Obit of the Day: Last Madam of the Chicken Ranch
The Texas farmhouse pictured above is rather plain and unassuming; which is what you need if you are going to use it for a brothel. For 68 years that farmhouse was “The Chicken Ranch,” an illegal, but intentionally overlooked, home for prostitution outside the small town of LaGrange, Texas. The “Ranch” was opened in 1905 by “Miss Jessie” Williams and began to attract a large following after World War I - which happens when you send ads for your brothel to U.S. servicemen fighting in Europe.
"Miss Jessie" ran The Ranch for 46 years and then, after falling ill, handed over control to Edna Milton in 1951. After Miss Jessie’s death in 1962 Edna Milton purchased the ranch and its land and renamed it the somewhat less subtle "Edna’s Fashionable Ranch Boarding House." For another decade, Edna ran the house with little problem. But beginning in 1972, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Attorney General began to take a serious look at the business. The following year after an undercover report by KTRK-TV the Ranch was closed forever.
But the story did not end. In 1978, a musical was made that told the story of the Chicken Ranch and its closure: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. the musical was nominated for six Tony awards and won two. In 1982, the musical was made into a film featuring Dolly Parton as the Edna Milton character and Burt Reynolds as the sheriff.
Edna Milton Chadwell died in Phoenix, where she had lived since the closing of the Ranch, at the age of 84.
(Image of the Chicken Ranch, February 23, 1979, is copyright of the Houston Chronicle)