On the left is a photo of Sara around the time AP met her.
Sara Dougherty was born July 21, 1898 to Sevier and Elizabeth Kilgore Dougherty of Wise County, Virginia. Sara's mother died when she was three years old, and the young girl spent the better part of her childhood traveling around Virginia with her father from one relative's house to another. Eventually Sara settled in Rich Valley with her uncle and aunt, Milburn (Uncle Mil) and Melinda (Aunt Nick) Nickels, in Copper Creek.
Uncle Mil was a fiddler and there were often music gatherings at their home. Sara learned to play the autoharp from EB Easterland. "I was about ten when I got my first autoharp," Sara said. "I sold greeting cards to raise money and ordered it from the Sears Robuck catalogue for eight dollars." Uncle Mil played fiddle and before long Sara learned to pick the banjo and keep up with him. Among his favorite songs were "Fatal Wedding" and "Johnny Put The Kettle On."
She began playing with cousin Madge Addington (Maybelle’s older sister). They both played guitar, banjo and autoharp and would switch off on different songs.
"Aunt Sara was a woman hard to explain" said June Carter Cash. "She was tall, buxom, blackeyed, and always beautiful. She was a thoroughbred. She sang in a very low, almost male sounding voice, and she sang a lot because she loved it so."
A.P. Meets Sara: In 1914 A.P. rode his horse over Clinch Mountain to Copper Creek to sell his Uncle Milburn Nickles some fruit trees. He was deeply moved and forever changed by what he found there; a beautiful dark-haired woman singing and playing the autoharp.
"Aunt Susie had one of these tall, old-fashioned sewing machines," Sara recalled, "and I was standing beside it and my autoharp was on top of it, and I was just kind of playing around with it. I remember I was singing "Engine 143," an old song I learned as a little girl, and this fellow knocked on the door."
A.P. was captivated as he stood in the front room listening to 16-year-old Sara Dougherty finish her song about the death of a train engineer. Sara was sweet sixteen, with a strong face and long brown hair down over her shoulders. While it was Sara's voice that first drew him, A.P. always said it was her dark eyes that attracted him.
"I remember that he stood there while I sang," recalled Sara, "and then he said something like, 'Ma'am, that was mighty pretty playing and singing, and I sure would like you to play that over again for me,' and so I did."
"He thought it was the most beautiful voice he had ever heard," his granddaughter Rita Forrester recalled, "and that she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen." A.P., who had come to sell fruit trees to his Uncle, bought a set of dishes instead from Sara Dougherty’s own subscription booklet.
Sara must have known that a single lad didn’t needed six dessert dishes and a vegetable boat, but she made the sale just the same. As A.P later told the story: "I said to Sary, 'If I thought I had a chance with you, I'd take the whole book.'"
Although A.P. and Sara had known one another earlier (Sara at first said she didn’t like A.P.), the autoharp meeting flowered into the beginning of a courtship, playing music together, and later into marriage on June 18, 1915, a month before Sara’s seventeenth birthday.
More to come,