decided to visit the site of the famous Chicken Ranch in La
Grange Texas. It had been a well known brothel and it was known
as the "Chicken Ranch" to give it an alias, I think.
We were just sightseeing that day. We meant no harm. We were on our
way from Hurst in North
Texas to San Antonio
to take my mother and daddy home. They had been visiting us that week.
We had been driving for some time and had finally found "the ranch"
that warm day back in 1974. We had driven down County Road 130 to
get to the notorious place.
Interested in history like my Daddy and I were, we wanted to see this
famous place. You may ask, famous? Why? Did they raise chickens on
the ranch? Well, no, but they had lots of chickens and they ate them.
The Chicken Ranch was a typical Texas farmhouse with whitewashed siding
and some outbuildings. But it started as a "business" that was known
as a brothel in La Grange
in the early 1900s.
It quickly became known as a nice place that catered to politicians
and lawmen and didn't serve drunkards. But when people started complaining
that it tarnished the moral ambience of the town, the madam bought
10 acres outside of La Grange,
which had a farmhouse on it.
As business expanded she added more rooms and finally it was a large
rambling white farmhouse with 14 bedrooms. The entrance was at the
back of the house. There was not a sign or any light to designate
that it was none other but a rambling farmhouse.
The brothel got that name because during the depression the men didn't
have money to pay so they would bring a chicken that would be their
way of paying for services. The girls had fried chicken every day
to eat. There was a large chicken pen visible in the side yard that
held lots of chickens.
The madam passed away in 196l. One of the girls bought the ranch from
her and renamed it Edna's Fashionable Ranch Boarding House. That was
how she advertised the business. But it didn't have a sign on the
place anywhere. But evidently everybody in Fayette
County knew where it was and what it was.
In 1973 we had heard on the news that a Houston
television reporter, acting on an anonymous tip, had begun an investigation
into the Chicken Ranch. After a very brief investigation, the ranch
was shut down for good. It made the news all over Texas.
I was surprised to hear this place existed. After all, I was a naÔve
country girl from Wilson
County. I had to see for myself this so-called Chicken Ranch.
So that's why were in La
Grange that day in 1974.
The Chicken Ranch had closed a few months before. When we finally
found the place, we could see the house from the road, but saw a lane
going up to the house. The place looked deserted. No cars, men, chickens,
girls, or dogs.
I talked my husband into driving up the road to the house. We were
about 50 yards from the house and he stopped with the car idling.
My mother and I always took pictures of everything when we went anywhere.
So we told Eddie and Daddy to wait in the car, as we wanted to get
out to take a good picture of the place.
I was on one side of the car near the front and Mother was on the
other side. We began snapping pictures. Suddenly a man came out of
the house, and pointed a monstrous shotgun at us! (Well, it seemed
huge to me!). He shouted, "Get off this property right now! Get out!"
He kept yelling at us and pointing that gun, so Mother and I scrambled
back in the car as I shouted to Eddie, "Get out of here now! He's
gonna kill us!"
We left in a cloud of dust and I was still trembling miles down the
road. But we laughed over the memory for years as we reminisced about
the trip to the Chicken Ranch. Isn't there a saying "Curiosity killed
the cat?" Well, I felt like a curious cat that day.
© Lois Zook Wauson
"They shoe horses, don't
they?" October 25, 2015 Guest Column
See also La
Grangeís Chicken Ranch by Mike Cox
Texas Towns | People
| Columns | Texas