Chicken Ranch (Texas)

Chicken Ranch (Texas)

Chicken Ranch (Texas)

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The Chicken Ranch operated as an illegal but tolerated brothel from 1905 until 1973 and was located in Fayette County, Texas about 2.5 miles east of downtown La Grange. It was established by Miss Jessie Williams, and was the basis for the 1978 Broadway musical and later movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Early history

The brothel that became the Chicken Ranch opened in La Grange in 1844. Run by a widow known as "Mrs. Swine," the brothel operated out of a hotel near the saloon and featured three young women from New Orleans, Louisiana. The ladies used the hotel lobby for entertaining and rented a room upstairs for conducting their business. The brothel was successful for over a decade, but was forced to close during the Civil War, when Swine and one of her prostitutes were forced to leave town as Yankees and American loyalists. After the war, prostitution was endemic in the local saloons, but no official records were kept.

Miss Jessie Williams

In 1905, Jessie Williams, known as "Miss Jessie," bought a small house along the banks of the Lower Colorado River and opened a brothel. Williams maintained a good relationship with local law enforcment and ensured that her house was respectable by excluding drunkards and admitting politicians and lawmen. After receiving word of an imminent crusade against the red-light district, Williams sold her house and purchased just outside the city limits of...
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