Julia Bulette was born in either London, England and given that name, or Mississippi where she was given the Christian name Jule, depending on which source is given credence. Sometime in the early 1850s, she moved to California, residing in different locales until 1859 when the Comstock Lode silver and gold strike lured miners to nearby Nevada.
When Julia Bulette arrived there she reportedly soon discovered that she was the only unmarried woman (and one of the very few women at all) in the camps. The readiness with which she took up prostitution to take advantage of her situation is an indication of the type of work she did during the preceding years in California. At any rate, her status as the lone available woman was short-lived and brothels, bordellos, saloon girls, and streetwalkers were soon commonplace in burgeoning Virginia City.
Julia worked as an independent, living in a rented home. Virginia City grew with boomtown speed and by 1861 Julia was honored by the city’s new fire department, awarded membership in an engine company. Her popularity with her customers grew to legendary status after her violent death; evidence suggests that she had fewer customers than what her legend implies and that she was ill with either tuberculosis or venereal disease, possibly both.
In January 1867 Julia’s body was found in her bedroom. She had been severely beaten, probably pistol-whipped, and strangled to death. She was buried the next day, and local newspapers began what became her legend by referring in obituaries to her great beauty, charm, and the reverence in which she was held by the community.
She was buried in Flower Hill Cemetery following a funeral attended by thousands. Her murderer was determined to be a drifter named John Millain who was hanged the following year, an event attended by Samuel Clemens, who in Virginia city had adopted the pen name Mark Twain.