Three Forks History: Young black millionaire from Oklahoma

A Creek Freedman couple named Joseph and Rose Rector settled in the town of Taft (then called Twine). Here, their daughter Sarah was born in 1902. Like all the other family members, Sarah was assigned an allotment of 160 acres in the Creek Nation. A portion of her land was located within the Cushing-Drumright Oil Field.

When Sarah was 12, her appointed guardian negotiated oil leases on her allotment. Quickly she went from earning a few dollars on these leases to earning over $15,000 a month from oil revenue. Her land was producing 2,500 barrels of oil per day. Soon, due to this oil production, Sarah’s estate was worth over $3 million. As a young teen, she was one of the first black female millionaires in the country.

One of the first things Sarah chose to spend her money on was education. She was able to attend the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. She later moved to Kansas City and completed her education there. She had built a large and comfortable home for her family in Taft. They later joined her in Kansas City, living in a large brick home in a black neighborhood. Her house came to be called Rector Mansion.

By age 18, Sarah was able to manage her own money, in part due to the first-rate education she had received. This didn’t stop many individuals from trying to control her funds. Some men wanted to be appointed as her guardian, some wanted to marry her.

Sarah purchased additional land in the Arkansas River bottom, owned a boarding house, a bakery, and a café and hotel in Muskogee called the Busy Bee. She owned stocks and bonds and a farm near Kansas City.

While still in her teens, Sarah married a Kansas City man named Kenneth Campbell. They had three children who attended school in Kansas City. Sarah’s chauffeur drove the children to school in her limousine. She owned a number of other fine vehicles through the years. She also enjoyed purchasing gowns and jewels imported from Europe.

Rector Mansion was a showplace and hosted many famous people through the years. Kansas City was a mecca for musicians, and Sarah entertained many of them including Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

The oil millionairess never forgot her beginnings in the all-black town of Taft. When Sarah Rector passed away at age 65 in 1967, she was buried in the small cemetery near Taft.

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