Sarah Rector was born March 3, 1902, she was the second African-American woman to become a millionaire in the United States. Born new Twine, Oklahoma on Muscogee Creek Indian allotment land to Joseph and Rose Rector. When Oklahoma statehood became imminent in 1907, the Dawes Allotment Act divided Creek lands among the Creeks and their former slaves with a termination date of 1906. Sarah and her family all received their own piece of land, totaling 160 acres, which was worth $556.50.
Lands granted to former slaves were usually the rocky lands of poorer agricultural quality and what was supposed to be a bad thing, ended up turning into a good thing for Sarah Rector. To afford the $30 annual tax bill, Rector’s father leased her piece of land to the Devonian Oil Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in February 1911. By 1913, Sarah’s fortunes changed when wildcat oil driller B.B. Jones produced a “gusher” that brought in 2500 barrels a day. Sarah now received an income of $300 per day and her guardianship was eventually switched to T.J. Porter, a white man that was personally known to the Rectors.
Rector’s allotment later became part of the famed Cushing-Drumright Field in Oklahoma with multiple new wells being productive and in October of 1913, Rector received $11,567. By the age of 12 her identity became public due to her wealth and she received numerous request for money gifts, loans, and even marriage proposals from four Germans.
Due to her wealth, Sarah was constantly in the press. In 1913, there was an effort to have her declared white, because the whites of that time felt that an African-American should not have that much wealth.
The Chicago Defender published an article claiming that grafters and her “ignorant” parents were mismanaging her estate and that she was uneducated, dressed in rags, and lived in an unsanitary shanty. This drew the attention and concern of National African American leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington.
However, none of the allegations were true, Rector and her siblings went to school in Taft, an all-black town closer than Twine. They lived in a modern five-room cottage, and they owned and automobile. Sarah was also enrolled in the Children’s House, a boarding school for teenagers at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
When Rector turned eighteen, her entire family moved with her to Kansas City, Missouri. By this time Rector was in control of her own wealth, owning stocks and bond. She also owned a boarding house, bakery, and the Busy Bee Café’ in Muskogee, Oklahoma, as well as 2,000 acres of prime river bottomland.
The family moved into what would be known as the Rector Mansion. Legal wrangling over Rector’s estate and some mismanagement continued until she was twenty. That year Rector married Kenneth Campbell and the couple had three sons Kenneth, Jr., Leonard, and Clarence. Much was publicized about her “extravagant” spending on luxuries. Her marriage to Campbell ended in 1930, and in 1934 she married William Crawford.
When Rector died at the age of 65 on July 22, 1967, her wealth was diminished, but she still had some working oil wells and real estate holding. Sarah Rector was buried in Taft Cemetery, Oklahoma.