Julia Bulette (1832 – January 19/20, 1867), was an English-born American prostitute and madam in Virginia City, Nevada who was murdered in 1867. She was the proprietor of the most elegant and prosperous brothel in the City and various films and books took inspiration of her real or purported career. She probably arrived in 1863 in the mining boomtown based on the Comstock Lode silver mine. Bulette was a popular figure with the miners, and the local firefighters made her an honorary member of Virginia Engine Company Number 1. She was murdered on either January 19 or 20th, 1867. John Millain, a French drifter and jewel thief, was convicted of her murder. The townspeople honored her with a lavish funeral and a speedy hanging of her assailant.
And from The Virginia Daily Union, January 21st 1867:
Sometime yesterday morning a woman, well known in California and Nevada as Julia Bulette, was cruelly murdered at her house, in this city, on North D street, by some party or parties unknown. The first notice of the murder was given by a woman named Gertrude, who called some citizens to the bloody scene.
The parlor of Miss Bulette’s house, when our reporter arrived, was in perfect order, with the exception of a vase and some books being thrown on the floor, in the south corner of the room. In the bedroom, on the east side, lay the body of the woman on the bed, with a large pillow thrown across the face, and the bed clothes disordered, as though the last death-throes had been terrible. She was lying on her left side, and the bolster was besmeared with blood, which was evidently caused by a heavy blow on the right temple, above the ear, which must have produced such an effect as to cause a terrible struggle for life, which was ended doubtless by the assassin placing a pillow over her mouth and there holding it until life was extinct.
The night-clothes were torn from the neck and breast, and her body thrown diagonally across the bed, which was spattered with blood, and her hands clenched as if in a death struggle, one of the fingers of the left hand being bruised as from a blow. A closer examination revealed the fact that the fingers of the murderer had been grasped across her throat, and her whole face and head was discolored by blood which had been forced thither by strangulation. Her clothes had evidently been taken off in haste, and lay at the head of the couch upon chairs and a trunk, and bore no traces of blood.
On the right temple were two indentation, evidently made with a stick of wood, as pieces of the bark were clinging to her hair and scattered upon the counterpane, although no piece was found that showed marks of blood. The object of the assassin was probably robbery, as two watches, a fine set of furs and other valuable, were missing from the house. The front door was locked when the body was discovered and the murderer evidently escaped from the rear of the house.
As soon as possible, Coroner Gartrell summoned a jury. The deceased was well known in Virginia and Carson; was a native of England, from whence she emigrated when quite young to New Orleans and thence to California in 1852 or 1853 where she lived in various cities and towns until April 1853, when she came to Virginia, where she has resided ever since. She was a comely woman and possessed a benevolent disposition, her purse ever being open to the demands of charity, no matter what the form of application. Her life was that of one of those erring mortals whose one mishap in youth hosts years of misery and repentance, and her death a horrid ending to the fitful slumber of mortality. Let a tear of sorrow for her frailties take the place of scorn for her weakness for she may yet bloom on the tree of immortality.
Coroner Gartrell Called Dr. Bronson to make an autopsy of the body, which was done by that surgeon, assisted by Drs. Gaston, of Gold Hill, and Green of Virginia, and with the following result: It was ascertained the death undoubtedly ensued through strangulation, as the brain and blood vessels connecting therewith were congested; and although several heavy blows were evidently received on her forehead, no fracture of the skull was made. Her body bore no marks of violence except upon the left hip, where a slight puncture of the cuticle was visible.
At 12 today, an inquest was held at Judge Murray’s Court room before the following jury: James Showers, M. Gregory, P. J. Jocelyn, T. Hanbridge, J. J. Morehouse, I. E. Brokaw. The verdict was in accordance with the facts as given above elicited from the testimony of Drs. Bronson and Gaston. Peter Larkin, Gertrude Holmes and others. The affair still remains clouded in mystery which may never be cleared up.
The body of Julia Butelle was taken to No. 1’s Engine House this morning, of which company she was an honorary member of long standing. Her remains will be borne from there to the grave at 3 o’clock this afternoon. The various engine companies of the city are invited to participate in the funeral ceremonies.