Legends & Legacies View More

The Best Little Chicken Ranch in Texas

Published: 3/1/2012

Edna Milton Chadwell died last week. You might not know her name, but are you familiar with the business she ran? It was called the Chicken Ranch.

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

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.

Edna Milton Chadwell, the last madam of the brothel that inspired "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" (AP Photo)

Chadwell ran the Chicken Ranch (the business took its name from a practice established by a previous owner – during hard times in the Great Depression, she accepted chickens as payment… the population of chickens soon exploded, and the name was born) 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. When 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 show 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 simply 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 has gone too.

Written by Linnea Crowther

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