Julia Coster

A woman with whiles to make men end their lives, tenacity and willingness to join the circus leaving her 10 month old baby behind. Julia Coster was a heartbreaker and a gypsy of the west coast. Her first husband was her cousin. He killed himself after she wouldn’t let him see their child Lorraine on Christmas. She raised Lorraine until she was 10 months old, and left her to Lorraine’s grandmother Flora.

Life in the wild west is often glamorized in a cops vs robbers with a heroic whitehat saving the damsel, the day, and the town. Julia lived in the real wild west. An era when cars were just starting to become a thing, records were rarely copied and information left written in the original. A time period ripe for Julia, a gypsy, a bohemian. A first generation Portuguese-American who would hide and change her identity to fit the circumstance.

A natural thrill seeker Julia carved out her unconventional niche in a time when women were expected to be subservient housewives. She would take to flipping that upside down and truly crafted her own life.

Life at a glance

  • Josephine Coster
  • Flora Coster
  • Lorraine DaRoza
  • Gail Haggard
    (Great Grand Daughter)
  • Gwen Wilder
    (Grand Daughter)
Julia Coster.
Young Julia posing in town, wearing the latest fashion

The Vagabond

Her mother Flora emigrated from Portugal leaving behind a child with her parents, to start a new life in the states. She landed in rural California and had 2 children with a man named Lewis. Through a series of rumors Lewis got word that Flora had a child by another man that she left in Portugal. He travelled to Portugal and never returned, leaving Flora to raise Julia and Josephine on her own.

With her mother busy finding ways to provide for herself and her family, Julia found herself with little supervision and a lot of time. She crafted her wiles early in her life and was enamored with boys of any disposition.

Around her 18th birthday she was pregnant by her Husband-cousin Joseph. Remember, this is the wild west in the middle of nowhere. Lorraine was born shortly after and Julia left Joseph to go to her sister's dairy farm. Letters were exchanged between the two with Joseph pleading for Julia to come back, he dearly missed her and his daughter. The separation drove Joseph into an inescapable depression. During Christmas Joseph was so distraught with the thought that he would never see his daughter again that he ended his life.

Julia Coster.
Julia was never without a hat


Julia was not ready to be a mother, and never would be. She wanted excitement, she wanted to travel, to be free of any responsibility. So she left her daughter Lorraine with Flora and Josephine, Julia's mother and sister respectively.

She hit the pavement immediately, bouncing from town to town and man to man. Working in circuses she'd see the wide array of human configurations and the varying American landscapes. Doing whatever she needed to get by she secretly mentioned to her granddaughter later in life that she and one of her 6 husbands forged money together.

Eventually she would land on the ground with Herman, the love of her life. She and Herman were together, never married, for 12 years while Julia worked as a waitress in Centerville, CA. After years of marriage Herman got considerably drunk one night and was staggering down the highway outside of his family's house they lived in. A slight fault of foot and bam! Herman was hit and killed by a Greyhound bus barreling down the street.

Julia was thrown into the world with no support system. Herman's family had kicked her out and ended contact with her shortly after. She had nowhere to go, no prospects and no husband. By this time her crime streak had toned down considerably, so up and traveling was not an option. So she did what we all do in desperate times, she relied on family. Josephine took Julia into her home and they supported each other until Julia could get back up on her feet.

Lorraine and Flora
Julia's mother and Great Granddaughter Gwen

Relationship with Lorraine

Julia never showed her daughter affection. Their relationship was sorted and there was a huge amount of resentment on both sides. Julia saw Lorraine as a weight and a source of personal shame and failure. Julia would never give Lorraine gifts on birthdays or Christmas, treating her like a distant cousin.

Their relationship would never develop passed a civil dislike for each other. Lorraine being bullheaded and unwilling to forgive her mother for abandoning her at such a young age, and Julia not being willing to confront her past and take responsibility for her actions.

Later Years

Julia was remembered and loved by everyone in the family except for Lorraine. She could have an entire room doubled over in laughter with the crudest jokes you've ever heard. Her time spent with the circus shaped her world view and she had an endless supply of strange stories and offensive one-liners.

Even in her later years she was still considered wild and her attire matched her personality perfectly. Stylish all throughout her life her eclectic wardrobe was a mirror of her mind and drew people to her with a magnetism unmatched by anyone in the family since. She lived in the wild west and lived to tell the tale.

Julia in her garden
Julia and her grandson Gary
Julia and friends

Julia in car
Julia and friends above
Julia and Josephine
Julia left, her older sister Josephine right
Julia Coster
Julia throughout the years

Follow her lineage

It has taken years to collect, curate and record my family's history and I've barely scratched the surface. What you see in this document is an exploration of an atypical Californian family. A common theme throughout my lineage is strong women providing for themselves and their kin passed their due. It's clear to see the turning points in my Great Great Grandmother's life and how it has rippled down generations.

Each person portrayed here is done so with love and kindness, and I hope that I have done their character justice.

A Study Of Family

by Jonathan Haggard

All icons from The Noun Project.