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Chicken Ranch Central
The very first madam to run a brothel in La Grange arrived in 1844 on La Bahia Road from New Orleans, that infamous Sodom-On-The-Mississippi, with a covey of three "soiled doves" in tow. Of their lives in New Orleans, or whether they made any detours along the way, nothing is known. It strains credibility to suggest that these women set out from New Orleans with the actual intent to settle in La Grange, a tiny frontier town barely known to anyone east of Nacogdoches, if even that. It is far more likely that their intended destination was San Antonio or possibly even the new capital of Austin. In any event, circumstances caused them to stop in La Grange, and in La Grange is where they stayed.Yeppers, it does indeed appear that we're finally getting into some of the good stuff. I find history and background and worldbuilding fascinating (I am a Tolkien fan, after all) but I know good and well what folks will buy this book for!
"Most of the population was German or Czech," said Oliver Kitzman, a former District Attorney who served Fayette County. "If you look around the country, you’ll see when the Czechs came over they settled in the blackland prairies, and the Germans settled in the hills, the more rolling places. I don't know why that is, but it's true. They were a frugal, hard-working people."Nothing Earth-shaking, I'll grant you that. But those Czechs and Germans are a big reason why the Chicken Ranch became the enduring institution that it did. And Kitzman has a lot of interesting things to say later on. Stay tuned.
Near the end of Spanish colonial rule through the Mexican revolution, the important La Bahia Road cut through the area, crossing the Colorado near the present site of La Grange. The Spanish never settled the region, though, and it wasn’t until 1822 that European settlers--members of Austin’s “Old Three Hundred”--arrived in significant numbers.I'm somewhat conflicted right now by terminology in this section. In my sources, "whites" and "Indians" are used almost exclusively. "Native American" sounds entirely too modern and jarring for the most part, and "settlers" and "Europeans" become tedious after a dozen or so uses. Fortunately, it's a small section only a few pages long, and after that I shouldn't have to worry about that particular word-choice issue again. I imagine I'll sort it out eventually--that's what second drafts are for!
Almost from the start there were clashes between the whites and the natives. The first recorded battle occurred in 1823 on Skull Creek, when a hastily assembled troop of 22 settlers destroyed a Karankawa camp harassing whites along the river. The Karankawas, a tribe more commonly associated with the Texas Coastal Bend, were generally reviled by settlers and rival tribes alike for their reputed cannibalism. At the end of the fight, 23 Karankawas lay dead, without the loss of a single settler.
What set the Chicken Ranch apart was its venerable history. By 1973, it was the last man standing, the lone holdout against changing times that had shuttered pretty much all of its one-time contemporaries.In case you're wondering, those words were helped along by Pumpkin Ale from Buffalo Bill's Brewery. I highly recommend it--of the various pumpkin ales I've tried over the years, this one strikes the right balance between the pumpkin and hoppy malt flavors of the beer. Not that it has anything directly to do with the Chicken Ranch, but I felt like sharing.
From the earliest days of the Republic, long before vast oilfields covered the landscape and “black gold” made the state rich, the Texas economy depended on three industries: cattle, cotton and timber. A casual observer of the time could not be blamed, though, for thinking of prostitution as a fourth major cash crop.