Julia Lake’s wasn’t the only life snuffed out by those three bullets fired by an irate wife. (And in case you missed the earlier parts of this story, here’s where you can find Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3!)
No, when Julia breathed her last on August 2, 1871, she was pregnant with her sixth child — this time, a child by the philandering Nels. She’d already borne (and given up) two earlier children to her first husband (a man named Wolf, who’d taken custody of the offspring when they divorced).
She also had three children by second husband, James Coddington (though only two of those children were still alive). Coddington himself had passed away some five years before, as Julia put it, from “reverse of fortune combined with dissipation.” So those two little boys were now orphans. And saddest of all, Julia’s unborn baby also didn’t survive.
The older of the two boys, Thomas, was about 12 years old when his mother died. He was in Genoa at the time, and may have remained there with family or friends. Little Oliver, the baby of the family, was just nine. He was packed off to live at the Orphan’s Home in Carson City.
Tom had several run-ins with the law in Carson City in his youth. He eventually moved to California, where he became a barber. The 1900 Census found him in Fresno County, and Tom died there in 1913 at about age 55 – of opium poisoning.
Oliver, the baby of the family, not only survived his experience at the Orphan’s Home but wound up living to the ripe old age of 80. He farmed in Washoe Valley in his younger years; lived in Verdi in the 1890s; and later worked as a “fireman” or foreman (or possibly both) at a “sash mill” (a steam-driven lumber mill). Oliver finally passed away of stomach cancer on February 2, 1942 in Los Angeles, where he’d been living for the previous 24 years. Oliver was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Fresno – the same cemetery where his brother Tom is buried.
And What of Our Murderess, the Original Julia?
Well, after she was acquitted of murder in November, 1871 on grounds of “temporary insanity,” Julia Savier moved in with her parents in Placerville for a time. In April, 1874 she was granted a land patent on a large lot in town, at the corner of Bee and Canal Streets.
But Julia apparently had set her heart on moving to San Francisco. She shows up there as early as January, 1877. Perhaps to raise funds to help support herself, she deeded the Placerville lot to her father, who in turn sold it a few months later – likely as her agent.
Julia never remarried after her divorce from Nels became final later that same year (1877). She supported herself in San Francisco doing “fancy work” and sewing. Her parents may also have continued to provide her with support; Julia’s mother deeded her a vacant San Francisco lot in December, 1879.
But by 1880, Julia was back living with her parents in Placerville. It’s possible that her parents were ill and needed Julia’s care; her mother died in 1881, and her father in 1883.
While in Placerville, Julia continued to work as a seamstress, winning awards for her dress-making and embroidery at the El Dorado County Agricultural Society Fair. Ironically, Julia’s fancy sewing was done on a Wheeler & Wilson machine – the same brand of sewing machine that philandering ex-husband Nels Saviers used to sell!
But after Julia’s father died in 1883, she was left completely on her own. Julia returned to San Francisco, perhaps thinking employment possibilities would be better there. An 1887 San Francisco City Directory shows Julia working as an “assistant bookkeeper” in the laundry department at the luxurious Palace Hotel, a position she kept through at least 1889 (though she’s identified that year only as a “laundress”).
A year later Julia applied for — and got — the job of matron at the city prison; she was hired in early 1891. But this new post lasted only a week. Maybe working with inmates was not quite Julia’s cup of tea. Or perhaps she was let go because her own criminal past came to light. We don’t know for sure.
One way or another, however, Julia continued to work for most of the next decade. Now in her 60s, she shows up in San Francisco directory listings from 1892 through 1899 as a “housekeeper” or simply a “widow.”
True to her earlier promise, Julia also devoted time to charitable activities. She kept up her membership in the Odd Fellows’ Rebekahs, an organization she’d joined while she and Nels were still together. And in January, 1892, Julia was recognized in the newspaper for assisting with “Orphan’s Day at the park.” Was she somehow atoning for her own malicious act that had left two little boys orphaned? We’ll never know.
In her waning years, Julia moved into the “Crocker’s Old People’s Home” in Pacific Heights. She passed away there at the age of 76 on February 21, 1908 of “hypostatic pneumonia” (an infection that often afflicts the bedridden).
Julia’s body was shipped back to Placerville by train, in care of the Rebekah Lodge. She was buried beside her parents at Placerville Union Cemetery, with services conducted by fellow members of the Rebekah Lodge and accompanied by a quartet of singers.
Julia’s obituary in the Placerville Mountain Democrat noted only that she was the “last of the Glynns, a family once prominent” in the town’s early history. Tactfully, it made no mention of her star-crossed marriage to Nels or of the fatal shooting over thirty years earlier.
And Circling Back to Benjamin Seeley, Whose Story Started It All:
As you may remember way back in Part 1, this whole saga was kicked off by two short, mysterious mentions of the death of Frank Seeley in the 1880 Genoa newspapers — an older man who’d died at Walley’s Hot Springs.
“Frank” Seely, as we’ve seen, was actually Benjamin Frank Seely – the first husband of future murderer, Julia Savier. They’d married in November, 1855 in Shasta County. And perhaps luckily for Frank, they didn’t stay married for very long.
After Frank and Julia split up about 1860 (which may or may not have included a formal divorce), Frank moved on. By 1870 he was living in Belmont (Nye County), Nevada, working as a “joiner” or carpenter.
The following year, about the time Julia was pulling the trigger over in Stockton, Frank was living in Treasure City, Nevada – coincidentally, not far from Hamilton, where philandering husband Nels Savier would soon take refuge!
Frank Seely later moved on to the new boomtown of Bodie, where he appears on the voter roll in October, 1877. He apparently worked as a miner or a carpenter in a handful of other mining towns as well, including Belleville (Mineral County), outside Mina. The 1880 Census found him at Candelaria (Esmeralda County), Nevada, again working as a carpenter.
Not long after that Census taker’s visit, Frank journeyed west to Genoa, seeking the healing waters of Walley’s Hot Springs. But even those magical baths failed to restore him to health. Suffering from both typhoid and jaundice, Frank passed away on August 28, 1880, at roughly 65 years of age.
Frank Seely died a pauper, and was buried at County expense – quite possibly at Genoa Cemetery. The burial itself was apparently a hurried affair; the gravedigger later complained about the “indecent haste.” As a result, the Genoa newspaper solemnly notified the public, in the future at least 12 hours’ advance notice to the gravedigger would be required for pauper burials.
Though Frank Seely’s death received only two brief mentions, one of which didn’t even include his name, his passing did still made it to the Genoa paper. And in one of those strange quirks of history, those two tiny tidbits piqued our curiosity. One thing led to another. And thanks to the help of my amazing researcher-friend, Debbe Nye (who did ALL the incredible research for this saga), the tale of Frank, and then Julia, and then the other Julia began to unravel — and the story snowballed.
So there you go, dear Readers — that’s the fascinating story of three bullets, two Julias, one philandering husband — and a very lucky carpenter named Frank, who was the key to unraveling it all!