How did a 10 year old girl become one of the richest African Americans of the early 1900’s? Here’s the story…
Sarah Rector was born in Indian Territory in 1902. Like thousands of blacks once held in bondage by the five slave-holding tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole Nations), Sarah and her family members received land allotments prior to Oklahoma statehood. The Dawes Allotment Act divided Creek lands among the Creeks and their former slaves. However, the land that was granted to former slaves was usually of poor quality and very rocky, which made farming almost impossible. She couldn’t farm on it, but she had gotten a piece of the most valuable land.
Even though the former slaves were given land, they were responsible for paying the taxes on it. In order to generate the money to pay the taxes, Sarah’s father leased her land to Devonian Oil Company. The lease changed hands and her property became the domain of Prairie Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of Standard Oil (John D. Rockefeller). “Gushers” on Sarah’s land brought in 2500 barrels a day, and she became quite wealthy. Once her wealth was known, Rector’s guardianship was switched from her parents to a white man. Her family was vilified in the press as claims of mismanagement and poor living conditions were leveled against them. Despite that, she graduated high school and attended Tuskegee University. The allegations continued until she was twenty. However, by then, she and her family had moved to Kansas City, Missouri and she purchased what would be known as the Rector Mansion.
When Rector died at age 65 on July 22, 1967, her wealth was diminished, but she still had some working oil wells and real estate holdings. Sarah Rector was buried in Taft Cemetery, Oklahoma.