The Drake Ranch is a historic ranch that has been passed down through four generations of the Drake family. The Drakes are one of the first pioneering families to settle in Florida in the 1870s. Over 125 years later, they are also one of the first families to protect their land with a conservation easement in Marion County.

James Drake, the patriarch of the Drake family, served as President of the Gulf Railroad Company and built the first railroad line going south of Jacksonville to Eustis, FL in 1871.

Several members of the Drake family settled in the historic district of Ocala and also helped shape Florida’s history as accomplished architects and builders, pioneers of the fern industry, and as community leaders in the real estate, construction, banking, business, and non-profit community.

The third generation of the Drakes in Florida, Trusten P. Drake, Jr., built a large cattle ranch and timber business that encompassed over 22,000 acres. Over the years, parcels of the ranch were placed in a conservation easement or sold to neighboring families, but the Drakes retained ownership of a large portion of the ranch.

Photo Credit: Mark Emery

The fourth generation of the Drake family owns and manages the historic Drake Ranch as a partnership. The legacy of two brothers, Trusty and K have now passed the Drake Ranch to their six children. Trusten (Trusty) Polk Drake, III and his wife Charline had three children, Laura Drake McDonald, Lisa Drake Lancaster, & Robert Polk Drake. George MacKay (K) Drake, Sr. and his first wife Martha Durlene had three children, Ann Louise Drake, George MacKay Drake, Jr., & Trusten Holland Drake.

Hover over the photos & use the arrows to click through to view photos from the Drake Ranch.

Photos Courtesy of: Mark Emery

The Drake Ranch now has one of the largest conservation easements of any private land in Marion County. In 2002, two brothers with a deep love of Florida’s wilderness and wildlife, Trusten (Trusty) P. Drake, III & George MacKay (K) Drake, Sr. preserved 5,800 acres of the ranch by placing it in a conservation easement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District where its natural lands would never be developed.

Protecting the legacy of the Drake Ranch was a decision made by the Drake brothers, and whole heartedly embraced by the large extended Drake family who take great pride in knowing that their land will forever be protected. The Drakes hold a deep-rooted love for the land and their commitment to protecting it’s natural beauty has been handed down through the generations.

“The family has a long tradition of responsible stewardship of the land,” said Ann Louise Drake. “We all grew up at the ranch and it’s just such a big part of our family.”

The ranch holds significant conservation value as it protects 6.5 miles on the east side of the scenic Withlacoochee River and is part of the Gum Slough project area that encompasses 23,777 acres. Pristine uplands and primeval wetlands help protect the water quality of the river and provide for wildlife habitat.

Florida Wildife Corridor Includes Drake Ranch

The ranch is also a critical connection in the statewide Florida Wildlife Corridor as it helps connect nearby conservation lands including the Halpata Tastanaki Nature Preserve, Ross Prairie Wildlife Management Area, and the Goethe State Forest.

The Corridor comprises nearly 18 million acres of contiguous wilderness and privately owned working lands crucial to the survival of many of Florida’s species, including the Florida panther. One of the goals of the Corridor is to protect privately owned ranching and fishing lands with conservation easements and since these lands stay in private ownership, they remain in the family and also support large sectors of Florida’s economy.

For the Drake family, the protection of the Drake Ranch was about much more than protecting the unique land and wilderness areas, it was also about protecting a lasting family legacy and a piece of Florida’s history.
Horse Farms Forever thanks the Drake Family for their stewardship and conservation of the Drake Ranch, one of the irreplaceable crown jewels in Marion County. 
The mission of Horse Farms Forever is to inspire the conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend. 
Horse Farms Forever also helps connect landowners, that are interested in conserving their land, with one of our partner conservation organizations. 

Conserving land is primarily about preventing it from being subdivided. This is accomplished with a conservation easement, which protects natural and agricultural values while keeping land in private ownership. Landowners that protect their land with a conservation easement, may also qualify for powerful financial and tax incentives.

From L to R: Trusten (Trusty) Polk Drake, III and George MacKay (K) Drake, Sr. in the early days of Drake Construction Co. Together, they built several historic and significant buildings for the City of Ocala, (including Ocala City Hall), the College of Central Florida, and the University of Florida.

Trusten Holland Drake & his two sons, Kendall and Dylan Drake, continue the family legacy of building in Central Florida as the Owners of Drake Construction Services, Inc.

The first families to settle in the area were the Drakes and the MacKays in the 1870s. In 1871, James E. Drake, as President of the Gulf Railroad Company, built the first railroad line going south of Jacksonville to Eustis, Florida. George MacKay, Trusten Holland Drake’s Great Grandfather, was an early 1900’s architect and builder, who built several historic landmarks in Ocala including the original Marion County Courthouse.

K Drake, in front of his father’s bulldozer which cleared a lot of the ranch pre-1950. This picture was taken after K restored the tractor around 1990.

From L to R: K and Trusty with their horse Ace. Trusty is on the right holding the lead rope.

L to R: K and Trusty with a wild turkey at the Drake Ranch.

K Drake at home surrounded by some of his favorite flowers, Azaleas and Coral honeysuckle.

Trusty at home on the way to one of his children’s weddings in front of his house with his pet hogs.

Gaiter, Florida is a pioneer town no longer exists, but the Drake family has maintained the old wooden building that was once used as the Post Office for Gaiter as a piece of Florida’s history. The map from the early 1900’s shows the location of Gaiter along the Withlacoochee River.

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We work hard to keep you informed, and to represent our members' interests in preserving our horse farms, farmland and the unique character and culture of Marion County's 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area.

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