Sarah Rector was born on March 3, 1902, in the dominant black community of Taft in Indian Territory modern day Oklahoma to Joseph Rector and Rose McQueen, who were both descendants of black slaves owned by the Muscogee Creek Nation before the Civil War.
After the Civil War, the Treaty of 1866 declared the descendants of Rector’s grandparents’ freedmen which made them qualified for the stipulations of the Dawes Allotment Act. This act granted several acres of land to about 600 black children who were also called Muscogee Freedmen minors, Sarah Rector and her two siblings included.
Sarah Rector received a 160-acre land about 60 miles away from her home in Glenpool and just like all other lands former slaves received was infertile. In a bid to settle the $30 tax bill associated with land, Joseph Rector leased Sarah’s land to the Devonian Oil Company of Pittsburgh in February 1911, when he was denied a petition to sell the land. This deal helped him settle the annual $30 tax.
In 1913, Rector hit the jackpot when B.B Jones’ wildcat began to sprout about 2,500 barrel of oil in a day. The average income Rector received per day was about 300-day. This newly acquired wealth led to the guardianship of Sarah change from her black parent to J.T Porter, a white man known by the Rectors. Lots of new wildcats were erected by the Cushing-Drumright Oil Field when the land allotment was added to their franchise. With this development, Rector had raked in a whopping royalties of $11,567 in October 1913.
Rector rapidly rose to popularity after the Oklahoma Legislature had tried to declare her white and affording her white privileges such as riding to the first class on trains, through this, she became known as the The richest colored girl in news outlets. In 1914, the Chicago Defender, an African-American published an article accusing her guardians and parents as self-seeking and mismanaging her estate. It pointed out the low standard of living Rector was enduring which sharply contrasted her wealth.
However, an investigation led by African-American leader William Edward Burghardt Du Bois and Booker Taliaferro Washington which will call out guardians depriving black children of their land and wealth. The public outcry ensured Rector enrolling at the Children’s School in at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and enters the institute after graduating.
When Sarah turned eighteen on March 3rd, 1920, she was already a millionaire by all standards. Her wealth spanned across bonds, stocks, various businesses and real estate as well as a 2000-acre piece of river bottomland. She left Tuskegee with her whole family to Kansas and bought a mansion which would later be called the Rector House.
She married Kenneth Campbell, the second African American to own an auto dealership in 1922 in a private ceremony. She had three children with Kenneth Campbell and they divorced in 1930. In 1934 she had a second marriage with William Crawford. The Great Depression caused Sarah to lose most of her wealth. Sarah Rector died on Jul 22, 1967, at the time of her demise she had real estates and functioning wildcats.
Video credit: Oilwoman magazine