Creffield and the Holy Rollers made page one headlines from 1903 to 1907. When I was researching Holy Rollers: Murder and Madness in Oregon’s Love Cult I spent months transcribing hundreds of articles. I’m not sure why I was so obsessive. Maybe it was my way of immersing my self into a cult without joining one. Anyway, I’m posting them all for those who are really interested in the story, or are interested the history of journalism, or are interested in how a scandalous story played out in the "media" in a by gone era. Since I no doubt made typos and unconsciously corrected papers' typos, these web pages should not be cited in anything serious (e.g. your dissertation). For such projects they should only be used as starting points and you should refer to the original sources. If you want a shorter version of the story, buy my book. Enjoy.
June 30, 1906: Mrs. Creffield's Testimony
Seattle Post Intelligencer 6/30/06 p1
Maud Creffield On Witness Stand
Widow Of “Holy Roller” Tells How He Was Shot On First Avenue
Struggle With Feelings
State’s Chief Witness Heard And Case Rested In The Mitchell Trial
Mrs. Maud Creffield, widow of Franz Edmund Creffield, took the witness stand in Judge A. W. Frater’s court room yesterday afternoon, and told the story of how the man she called husband, to whom she had been married but a month before in this city, fell dead at her side one morning last May, shot from behind, and instantly killed by George Mitchell, in whose presence she was telling the story.
It was the climax of the state’s case. On the one hand the little woman, with ashy-gray complexion, contrasting strangely with the dark garments she wore; with voice quivering with emotion as she was compelled by the gentle insistence of counsel, to recount one by one the details of which the very thought seemed almost to overcome her; with large expressive blue eyes, which betrayed perhaps more than any other feature, the nervous strain which the ordeal was causing her. On the other hand, the young man whose act was the cause of it all, seated almost stolidly beside his counsel, with eyes fixed on the witness, almost as pale in color, but with a healthier hue than hers--only the continual biting of the underlip and the restless movements of the fingers to tell that he, too, was under a mental strain only less acute than that of the witness.
Mrs. Creffield was on the stand about an hour and a quarter. During that time she told only the bare story of what had happened that morning in May. Counsel for the state questioned her on nothing else, and effectually checked every attempt of counsel for the defense to do so. Her evidence served mainly to corroborate that of the other witnesses of the day. It proved ground for a battle royal between the opposing counsel, and developed the fact that in all probability the defense will call her also to testify in Mitchell’s behalf.
One of the first acts of the morning was to swear in all witnesses present who were warned to refrain from talking over the case with anyone except the attorneys. Among these was Mitchell.
Despite the crowd in the courtroom, a sudden hush came over the courtroom as Mrs. Creffield’s name was called. As she walked up the aisle, through the lane of the spectators, from the judge’s chambers where she had been waiting, each one of the hundreds of men and women in the hall scrutinized closely every movement of the dark-gowned figure.
Mr. Miller took the witness first, and got from her the story of how she and her husband had been walking down First avenue on a shopping expedition that May morning, when, without warning to either, came the sound of the revolver, and her husband fell forward, dead.
“What was the first thing you did then?” queried the attorney.
“The first thing I did was to turn around, and I saw George Mitchell.”
As she uttered the words, Mrs. Creffield’s emotions almost overcame her, and the voice sounded hoarse and unnatural.
HER FIRST THOUGHT
Continuing, counsel elicited the information that Mitchell was at the time walking away, gazing backward, and the smoking gun was in his hand. The first thought of the dazed woman was about the man who had fired the shot, and she kept asking him why he had done it. She received no answer, she said, that she could remember, until she stated:
He did you no harm.”
Then came the words, “He didn’t did he?”
Mrs. Creffield moved towards Mitchell, she stated, and took hold of him by the arms. Mitchell did not violently resist, but caught her by the hands, preventing her from striking him.
At one time it seemed as if Mt. Creffield was going to give in under the strain. Mr. Miller gave her a drink of water, and she held up, but he did not ask any more searching questions.
Almost the first question of the cross-examination was concerning the time Mrs. Creffield married the deceased. The answer related to the ceremony of April 3, 1906.
Then came the question has she been married to Creffield before? The objection was sustained.
Attorney Morris then got the witness to say she had known Mitchell several years. Asked if anything had occurred to make her suspect any danger to Creffield from Mitchell, she replied, “Not in Seattle.”
There was a triumphant ring in the attorney’s voice as he put the next question:
“Just previous to coming to Seattle, what about that?”
Mr. Miller was on his feet in a moment.
“Now, if the court please--” he began, when he was interrupted by a buzz of amusement throughout the courtroom. The first request of the attorney when quiet had been restored, was that the court should be cleared, if another such demonstration occurred. The court issued the warning.
Witness spelled her husband’s name for counsel, who wanted to know if there was any other name by which he had been known. He received permission from the court to ask this question, but out is: “Was your husband ever known by the name of ‘Joshua?’”
Mr. Miller said counsel ought to know better than to act that way. “I’m not so smart as you are,” was the retort. “You wouldn’t ask such a question as that if you were,” was the quick reply. Soon after, Mrs. Creffield was dismissed.
LITTLE TO ADD
There was little to add to the story of the killing as given by Mrs. Creffield in the testimony of any of the other witnesses for the state. Mr. Miller, in his opening statement yesterday morning spent perhaps ten minutes in recounting what the state expected to prove. He rehearsed(sic) the incidents of the arrest, and told how Mitchell had almost immediately sent the telegram to O. V. Hurt, Mrs. Creffield’s father, “I’ve got my man; am in jail here,” and asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty as charged.
Dr. Emil Bories was put on the stand to testify to the character of the wounds and the circumstances of his finding Creffield’s body. Dr. W. C. Carroll corroborated. J. E. Tuchten, Dr. W. C. Capp, John A. Whalley, an insurance agent, and Peter Wooley, a bootblack, were all eyewitnesses and E. LeCount was the patrolman who arrested Mitchell. Sergeant of Detectives Charles Tennant, Police Inspector D. F. Willard, Captain of Police, John Sullivan had all taken statements from the young man at the police station, as had L. B. Sefrit, a newspaper man. The bullet which killed the man, the revolver from which it was fired, and the other cartridges found in its chambers, and the telegram written by the man at the police station, were all placed in evidence by the state.
Apart from the quarrels of counsel as a result of which the state succeeded in barring all evidence not directly concerned with the main incident, the case was without feature throughout the greater part of the day. In one instance Mr. Miller succeeded in securing from the court a warning to Mr. S. M. Shipley against propounding questions which he knew would be objected to, and then withdrawing them when the objection was raised. This was done, Miller said, with the purpose of creating an effect on the juror’s minds.
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 6/30/1906 p5
Mrs. Creffield Testifies
Widow Of Leader Of Holy Rollers Is Called To Stand In Trial Of Mitchell
Nothing Is Told Of Practices Of The Cult
Prosecution Closed Its Case Yesterday Afternoon And Defense Will Commence Examination Of Witnesses Monday.
(Special Dispatch to The Journal.)
Seattle, June 30.-- With the closing of the evidence for the prosecution yesterday afternoon in the trial of George Mitchell, the slayer of Edmund Creffield, the Holy Roller apostle, court adjourned until Monday morning at which time the testimony for the defense will be commenced.
There was nothing sensational in the evidence introduced by the prosecution, Prosecutor Mackintosh satisfying himself with showing the manner of the killing of Creffield and the attitude of the defendant throughout the affair, which was shown to be cool and calm, with the view of discrediting the insanity plea of the defense.
WIDOW CALLED TO STAND
When Maud Hurt Creffield, widow of the dead “apostle” was called to the stand late in the afternoon there was absolute silence in the courtroom. As the woman passed up the aisle to the witness stand there was a craning of necks among the spectators who wished to obtain a view of the person who was at the side of the Holy Roller leader throughout his infamous career and was with him at the time of his death. There was an astonishment expressed upon obtaining a close view of the widow, she being not in the least the kind of woman that would naturally be pictured as the companion of a leader of such a movement as that set on foot by Creffield. Comely in a way, Mrs. Creffield did not show any dazzling marks of brilliancy and her face and eyes appeared absolutely expressionless. Throughout her testimony there was no show of feeling and her attitude was that of a disinterested party in the case.
The Holy Roller apostle’s widow testified simply as to the incidents of the shooting of her husband. She told how she was walking along the street with him when suddenly she heard an explosion. She turned and saw her husband fall to the ground and Mitchell calmly place a smoking revolver in his pocket. Fearing that he would shoot her also, she rushed up to Creffield’s slayer and grappled with him. He repulsed her and grasping her wrists held her for a moment. He then released her and she kneeled to the street beside the body of Creffield.
The cross-examination of Mrs. Creffield was thorough, but was confined to the points brought out in the direct examination. The attorneys for the defense attempted to secure testimony along the lines of Creffield’s dealings in Holy Rollerism. This was objected to by the prosecution and the objection sustained by the court. An exception was saved by the defense. It is probable that Mrs. Creffield will be called to the stand again next week as a witness for the defense, when she will be required to answer the questions denied upon cross-examination.
Seattle Daily Times 6/30/1906 p1
Esther Mitchell at Brother’s Trial
Young Girl Alleged to Have Been a Dupe of the Bogus Oregon Prophet Attracts Little Attention.
Few Persons in Courtroom Recognize Her as She Passes Into Judge Frater’s Private Chambers.
by Walter Deffenbaugh
Another woman of vital importance in the review of the career of “Joshua” Creffield appeared in the court room during the trial yesterday afternoon. It was Esther Mitchell, the sister of the accused man, and a young girl whom is confidently stated by the defense was made the victim of a lust growing out of a possible insanity over his divine powers as a prophet of old returned to earth with most of the disgusting immorality which the so-called “higher critics” of modern theology have admitted hinged about the lives of the men of the ancient day, when the moral law was in its infancy.
Her appearance was an informal, nevertheless a legal one, and one which the defense had long sought. It was the result of a direct charge by Will H. Morris, principal counsel for the defense, that the orders of the prosecuting attorney had deprived him of his legal right of seeing the younger sister of his client, who is held in the custody of the police matron.
Mr. Miller denied that such was the case. Mr. Morris retaliated that he had tried and that he had been unable to see the young woman.
“You saw her before I ever did,” was the retort. “You met her at the train.”
PLACED WITH POLICE MATRON
It is true that Mr. Morris did in response to telegrams from friends of Mitchell in Corvallis. It was Mr. Morris who met the fanatically-inclined and friendless girl at 7 o’clock one morning and gratified her desire that she be at one taken to “Maud,” as she called Mrs. Creffield.
After explaining to her at once that he was her brother’s attorney and learning that she would not see her brother because “he had not made his peace with God,” he did not attempt to question her further, but accompanied her to the home of the police matron.
There he explained the situation to Mrs. Kelly and procured for the homeless, friendless girl a shelter which he thought was best for her at the time, even though the little shack which the renegade operations were shifting about all over the neighborhood of Third Avenue and Jefferson Street was usually inhabited by criminals--because he knew Mrs. Kelly and knew that the girl would suffer no harm there, even that of association, and that she would be well taken care of.
It was following Mr. Morris’ demand for an opportunity to see the girl that she was brought into court yesterday afternoon and taken with Mrs. Creffield into Judge Frater’s private chambers under the charge of Mrs. Kelly. Esther Mitchell remained there during the afternoon while Mrs. Creffield went through the ordeal of testifying to a scene which was undoubtedly painful to her, although it was evident from her demeanor that she still believes in the divinity of her husband. No ordinary widow ever acted as she acted on the witness stand.
Only a few of those in the court room saw the young girl and only then as she passed from the corridor along the crowded rear aisle to the door to the chambers. She is slight, frail, girlish--far from being a woman such as one would imagine to be one of the principal figures in such a case. At least not until one looked into her eyes. There was the same peculiar flashing stare which had already been noticed as marking out Mrs. Creffield, the leader of the sect of which they were both followers and are still believers in.
Mr. Morris had a brief conversation with her, but declined today to state what had passed between them. It is not believed that it is her desire to testify to anything favorable to her brother, but the prosecution will not call her and the defense will make an attempt under the authority of the court, which so far has been antagonistic, to bring out some of the vital facts, upon which at least examination of more willing witnesses can be based in elaboration.
NO SESSION TODAY
There was no session of the case today. The announcement that there would not be cause much surprise yesterday, because it is said to be an unprecedented action on the part of a judge of this county. It was supposed that it was made with a desire to avoid the interference with the regular motion day, but the courtroom this morning was barred by a legend stating there would be no court of any sort held there. Judge Frater is said to be out of the city. In the meantime the jury men must undergo an extra twenty-four hours of what practically amounts to imprisonment, sharing their beds with strangers and with few opportunities for exercise.
Yesterday afternoon Mrs. Creffield followed up her sensational and dramatic appearance upon the witness stand where she was called in the course of the prosecution’s intendedly prosaic presentation of the facts of the killing. Her examination exemplified plainly the fact that the prosecution intended to allow to be drawn from its witnesses only such facts for consideration, had no effect in changing this attempt. In fact Mr. Morris’ reference to this quotation as “the most beautiful lines in the laws of the state of Washington,” elicited only a sarcastic remark from the closely pressed lips of John F. Miller, who is prosecuting this case in his most savage manner.
SEVERE ORDEAL FOR WIDOW
It was a severe ordeal for Mrs. Creffield, because, despite her beliefs and the spiritualistic ideas which doubtless kept her up, she is a woman, and not strong at that. she almost fainted on the stand and did not have even the strength to ask to be excused from answering one question which Mr. Miller asked her.
Instead, she swayed dizzily in the witness chair and looked a dumb appeal at her questioner. The look was feminine, but the spirit behind it was strong. It was the woman in her saying “Please don’t,” and the frantic (sic) in her saying “I will if you insist, even if it killed me.”
LENIENT WITH WITNESS
Mr. Miller didn’t insist. Instead he arose and poured a glass of water, which the woman drank gratefully. When he returned to his place he asked another question instead and what it was that George Mitchell said to her after his sarcastic retort to her declaration that her husband had never done him any harm went unanswered and unquestioned. The defense did not push the matter. Mr. Morris’ cross-examination was markedly lenient. The woman was trembling on the verge of a breakdown and the jury as well as the spectators, were on edge lest she tumble from her chair. He would have prejudiced the jury had he pressed her.
Indeed, when Mr. Miller asked her to step from the stand to demonstrate how she had seized Mitchell by the arms after the shot and how he had pushed her away from him, she practically fell into Mr. Miller’s arms and almost sank to her knees from weakness as she looked into his eyes, while she half clung to him in the illustration.
Her last effort of strength equal to the occasion seemed to have been consumed in the fire which she threw into the tone of her voice when she answered Mr. Miller’s inquiry as to whether the man in court was the man who killed her husband.
“Is that the man?” he asked, pointing to the defendant.
“That man,” she answered, and in the tone was a note which struck the ears of those who heard her like the surf strikes the scarp on some sea wall--bitter, relentless, contemptuous.
She was only allowed to describe the scene of the shooting. Mr. Morris was prevented from bringing out the fact that she had (sic) been the wife of Creffield before their marriage on April 3.
Following her on the stand was Charles Tennant, sergeant of detectives. He testified that Mitchell was cool and calm when he took his description and had him photographed.
Chief of Police Willard testified to the same condition when he saw him in the police station and said that after he had warned him that what he might be saying to reporters might be used against him, the defendant continued talking.
TOLD OF SISTERS’ RUIN
Louis B. Sefrit, of The Times staff, was next called and told of a conversation with Mitchell shortly after the shooting. He said that Mitchell had told him he shot Creffield because the man had ruined his two sisters and that he had come to Seattle because he had heard that Creffield was here and that he believed that his sisters, whom he had been unable to find, were here with him. Mitchell expressed the belief that he had only done his duty.
On redirect examination, Mr. Miller brought out the fact that Mitchell had asked Mr. Sefrit what he would have done under similar circumstances. Mr. Morris endeavored to have the witness testify to what he answered, but the prosecution objected and the answer was not allowed.
Captain of Police Sullivan, who also saw the defendant in the station, was the last witness of the day. The telegram which the defendant sent to O. V. Hurt of Corvallis was admitted by the defense without formal identification.
Seattle Star 6/30/1906 p1
State Will Close Its Case Monday
Length Of Mitchell Trial Depends On The Amount Of Evidence The Defense Can Get In-No Session Held Today.
After five days of sparring between the opposing attorneys, the trial of George Mitchell for the murder of Franz Edmund Creffield has progressed to the point where the evidence of the state against the prisoner has been about all heard. with but one or two more witnesses to examine the prosecution will close its case early Monday, after which the real interesting features of the trial will begin.
CASE IS SIMPLE
The state’s case is a simple and formal one, almost to the point of being devoid of unusual interest. The prosecuting attorney and his assistants, who are trying the case, have confined themselves to proving that Creffield had been killed and that Mitchell had committed the deed. This was proven by a number of witnesses. Nothing was permitted to come into the state’s case regarding Holy Rollerism, or of the habits and relations of the parties to the crime prior to their coming to Seattle.
LEFT FOR DEFENSE
All this will be left for the defense. As already intimated, the defense will base its case on a plea of temporary insanity or mental aberration brought on by the effect on Mitchell’s mind by the fact that Creffield had betrayed and debauched his sisters. a large number of witnesses have been brought from Oregon to testify to the relations existing between the parties to the general features and effects of Holy Rollerism, and to the conduct of Creffield as the leader of the sect.
There will, of necessity, be much contention between the opposing attorneys, as to how much of this testimony is permissible to be introduced on the stand.
IS NOT JUSTIFICATION
Judge Frater has more than once, during the past five days told the jury that evidence of this character as shall be admitted will be admitted only as showing the effect on the mind of Mitchell at the time the deed was committed. Mitchell is not permitted under the law to plead the debauching of his sisters as a justification, though one of the elements of the trial is a studied, skillful and persistent effort on the part of the attorneys for Mitchell to induce the members of the jury to so consider it.
TRIAL MAY BE SHORT
The length of time that will be required to complete the case depends on how much evidence the court permits the defense to introduce. If the attorneys for Mitchell are held to strict rulings in regard to their right to prove conditions and facts surrounding the life of Creffield it may be possible to finish the case in two or three more days. On the other hand, if much evidence of this character is admitted the trial may last over into week after next.
No session of the trial was held today, the court adjourning yesterday afternoon at 5 o’clock until 9:30 Monday morning.
Mrs. Maud Creffield, widow of “Joshua” Creffield, leader of the sect of “Holy Rollers,” almost fainted on the witness stand yesterday afternoon in Judge Frater’s court while relating, in answer to questions, the brief story of the killing of her husband by George Mitchell on May 7.
Attorney Miller, for the prosecution, had asked her a number of questions concerning the incidents surrounding the killing, among them the question:
“What did you say to Mitchell after the shooting?”
The reply was:
“Why did you shoot him; he never did you any harm?”
“Did the defendant make reply to this?” came the next question.
“Yes,” responded the witness.
This was a new feature in the evidence. Other witnesses who were present or near by, had testified that so far as they heard, Mitchell made no reply. The statement that a reply had been made arouse in the court room the most intense and dramatic interest. There was a craning of necks and a sharpening of ears to hear the reply to the question:
“What did he say?”
It was when this question was asked that the witness appeared to be almost overcome with emotion and excitement. She opened her mouth to speak, but the words would not come. She checked herself, and made a second effort, but in vain.
ADDED LITTLE TO EVIDENCE
Despite the intense interest in the court room in her appearance Mrs. Creffield did not contribute very materially to the evidence in the case against her husband’s slayer. She related the circumstances surrounding the killing of her husband, the arrest of his slayer, the taking of the body to the morgue and herself to the police station. There her story stopped. The attorneys for the state ceased their questioning and turned the witness over to the defense.
QUESTIONS ARE LIMITED
The cross-examination of the witness had no sooner been begun than it became evident that in closely limiting the questions asked of her the attorneys for the state had played skillfully for strategic advantage. The attorneys for the defense asked a number of questions tended to bring out the relations between the witnesses and the deceased Holy Roller, but these were objected to by the state as not touching on matters which the witness had been asked about on direct examination. In this the stat was sustained by the court, and after an hour and a half of futile efforts to secure additional information from her, the attorneys for Mitchell gave up and excused the witness.
INTEREST IN WOMAN
The introduction of Mrs. Creffield was the climax of the state’s presentation of the case. Half a dozen witnesses had preceded her and several more followed, but the interest of yesterday’s session of the court centered in the appearance of the widow of the dead man. Following her the state introduced Captains Willard and Sullivan of the police department, who testified to the actions of Mitchell at the police station, and L. B. Sefrit, a newspaper reporter. When the court adjourned for the day the state’s case was not quite complete.
Morning Oregonian (Portland) 7/1/1906 p3
Mrs. Maud Creffield, Who Testified in the Mitchell Trial at Seattle
SEATTLE, June 30--Mrs. Maud Hurt Creffield, the principal witness for the state in the prosecution of George Mitchell, her husband’s slayer, at Seattle, is a Corvallis girl, the daughter of O. V. Hurt of that place. She met Creffield, the deceased Holy Roller leader, when he was just beginning his orgies under the guise of religion about three years ago. The man’s strange power was supreme over her when he was near and she was his lieutenant in his bestial teachings. When he went to the Oregon penitentiary two years ago on a statutory charge, Mrs. Creffield seemed to come out of the hypnotic spell Creffield had cast upon her. She secured a divorce, but no sooner did Creffield get out of prison, than he called upon her to return to him, and she responded to the summons at once. They were remarried at Seattle a month and four days before Creffield was shot down by the outraged brother of two of his victims.
Creffield’s death was witnessed by the wife without any display of emotion on her part, and she exhibited no feeling when testifying against him in the Supreme Court at Seattle, Friday afternoon. She is 25 years of age and quite good-looking.