The Chicken Ranch was an illegal brothel in the U. It was located in Fayette Countyabout 2. Run by a widow known as "Mrs. Swine", the brothel operated in a hotel near the saloon and featured three young women from New Orleans, Louisiana.
The women under Swine's employment used the hotel lobby for entertaining and rented a room upstairs for conducting business. The brothel was successful for over a decade, but closed during the Civil War when Swine and one of her prostitutes were forced to leave town as Yankees. After the war, prostitution was endemic in the local saloons, but no official records were kept.
InJessie Williams, known as "Miss Jessie" though born Faye Stewart  bought a small house along the banks of the lower Colorado River and opened a brothel. Williams maintained a good relationship with local law enforcement: by excluding drunkards and admitting politicians and lawmen, she ensured that her house was tolerated.
Inafter learning of an imminent crusade against the red-light district, Williams sold her house and purchased ten acres 40, m 2 outside the city limits of La Grange, two blocks from the Houston—Austin highway. Inthe Chicken Ranch began advertising. Under the direction of two sisters who worked in the house, the prostitutes sent packages and letters to local men fighting in WWI. The advertising, and an increase in automobile ownership, increased the traffic flow to the brothel and new rooms were subsequently added to meet the increased demand.
No external age was utilized to mark the brothel's presence within the house. Every evening, the local sheriff Will Loessin would visit the Chicken Ranch to learn the latest gossip and if patrons had boasted of crimes. Many local crimes were solved with information gained from these visits. Sheriff Loessin often paced the halls and, using an iron rod, would eject patrons of the brothel for abuses toward its employed prostitutes.
During the Great DepressionWilliams was forced to lower the prices charged.
As the Depression lingered, the of customers dwindled and Williams had difficulty making ends meet for her employees. She implemented the "poultry standard", and charged one live chicken for each sexual act. The of chickens at the brothel exploded, and soon the place became known as the Chicken Ranch.
Williams supplemented her income by selling surplus chickens and eggs. InJim T. Flournoy took office as sheriff.
He immediately had a direct telephone line installed at the Chicken Ranch so that he could continue his predecessor's tradition of gaining information from the brothel without having to travel each evening. Williams began suffering from arthritis in the s, and in a young prostitute named Edna Milton came to the ranch and eventually took on many of the day-to-day responsibilities of operating the brothel.
They were prohibited from drinking or getting tattoos and were not allowed to socialize with the residents of La Grange. Before beginning their employment, the prostitutes were fingerprinted and photographed by Flournoy and underwent background checks.
After beginning work, they were required to see the doctor in town weekly for a checkup. Milton also contributed to local civic causes, becoming one of La Grange's largest philanthropists. The Chicken Ranch was highly successful. In the s, the Ranch employed sixteen prostitutes. On weekends there was often a line of men, mostly students or soldiers from nearby military bases, at the door.
Each prostitute would have between five and twenty customers per day. At the request of a member of the DPS intelligence team, local law enforcement closed the Chicken Ranch for a short time.
Zindler claimed for many years that he began the investigation because of an anonymous tip. Governor Dolph Briscoe closed the operation, only to have it open again after a few months.
Zindler then shed more light on the operation, which led to the Ranch being permanently closed. Now, 25 years ago I told a little fib when I said I got into the act because of an anonymous tip.
Hill asked the chief of his organized crime division Tim James to get me involved in closing the Chicken Ranch. Hill explained the interest the DPS and the Attorney General had in seeing that any organized crime was shut down.
According to James, Kitzman responded: "There's nothing that the people in this county want to do about it, Mr. There's nothing that we're going to do about it. It's not of great concern to the people who've elected me. The Attorney General then suggested that Zindler be called. James called Zindler in the hopes that the television personality could apply the right kind of pressure to get the Ranch shut down.
Zindler interviewed Kitzman, who admitted to knowing about the Chicken Ranch, but claimed that he had never tried to close down the brothel because "we have never had any indication by anyone that these places are a problem to law enforcement. Flournoy, who had been overseeing the La Grange area for 27 years, denied that the Chicken Ranch was involved in organized crime, and denied that he had been bribed to keep the place open.
Zindler approached Governor Dolph Briscoe about the matter. After a very brief investigation, which found no evidence of a link to organized crime,  Briscoe and Hill ordered the Chicken Ranch to be permanently closed.
On August 1,Flournoy called Milton and told her that she was no longer allowed to operate. A handmade on the building blamed Zindler for the closing. Governor Briscoe refused to meet with him. For two years after the Chicken Ranch was closed, potential customers continued to arrive. The house was purchased by two Houston lawyers. Inpart of the house and the original furniture were moved to Dallaswhere it was opened as a restaurant, with Milton as the hostess.
The restaurant closed in The bar operated for a short period and closed sometime in Former brothel in Texas. This article is about the Chicken Ranch brothel in Texas. For the Nevada brothel, see Chicken Ranch Nevada.
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