The Murder of Julia Bulette
Red, white and blue bunting hung from the windows and awnings lining the main street of Virginia City, Nevada on July 4, 1861. The entire mining community had turned out to celebrate the country’s independence and share in the holiday festivities. The firemen of Fire Engine Company Number 1 led a grand parade through town. Riding on top of the vehicle and adorned in a fireman’s hat and carrying a brass fire trumpet filled with roses was Julia Bulette. The crowd cheered for the woman who had been named Queen of the Independence Day parade, and Julia proudly waved to them as she passed by. In that moment residents looked past the fact that she was a known prostitute who operated a busy parlor house. For that moment they focused solely on the charitable works she had done for the community and, in particular, the monetary contributions she had made to the fire department. Julia Bulette had been born in London, England, in 1833. She and her family moved to New Orleans in 1848 and then on to California with the gold rush. Julia arrived in Virginia City in 1859 after having survived a failed marriage and working as a prostitute in Louisiana. In a western territory where the male inhabitants far outnumbered the female, doe-eyed Julia learned how to make that work to her advantage. She opened a house of ill repute and hired a handful of girls to work for her. Julia’s Palace, as it came to be known, was a high-class establishment complete with lace curtains, imported carpets, and velvet, high-back chairs. She served her guests the finest wines and French cooking and insisted that her gentlemen callers conduct themselves in a civilized fashion. She was noted for being a kind woman with a generous heart who never failed to help the sick and poor. In recognition of her support to the needy, the local firefighters made her an honorary member. It was a tribute she cherished and did her best to prove herself worthy. On January 21, 1867, Virginia City’s beloved Julia was found brutally murdered in the bedroom of her home. The jewelry and furs she owned had been stolen. The heinous crime shocked the town, and citizens vowed to track the killer down. The funeral provided for Julia was one of the largest ever held in the area. Businesses closed, and black wreaths were hung on the doors of the saloons. Members of Fire Engine Company Number 1 pooled their money and purchased a silver-handled casket for her burial. She was laid to rest at the Flowery Cemetery outside Virginia City. The large wooden marker over her grave read simply JULIA. Fifteen months after Julia’s death, law enforcement apprehended the man who robbed and killed her. Jean Millian had been one of her clients and had Julia’s belongings on him when he was apprehended. Millian was tried, declared guilty, and hanged for the murder on April 27, 1868. This story as well as many other previous tales are from the book Tales Behind the Tombstones.