Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Miss Jessie (1885-1952)

La Grange Yellow Pages phone book, 1958
On this date in 1952, Faye Stewart, otherwise known as Jessie Williams or simply "Miss Jessie," passed away at the age of 67 in San Antonio, just a couple of months after selling the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel in La Grange to Edna Milton. Her sister-in-law, Eddie Ledda Moody, traveled from McLennan County to oversee Miss Jessie’s burial in Sunset Memorial Park.

Faye Stewart’s parents came from Georgia, moving to Waco well before she was born. The family lived for years on Franklin Street, but struggled after Stewart’s father died unexpectedly in 1886. While it is entirely possible that Stewart learned the ropes of prostitution in Waco's infamous Two Street vice district, there’s scant evidence she was successful enough to own her own brothel there. By 1910, however, she’d moved to Austin and assumed the alias of Jessie Williams, as was customary for women in the sex trade intent on protecting their families’ reputations.

Curiously enough, despite the fact Miss Jessie spent nearly three decades in La Grange and was as well-known a civic benefactor as anyone in Fayette County, I have found no photographs of her. Zero. Nada. Which is strange, since I know photos of her exist somewhere. So in lieu of Miss Jessie's photo, we'll have to settle from the 1958 edition of the La Grange phone book. Think that cover art is coincidental? Or was someone with the Yellow Pages making a not-so-subtle joke? In any event, here's to Miss Jessie, the woman who turned a number of shoddy prostitution operations into the brothel known today as the Chicken Ranch.

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Chicken Ranch Central


  1. Why do some articles on the web state that Miss Jessie turned over control of the Chicken Ranch in 1952 and died in 1961. This article indicates she died in 1952. Which year is correct?

  2. Many, many, many things online about the Chicken Ranch are incorrect. And that's being charitable. Did I mention articles about the Chicken Ranch are incorrect, inaccurate and just plain wrong? This goes for published books as well. Miss Jessie died in 1952, just a few months after selling the brothel to Edna Milton. Miss Edna did not--as is so often claimed--purchase it from Miss Jessie's heirs.