Sarah Rector, in the 1910s, came to be famously known as the ‘richest coloured girl in the world’. At a time when black people were still struggling to be recognized as citizens of America, Sarah’s family was given a unique stroke of luck.
Born as the daughter of a freedman in 1902, Sarah’s family was a part of the Muscogee Creek Nation. They lived in a modest cabin in Taft, Oklahoma, which was a predominantly black town. At the time, it was still considered Indian Territory, which worked out in favour of the Rector family. Joseph Rector and his wife, Rose McQueen were both enslaved by Creek Tribe members.
Following the Civil War, former slaves were entitled to land parcels under the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887. While many of the slaves received rocky and infertile packets of land, Joseph Rector owned a parcel of land that was located in the middle of the Glenn Pool oil field.
Strapped for cash, Joseph decided to lease out a piece of his land to an independent oil company to help pay the $30 annual property tax in February 1911. That particular parcel of land happened to be under Sarah’s name, and two years after leasing out the land, the Rector’s lives would change forever.
Oil driller B.B. Jones hit a ‘gusher’ on Sarah’s land, which produced 105,000 gallons of oil, or 2,500 barrels of liquid gold every day. Sarah’s parcel of land gave her an earning of $300 a day, which equates to $7,000-$8,000 today.
Word of her wealth soon spread to the world, and the 12-year-old Sarah would soon be famously known as the ‘richest coloured girl in the world’ and had even received two marriage proposals. Her annual turnover was estimated to be $112,000 in 1914.
Sarah’s stroke of luck allowed her family to pull themselves out of poverty and move into a grand mansion in Kansas City, Missouri. The stately stone house, which became known as Rector Mansion, still stands today.