The Intriguing Life and Death of Julia Bulette

Julia Bulette, a renowned courtesan of the mid-19th century, led a life filled with glamour, adventure, and ultimately, tragedy. Known for her beauty and charm, she was an icon in the mining town of Virginia City, Nevada. However, her brutal murder in January 1867 sent shockwaves through the community, leading to an investigation that remains controversial to this day.

Early Life and Career

Julia was born into a unique cultural background – she was a quadroon, which means she was a quarter African-American. Her French father had a plantation in New Orleans, where he met Julia’s mother.

In the society she grew up in, a quadroon’s life was destined for laborious tasks such as picking cotton. But Julia had other plans. After being introduced to the glamorous life of courtesans by her Uncle Jules, she decided to follow the same path.


Julia saw that these women got to travel, to dress well, and go places. When she was 16, she told her uncle, ‘That’s what I want to do!’ – Kim Harris, Chautauquan

Julia Bulette Virginia City

Rise to Fame

Julia’s life took a turn when she moved to San Francisco during the Gold Rush. However, the fierce competition and the harsh conditions of the miners disappointed her. She then decided to move to Sacramento and eventually to Virginia City. Her charm and sophistication soon won her many admirers in the mining town, and she became a high-priced courtesan.

Relationship with Firefighters

Julia’s popularity wasn’t just due to her profession. She was also known for her charitable acts. She was particularly admired by the local firefighters, who saw her as their darling.

Table 1: Julia’s Charitable Acts

Organizing fundraisersHelped widows and orphans
Tending to the sickSupported people suffering from smallpox or diphtheria

Controversial Murder

Despite her popularity, Julia’s life was cut short in a brutal murder. The prime suspect was a Frenchman named John Millian, who was found with some of her jewelry. However, his guilt remains a matter of debate.

The Trial and Execution of Millian

Millian’s trial was controversial due to the rush to judgement and the language barrier he faced as a French-speaking foreigner. Despite his attorney’s efforts, Millian was found guilty and executed. His grave lies just a few feet away from Julia’s in the Flowery Hill Cemetery.

Julia’s Legacy

Julia’s story continues to intrigue historians and enthusiasts. Her life, marked by ambition, charity, and tragedy, is a potent reminder of the challenging conditions women faced in the Victorian era.

List of Julia’s Achievements:

  1. Rose from a life of labor to become a high-priced courtesan
  2. Became a beloved figure in Virginia City
  3. Known for her charitable acts, especially towards firefighters

Final Thoughts

Julia’s life story is a testament to her resilience and ambition. Despite the societal constraints, she carved a unique path for herself. Her murder remains one of the most controversial events in the history of Virginia City.


I don’t think Julia would have wanted us to feel sorry for her. Here’s how my chautauqua speech as Julia ends: ‘Queen of the Comstock? No, I want to be remembered as Queen of Good Times!’ – Kim Harris, Chautauquan

Leave a Comment