The Best Little Chicken Ranch in Texas

Even if you don't know the name Edna Milton Chadwell, you might be familiar with the business she ran. It was called the Chicken Ranch.

Still not ringing a bell? Here's a hint:

Yep, that's right – Chadwell was the last madam to run the brothel made famous by the award-winning Broadway-musical-turned-movie "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

The Chicken Ranch took its name from a practice established by a previous owner: in hard times during the Great Depression, she accepted chickens as payment. The population of chickens soon exploded, and the name was born.

Miss Edna joined the staff in 1952, according to the Houston Chronicle. When the madam Miss Jessie died in 1961, Chadwell bought the Chicken Ranch and ran it from 1962 until it closed in 1973. She ran a careful business, maintaining strict rules of conduct for employees and always supporting local businesses and civic causes. After the Chicken Ranch was shut down by authorities for illegal activity (never mind that it had been illegal right under their noses for many, many years), Chadwell carried on, hostessing a restaurant furnished with items from the house.

"The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" made running a brothel seem like about the most fun a person could have, but reality isn't always like the movies. Chadwell's family remembered her as a no-nonsense woman who ran a business she wasn't ashamed of. And she wasn't as charmed by the movie as the rest of America was: a nephew remembered her saying, "The only thing in the movie that was correct was that there was a whorehouse."

With Chadwell's death Feb. 25, 2012, a little piece of Texas history is gone.