Prostitute Julia Bulette moved to Virginia City around 1863 when the lively mining boom town boasted a population approaching 10,000. Four years later, an intruder strangled her during the early morning hours of January 20, 1867.
Local officials arrested Frenchman Jean Millian when he tried to sell a few of her possessions. Found guilty and sentenced to death after a brief trial, Millian went to the gallows on April 24, 1868. It was Virginia City's first public execution.
"Jule" Bulette lived and worked out of a small rented cottage near the corner of D and Union streets in Virginia City's entertainment district. An independent operator, she competed with the fancy brothels, streetwalkers, and hurdy-gurdy girls for meager earnings.
Contemporary newspaper accounts of her gruesome murder captured popular imagination. With few details of her life, twentieth-century chroniclers elevated the courtesan to the status of folk heroine, ascribing to her the questionable attributes of wealth, beauty, and social standing.
In reality, Bulette was ill and in debt at the time of her death. The brutal attack that ended her life pointed to the violence that surrounded the less fortunate members of Victorian-era society.