The deed to the sale of the largest part of Cow Creek Ranch to Charles Vavrus shows Jo Ann Sloan with 77 percent interest, TL Sloan with a 22 percent interest
year, he was afflicted with Bell’s palsy, a neurological disorder
that left him paralyzed on one side of his face.
He already suffered chronic pain from his leg injuries, and
daughter Debra says he also had a longtime reliance on the
opiod painkiller Demoral.
ONE LESS CATTLE RANCHER
Debra remembers meeting with a tax attorney around their
dining room table in North Carolina. At the time, in addition
to other debts, TL and Jo Ann owed an estimated $675,000 in
back taxes. On the table: selling part of the ranch to cover the
taxes and debt.
“TL would go to the bank and borrow a couple hundred
thousand dollars and when that was due he’d go to another
bank,” Debra says. “You can run a negative cash flow for
awhile, but eventually it’s going to catch up to you.”
At the ranch, cowboys more frequently were being summoned
by TL to identify cattle that could be taken to market
for a quick cash infusion.
“There were times that would occur that he’d say, ‘You
fellas pull up such and such group and let’s get a load or two
of them to the market,’” says Kent Mills, who grew up on
Along with these impromptu sales, the herd was growing
smaller for another reason. Kent says many of the ranch’s
bulls were not reproducing and TL wasn’t spending the
money to have them tested by a veterinarian so that the less
fertile bulls could be replaced.
Deroy Arnold, who also worked and grew up at the ranch,
says the herd by the fall of 1976 had dwindled to about 1,000
from a peak of 5,000.
Ultimately, the painful decision was made to sell 17,000
acres of the 23,000-acre ranch Jo Ann’s grandfather had
established more than a half century earlier. Alto Lee “Bud”
Adams Jr. was interested in buying 3,800 acres of the Blue
Mountain section of the ranch and brought investor Charles
Vavrus in on the deal to buy the largest chunk, 13,200 acres.
With little notice, the Raulerson/Sloan family ownership
of 17,000 acres of the ranch ended on Oct. 1, 1976, when three
deeds for separate sections in St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties
were transferred to Vavrus and one deed for sections in
St. Lucie County was transferred to Adams Ranch Inc.
The deeds show that Vavrus paid $5,281,800 for his sections
while Adams Ranch paid $1,484,500, for a total sale
of $6,766,300. The deeds show the ranch had a $3,500,000
mortgage in September 1975 from Travelers Insurance and
a $1 million mortgage in February 1975 from Equitable life
Insurance, for total mortgages of $4,500,000. The sale, after
satisfaction of the mortgages, would leave the Sloans with
$2,266,300. It’s not known what was paid for the satisfaction
of taxes or other debts.
The sale included the prettiest parts of the ranch, including
Dog Slough, Blue Mountain and Cow Creek, the waterway of
the early Seminoles. It also included the ranch headquarters
— perhaps the piece first purchased by Frank Raulerson — including
the barn and the historical Raulerson weekend house.
The Sloans retained ownership of at least four sections on
the north side of the ranch along Orange Avenue Extension, at >>
and their daughters with a 1 percent interest.
PERCY FAMILY ARCHIVES
A sliver of manila paper with the Cow Creek stamp commemorates the date of the sale of 17,000 acres of Cow Creek Ranch on Oct. 1, 1976.