Sarah 1939 Oil on canvas, 34 1/4" x 26 1/4" © James D. Lea

Sarah 1939 Oil on canvas, 34 1/4" x 26 1/4" © James D. Lea



I was painting it in the courthouse after I had made all these full-size studies when I met Sarah. So that's when she came into the picture. Sarah had a dear friend, a schoolmate, Catherine Hawbaker, who went [from Monticello, Illinois] to the University of Arizona for college and met a schoolmate and friend of mine named Percy Pogson. And after a suitable courtship, why, they were married up in Monticello at Catherine's home. When they came back [to El Paso], Percy worked for his father's Pogson Peloubet [and Co.], accountants who did mostly mining books…And Catherine thought that Sarah ought to get out and see some other places. Sarah was working as a clerk in the farm and loan thing for the government in Piatt County.




Monticello was the county seat of Piatt County. Sarah had gone to Monticello Seminary near Godfrey, Illinois, where her mother and her grandmother had all been to school. Then she went to the University of Illinois and quit when she married a guy. I met her after she had a divorce and had a child [ James Dighton]. And Catherine invited her down to spend a week or so, just on vacation. And I was sort of floating around, a widower at the time. Nancy had been dead about [two years] when I met Sarah.


Sarah came down and the first evening she was here in El Paso, Catherine had a dinner and invited Percy's dad and his wife and, of course, Sarah was there, and [they]invited me to kind of make six, you know. I looked at her and I knew damn well I was all set. The first time I saw her I says, "Well, [she's] the main thing in life for me."


Tom Lea speaking to Adair Margo, published in Tom Lea, An Oral History, El Paso, Texas: Texas Western Press, p. 57.