son and always had a fallback if he grew unhappy in a job.
After having kids, Don decided to go to college to study agriculture
at Texas Christian University. While he was studying
there, Diane and the kids lived at a farm Don’s father owned
in Georgia. Don got the job at Cow Creek shortly after his
graduation from Texas Christian. Diane also begins working
as a secretary at the ranch’s corporate office in the Raulerson
Building in downtown Fort Pierce.
CUTTING TIES WITH THE OLD WAYS
The promise of the new
decade is shattered with
a shotgun blast on the
afternoon of Feb. 2, 1970,
at the Fort Pierce home
of Ocie Glenn Nanney,
financial manager of Cow
Creek Ranch since 1936.
Nanney had just returned
home for lunch from Cow
Creek’s business office in
the Raulerson Building
when he took his life.
Recently in ill health
and discharged from the
hospital, Nanney, 64, had
been adviser to both Jo
Ann and Frank Raulerson.
Nanney, a guiding
force in business decisions
at the ranch, was always a welcome sight at Cow Creek,
driving the 17 miles from the Raulerson Building in downtown
to deliver payroll to the cowboys on Fridays.
Along with lawyer L.O. Stephens and Jo Ann’s great-aunt,
Grace Lee, Nanney had also been one of the people who
oversaw Jo Ann’s trust. Several years before his death, Frank
Raulerson had sold two other ranches the size of Cow Creek,
creating a cash reserve.
The trust’s greatest assets at the time of his death were Cow
Creek Ranch and the Raulerson Building, a downtown Fort
Pierce landmark with both commercial storefronts and office
space. It included the corporate office of Cow Creek, which
held a large floor-to-ceiling safe brandished with the name
Cow Creek across it. The assets also included the Raulerson’s
stately home at Orange Avenue and 11th Street and several
other smaller properties.
With Nanney executing his directives, Frank Raulerson
espoused a program of austere spending at the ranch, reusing
staples from old fence posts or frowning on extravagances
like dessert for his ranch hands. The financially astute Nanney
had been a steady hand and bridge over the generations
and undoubtedly had helped Jo Ann’s trust grow substantially
from its original $5 million value.
As both personal and business adviser to Jo Ann and TL,
Nanney also helped temper the free-spending habits of TL.
With Nanney’s death, all links, limits and allegiances to the
old way of doing things were removed.
Trusts are not public record under Florida law, so no record
of the trust for Jo Ann Raulerson Sloan was available for
review. From newspaper articles and legal ads, it is clear that
Frank Raulerson had created the trust with Jo Ann as the sole
beneficiary and the three trustees overseeing it. But at what
age the trust ended and Jo Ann — and TL by virtue of his
marriage — could control it is uncertain, though her daughters
think it was about the age of 30, or 1960, a time when TL
clearly was in control of the ranch operations.
A 1965 legal ad appearing in The News-Tribune hints at a
change in structure for the ranch, known as the Raulerson
Trust Ranch after Frank Raulerson’s death. The advertisement
announces that Jo Ann is “desiring to engage in a
business enterprise under the fictitious name of Cow Creek
Ranch located in the counties of St. Lucie and Okeechobee in
the state of Florida.” The ad further notes that Jo Ann “is the
sole owner of said business.” So at the time, while TL was the
public face of the ranch, at least on paper, Jo Ann remained
the sole owner. Records from the Florida Department of State
show Cow Creek Ranch incorporated in 1972.
After Nanney’s death in early 1970, Diane, TL’s secretary, becomes
the ranch’s financial manager. It’s about the same time
Jimmy Percy arrives to take up the job of general manager.
The wooden Tellico farmhouse, as it appeared when TL and Jo Ann Sloan
bought it in 1970. The North Carolina home, built in 1870, lacked electricity
and indoor plumbing at the time of purchase.
CHANGE OF VENUE
With the arrival of Jimmy Percy on the ranch, TL and Jo
Ann spend less time at Cow Creek. Jo Ann had begun spending
much of her summers at the old Franklin Hotel in Franklin,
N.C., ruby mining with daughters Debra and Kathy.
Jo Ann had come to know the hotel’s owner and their annual
visits to Franklin prompt her to begin exploring buying
property there. One day, she and Debra take off in their rental
station wagon and happen along a remote dusty gravel road
that leads them to an abandoned house and farm.
“Every time we’d go ruby mining we’d take a jaunt,”
Debra says. “When Mother came out this way she saw the
farm and the house and nobody had been in it in a long time.
She said this just needs love, and so they ended up buying
the first portion of the farm, 112 acres, for $50,000.”
And so began the start of the renovation by TL and Jo Ann
of the rambling farmhouse and farm known as Tellico that,
through additional land purchases, would grow to 230 acres.
The Cherokee had historically inhabited the region and the
word Tellico is derived from the Cherokee language. A family
named Ramsey was among the first European settlers in the
region and in 1870 built the farmhouse, which once served as
a general store, post office, grist and saw mill and blacksmith
Ocie Nanney had been financial manager
of Cow Creek Ranch for 34 years
before taking his life in 1970.