression days, cites these verses as the first bits of doggeral sung about the Tom Dula trial and hanging. They were not the last. Few North Carolina folk songs have had more public exposure than the Tom Dula Ballad. As late as 1958 the Kingston Trio put a recording of it at the top and kept it there for weeks, reviving again the mass of tradition that has gone with the story of Dula's trial and hanging since it first took place in 1868. Tom Dula was hanged in Statesville May 1,1868 — hanged for the murder of Laura Foster on the upper reaches of the Yadkin River in Wilkes County some two years earlier. He had been tried in Statesville, twice, and each time found guilty by an Iredell County jury. Those trials and the hanging here have tended to make the story as much of a Statesville story as it is a Wilkes County story. Laura Foster Soon after Tom Dula returned from the Civil War in 1865, 18-year-old Laura Foster disappeared from her home in western Wilkes County. Suspicion fell immediately on Tom Dula, known to be her lover and said to have had a good motive for killing her. He had contracted a venereal disease and had threatened to get the one who had given it to him. When the body was found some weeks later in a shallow grave on an ivy- covered ridge, Dula disappeared, and it was some time before he was found in Tennessee and brought back for trial. Just who was involved in tracking him down and bringing him back is hazy. It is one place the legend has grown by leaps and bounds. The Nemesis There are stories of Bob Cummings, a schoolteacher in love with Laura, who persistently sought Dula and brought him back and pushed the trial to its conclusion. A good story, with but one weakness. No Bob Cummings shows up in any of the court records or any other records of the day. One of the more lilting lines in the ballads runs, "Hadn't been for Grayson I'd a been in Tennessee," and it became a fad to say that Bob Cummings was actually actually Bob Grayson, keeping intact the story of an avenging Nemesis. That story has a weakness, too — a different kind of weakness. Grayson was a real character. He did bring Dula from inside Tennessee to the North Carolina authorities without any extradition papers. There is no evidence that he was an avenging lover of Laura Foster. In fact, he was a member of the Tennessee legislature and one trial in Statesville had to be put off because he was involved in the meeting of the Senate. He lived at Trade, just across the state line from Boone, and he did go further down into Tennessee and arrest Dula and brought him back to the sheriff of Wilkes County, but that is the extent of his involvement. involvement. The ballad is right; the legends about Grayson are made of whole cloth. Ann Melton Arrested with Dula was another mistress of Tom's, Mrs. Ann Melton. If there is one bright spot in the whole sordid story, it is that Tom consistently refused to involver her and there is evidence that he was in love with her. But many of the public thought she was the real murderer and had stabbed Laura while she was in the arms of Tom. She, too, had a motive. Tom Dula had passed. Ft. Dobbs Remains Link With Frontier 'DULA'S HANGING — Right up until he was hanged, according to legend, Tom Dula played his fiddle, or maybe it was a guitar, or perhaps a banjo. This drawing by Mrs. Hill (Edith) Carter of Ferguson depicts Dula protesting his innocence on the gallows. the disease on to her. For two years she was in jail at Statesville. John M. Sharpe says of her, "Ann Melton created a favorable impression impression and made a domestic and disarming picture as she sat knitting by the fireside in the women's ward, situated just back of the three small stores at the corner of Broad and Cooper Streets. She was a brunette about 25 years of age, with brown eyes and hair becoming, short on education but with a woman's intuition." The picture of Ann Melton brought out during the trial was hardly as complimentary. complimentary. The state's chief witness, Pauline, or Pearline, Foster told of covering for Tom arid Ann in a continuing "affair" in which Ann's husband was too blind to see or too disillusioned to care. Much of the circumstantial evidence brought out in the second trial and used as a basis for an appeal centered around Ann's getting the whiskey to get Tom drunk enough to "screw up his courage." Ann was far from satisfied that anyone Iredell had as complimentary an opinion of her as John Sharpe recites. The court records at Statesville contain an af- fadavit "thatThomasDula of whom she is charged as an accomplice has twice been tried in the county of Iredell, that the accusation against said Dula & herself has been greatly canvassed in said county and a large number of witnesses for the state have'been in attendance at the court for almost two years, have talked much with the citizens of said county about the case and she believes that by these means the public mind has been so prejudiced against her that she cannot have a fair and impartial trial in Iredell County." Her appeal was granted. Her trial was shifted back to Wilkesboro and she was soon set free. In a few years she died some kind of violent death which is as much a subject of tradition and exaggeration exaggeration as the story of Dula's arrest. Dula's Trial Dula had two of the best lawyers in the state to defend him. One was the "Armfield "Armfield who wouldn't come," Robert F. Armfield of Yadkinville, who later moved to Statesville and became a Congressman from this district. The other was Zebulon B. Vance, governor of North Carolina during the Civil War and again when the Democrats took over in 1876, tied closely to the history of Statesville by his arrest here following Johnson's capitulation and the breakdown breakdown of the Confederate military forces. Their first move was to have the trial moved from Wilkesboro to Statesville. Their second move was to separate the trials of Dula and Ann Melton. In both of these they were successful. They were less successful with an Iredell County jury. Dula was found guilty and sentenced to be "taken to the common prison of Iredell County and there remain in close custody until Friday, the ninth day of November, 1866, upon which day between the hours of 10 o'clock a.m. and 4 o'clock p.m. he be take to the place of public execution and that he there be hung by the neck until he be dead." ' Dula was not hanged on Nov. 9, 1866, Vance was successful in getting an appeal appeal and from the appeal a new trial. The judge had let in evidence that when an old washerwoman, the last to see Laura Foster alive, said that Laura told her that she was going to meet Tom Dula and be married to him. The Supreme Court said that was hearsay evidence of the rankest kind, that the remark was such as almost any young girl would make to some prying old woman. Laura's answer may have been true — or it may have been false. After that first trial the case was put off by one means or another until January 1868, when Gov. Jonathan Worth appointed a special judge to hold a court of "oyer and terminer," which translated means "hear the thing and get it over (Continued on Page J-2) By HOMER KEEVER Ft. Dobbs has been for the past 200 years or more the symbol of Iredell County's frontier period. That fort stood on the ridge between the two prongs of Fourth Creek about two miles north of where Statesville was later built. It was home base for the frontier rangers of the colony of North Carolina during the French and Indian War, from 1756 until 1764. What happened after it was abandoned is hazy. There are hints that it was lived in until Revolutionary times. It was not used much after that. There is one story that it was burned. Another story is that its logs were removed to build the McLelland Schoolhouse nearby. Indian Troubles The earliest settlers were in southern Iredell in 1749 and they were well settled in central Iredell by 1752. By the summer of 1754, the French and Indian War had broken out and the North Carolina frontier was involved. The closest Indians to the settlers were the Catawbas, a Siouan tribe which lived in six villages down the river that bears its name. The land here was the Catawbas' hunting grounds. The settlers had misunderstandings with them, but a 1754 pow-wow cleared away some of those misunderstandings and during troubled times ahead, the Catawbas were firm allies of the settlers. Not too far away were the Cherokees, • just across the mountains. They were a large tribe with potential for trouble. At the first they were allies of the English, but by 1759 they were attacking the settlements and giving more trouble than anyone else. They were the ones who actually attacked Ft. Dobbs. Further away, across the Ohio, were the Shawnees, or French Indians. They were the allies of the French when George Washington led Virginia militia against Ft. Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio in 1754 and were involved in his defeat at Ft. Necessity. It was thought the Shawnees were the Indians who raided the frontier of North Carolina that fall and killed 16 settlers in the Broad River country near the present town of Shelby. Ten more were missing and supposed to have been taken captive. The Catawbas followed the raiders but failed to catch them, but it was generally thought that the raid was the work of French Indians. Dobbs and Waddell A new governor had just come to North Carolina, Arthur Dobbs, from northern Ireland, a gentleman with large land grants in western Carolina. He hurried a company of rangers to the frontier headed by Hugh Waddell. Waddell, too, was from northern Ireland and had showed up in North Carolina just in time to take a military commission and go with Col. James Innes to the aid of George Washington. They failed to reach Washington before his surrender, and while Innes stayed in Maryland to take command of the troops, Waddell came back to take command of the rangers. Waddell's rangers and the Catawba Indians gave the frontier the protection it needed. There was no more trouble with the French Indians, even after the defeat of Braddock on his way to Duquesne in 1755. A Fort Planned In the summer of 1755, just as the news of Braddock's defeat was filtering down, Dobbs came to the frontier to examine his land grants, which lay to the south of Rowan County. He went on up to Third Creek to meet Waddell and "fix upon a proper and most central place for the rangers to winter and erect a barrack and afterward if proper there to build a fort." They picked a site on Third Creek that seemed suitable and then Dobbs left. Back in Brunswick Dobbs recommended recommended to the Assembly that it provide "a small fort or strong barrack for the lodging of the company and security for the frontier." The Assembly responded by voting 1,000 pounds proclamation money "to build a barrack or fort on the Western Frontier." A Fort Built The next year the fort was built, presumably under the direction of Hugh Waddell. It was not easily built. Dobbs noted that labor was dear and laborers scarce at any price. By December it had been finished and Francis Brown and Richard Caswell, as commissioners, had visited it and reported their findings to the Assembly. They did not find it at the Third Creek site picked by Dobbs. Instead, it was "beautifully scituated in the Fork of Fourth Creek, a branch of the Yadkin River." It was built on land owned by John Edwards, a land speculator from eastern North Carolina, and it had already been named Ft. Dobbs, after the governor who had planned it. It was described as a building, with the "oblong square fifty-three by forty, the opposite angles, twenty-four feet and twenty-two. In height twenty-four and a half feet. The thickness of the walls, which are made of oak logs, regularly diminished from sixteen inches to six. It contains three floors, and there can be discharged from each floor at one and the same time about one hundred muskets." What Was It Like? Few forts have that good a description. And yet there are questions about the building's appearance that have not been satisfactorily answered. What were the opposite angles of 24 feet and 22 feet? How were the walls diminished from 16 to six inches? Were they able to find and use oak logs 53 feet long or even 4 feet long? Or did the usual 18 and 20-foot logs have to be woven together in some way? Such questions need to be answered before a dreamed-of restoration can be undertaken. undertaken. There was a plan attached to the report to the Assembly. It has been lost. Search has been made through North Carolina records and even through the English records in London, but no plan has been found. That plan, if ever found, might answer some of > the questions, but the chances are all too likely that it has been lost forever. In 1914 Leonard White, a Statesville native studying architecture, drew a scaled sketch of his concept for an article to be published in the DAR magazine. For years that sketch has been a kind of semi-official picture and has found its way into our school textbooks. . That drawing leaves most of the questions raised by the commissioners report unanswered. This is especially true of what the opposite angles were. A more recent study made by Jerry Cashion, a Statesville native working for the State Department of Archives and History, makes a strong case for the idea that "angles" at that time could have meant only Devauban angles so popular in fortification at that time. He also insists insists that Leonard White's idea of a block-house building is wrong because that kind of fortification had not yet developed on the American frontier. Recent archeological excavations made at the site have revealed a cellar and a powder magazine that would have fit well under one end of a 53 by 40-foot building. And they have disclosed a well- defined dry moat around the building site with corners like "angles" for defense. Such moats were customary in front of palisades around the forts of the time. A closer study of available papers of Arthur Dobbs has revealed that he customarily spoke of the fortification on the frontier as a "small palisaded fort near the Catawba," and that his advice on building fortifications was that a palisade be thrown up first and then the fort built. It should be no surprise to find a moat around Ft. Dobbs, even if the commissioners failed to note it. The Ranger Company The primary purpose of Ft. Dobbs was as a barracks for Hugh Waddell's ranger company. The original strength of that company was to have been 50 men. In 1756 Brown and Caswell found in the fort "under the command of Captain Hugh Waddell 46 effective men and officers, well and in good spirits." During the last days of the Cherokee wars, Dobbs reported a contingent of 30. Troops barracked there were never many. Brown and Caswell attached a list of the troops to their report. Like the plan of the building, that list has been lost. Only here and there do we catch hints of who they were. Second in command was Andrew Bailey from Donoho in northern Ireland. When Waddell was given charge of the North Carolina provincials, Bailey was promoted to captain. Third in command was Walter Lindsay. Lindsay. He joined Waddell at the very first as an ensign. In 1764, when the fort was abandoned, Lindsay was a captain and caretaker of the fort. With the wars over, Waddell went to the Cape Fear for his later activities. Bailey went to Georgia. Lindsay stayed in Rowan and for years was commander of the Rowan Militia and magistrate for the Ft. Dobbs district, maybe living in the fort until he joined the Continental Army as a private during the Revolution. Two other interesting rangers peep at us from the old records. One was Robert Campbell, a private who was scalped and wounded during the attack on the fort in 1760. He was paid enough by a grateful Assembly to care for his passage back to Europe. Another was Dr. John Fergus, a surgeon of Brunswick, who went to the frontier after a confrontation with some of the members of the assembly in Brunswick. He was surgeon for Ft. Dobbs. Duquesne Interlude In 1858 the fort was left in the hands of Jacob Franks as caretaker while the rangers who had been stationed there marched north to Pennsylvania under Captain Bailey. There they were joined by Waddell, who was bringing other troops from eastern Carolina. The whole North Carolina contingent, under the command of Waddell, who had been promoted to colonel, became part of the army that took Ft. Duquesne. When that campaign was over, all the troops were brought back to eastern Carolina where they were discharged and mustered out of service. To all intents intents and purposes Ft. Dobbs had been abandoned. Cherokee Wars Then trouble really broke out, with the Cherokees. On their way home from the capture of Ft. Duquesne, friction developed with the Virginia settlers. The Cherokees "borrowed" some horses, and the settlers retaliated as if they had been horse thieves, killing some of them. The incident aggravated to the breaking point troubles that had already been developing. In the summer of 1759 several young . Cherokee warriors from the village of Settico slipped over the Blue Ridge on a "hunting expedition" and killed 15 helpless settlers on the Catawba and Yadkin Rivers. One of those attacks may have taken place in the very shadows of the fort. Troops were again rushed to Ft. Dobbs and the western frontier. Things went from bad to worse and early in 1760 the whole Cherokee nation swarmed over the Blue Ridge onto the North Carolina frontier. Their first move was against Ft. Dobbs, which they attacked attacked Feb. 27. Hugh Waddell was there and directed the defense. The Cherokees were beaten back with heavy losses — just how heavy is not known, since they carried away their dead during the night (Continued on Page J-2) PLANS FOR RESTORATION — The Ft. Dobbs site is listed In the National Register of Historic Places, and restoration efforts will be funded through a matching grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service.