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.
July 6, 1906: Others Testify They Wished to Kill Crefield
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/6/1906 p1
Say They Wished to Kill Crefeld
E. H. Baldwin and Lewis Hartley Told Mitchell It Was Their Duty
Hartley “Told George Mitchell” and Received Reply That God Had Intervened
Los Angeles Herald 7/6/1906 p1
Two Sworn to Kill Creffield
Two men in the prime of life, perhaps beyond it--men of an age when the carefully considered judgment is supposed to have long conquered the rash impulses of youth--testified in the trial of George Mitchell yesterday that they had been ready to kill the man Franz Edmund Crefeld on sight; that they had prayed the youth, whom they thought crazy of “loony,” to let them accomplish this task rather than that he should blight his whole future by such an act.
One of them testified at Newport Or., that he had aimed his weapon at Creffield and pulled the trigger five successive times. But he had a “rim fire” gun and “center fire” cartridges, and his effort was unavailing. The next day, and for three days after, he went out in search of the man with a Winchester, but the man was not to be found.
This man was Lewis Hartley, of Corvallis. His daughter, Mildred, he said had left the Oregon Agricultural college in the last term of her fourth year to become a follower of Crefeld--had destroyed her clothing, which she had all ready for graduation exercises, and along with her mother, had observed all the rites of the Holy Rollers in her conduct about the house, so that her father had to cook his own meals, even after he came in from work, and then had to eat them off the plainest of dishes, for all those which were ornamented were destroyed.
“I TOLD GEORGE MITCHELL”
At least, such were the things that I told George Mitchell, for only what has been told to Mitchell or what Mitchell himself has said or done is admitted in the trial.
That phrase, “I told George Mitchell,” is one of the commonest of the Mitchell trial. The readiness with which the witnesses use it testifies to their willingness to do what they can to save the prisoner from conviction. It is the one phrase which quiets the objections of Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John F. Miller and allows the witness to continue his story without interruption.
“The effort seems to be,” said Mr. Miller is voicing objection yesterday, “to get everything that is immaterial to this issue and some things that are material.
NO EXPERT TESTIMONY
Whatever their object, the attorneys for the defense have certainly succeeded in having admitted much of the story of Franz Edmund Crefeld, his teachings and his practices. One thing they have not yet been able to get in is expert testimony.
A long-drawn-out argument resulted yesterday morning from the propounding of a “hypothetical question” to Dr. Arthur C. Crookall, called as an expert witness. The drift of the question was whether the physician would look for traces of insanity or for peculiarities showing a partially unbalanced mind in the ancestry of the patient; if the latter, along with his sisters and brothers, showed certain symptoms of insanity, such as alleged by Attorney Silas M. Shipley, the evidence showed prevailed in the case of George Mitchell and his brothers and sisters. Mr. Miller’s objection on the ground that this insanity had not been shown was sustained and the matter was placed on record, in the absence of the jury.
E. H. Baldwin, the other witness of the morning, testified that he had tried to persuade Mitchell out of his intentions to kill Crefeld, and to have him turn over the task to the older man who was desirous of protecting the honor of his four daughters. He believed Mitchell was insane. The boy did not appear excited, the witness said, but seemed possessed with the one idea, that of killing Crefeld, as he said he had been commanded by God to do.
Mr. Baldwin’s cross-examination in the afternoon was brief, one of the questions being why he did not disarm the boy.
Mrs. Mary J. Graham, matron of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society home in Portland, related how she had answered George Mitchell’s inquiry about the condition of his sisters Esther in the home. Esther had come to her in the night, and had told Mrs. Graham that she had had a message from God concerning her. Witness said she was almost afraid to keep the girl at home lest she should have a “message from God” to kill some of the other children of the home. When George was asked if he would like to see Esther he had become excited, and had refused to see his sister while she was in such a mental state. Mrs. Graham was not cross-examined.
GARDNER ON STAND
William T. Gardner for fourteen years superintendent of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society home, and before that time for five years supervisor of the male department of the state hospital for the insane at Buffalo, N. Y., said Esther had been received at the home November 18, 1903, and had been sent out February 24, 1904 unimproved. He had told George, in the presence of others, that Mrs. Starr, Esther’s sister, had made efforts to see Esther at one time getting in through the cellar of the home. He had found the two together embracing and exclaiming “Glory to God! Down with the devil! Victory! Victory!”
Esther, he said, believed that Crefeld was God, and had command of her and of all the Holy Rollers. She was such a constant reader of the Bible, and it had such an effect on her that he was compelled to take it away from her. Frank Hurt also had tried to get to see Esther, until warned away by the officers. When George had been asked if he wished to see Esther, the boy had become suddenly excited, and said: “No, I cannot stand to see her. I never want to see her while she is in that condition.”
Mr. Gardner identified on a picture of the group of Crefeld’s followers and Crefeld, the picture of Frank Hurt, the man whom he had turned away from the home at the express wish of George Mitchell. This picture was not allowed as evidence.
MITCHELL’S DIVINE COMMAND
Lewis Hartley, of Corvallis, testified to meeting George Mitchell, April 30, in Corvallis, when the young man had told him of the divine command. After Hartley had related the story of his unsuccessful attempt to kill Crefeld, near Waldport. George had told him that “God had commanded him to kill Crefeld and I could not.”
“I told him,” continued the witness, “That he was a loony as my wife and daughter; that they both had told me the same thing, that Crefeld could not be killed.”
Armstrong Glover, a mill foreman at Sellwood testified that George Mitchell had worked for him last year, and that he had been a man of good character.
J. J. Wood, deputy sheriff at Newberg, Or., had known Mitchell and his father for fifteen years, and both had good reputations.
John Catlin, marshal and deputy sheriff at Albany, had seen Mitchell following a woman, whom he afterwards learned was Mrs. Crefeld, in Albany this spring. He asked the young man why he was doing this, and received the answer that he wished to find Crefeld. Mr. Catlin did not arrest the boy. George Can Dran, another deputy from Albany, corroborated this testimony.
E. R. Bryson, deputy prosecuting attorney of Corvallis, renewed acquaintance with George Mitchell during the day, and will probably be called today to testify in his behalf, along with District Attorney John H. Manning of Portland.
The prisoner was again loaded down with flowers, as expressions of good-will from his Oregon Friends and others, yesterday. One woman gave the boy a bunch of carnations in the court room, and the judge instructed the bailiff to tell her she must refrain from doing so again, so long as the jury is present. Mitchell retained his usual good spirits yesterday, and bears the strain of the trial, with its long-drawn-out arguments between attorneys well.
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Morning Oregonian (Portland) 7/6/1906 p1
Others Eager to Slay Creffield
Corvallis Times 7/10/1906
Others Eager To Slay Creffield
Corvallis Men Admit Hunting Holy Roller.
Envy Mitchell’s Good Luck
Louis Hartley And E. H. Baldwin Utter Bold Words.
Wanted Fanatic’s Blood
Testimony Of Fathers Whose Daughters Creffield Ruined Makes Powerful Impression On Jury At Seattle.
(In a box)
TWO PUBLIC PROSECUTORS WILL TESTIFY FOR MITCHELL
An unusual situation will be developed in the Mitchell-Creffield murder trial at Friday’s session, when the Prosecuting Attorneys from two Oregon districts will take the witness stand at Seattle to offer testimony in behalf of a man accused of murder and whom the local prosecuting officers are bending every effort to send to the gallows. John Manning of Portland, and E. R. Bryson, of Benton County, are both in Seattle today and are on the list of witnesses who will be called in the morning. Both believe Mitchell ought to be speedily acquitted under the circumstances. Mr. Bryson was in court today. He shook hands with Mitchell, and chatted pleasantly with him for several minutes.
SEATTLE, Wash., July 5.--(Special.)--Two Oregon men declared on the witness stand in the Superior Court here today (illegible) to kill Edmund Creffield, the Holy Roller prophet, would have been a pleasure to them; that they envied Mitchell the opportunity of putting an end to the impostor. One of these men, Louis Hartley of Corvallis, said he laid in wait for Creffield without shelter for three days. (illegible) had a Winchester between his knees and was determined to shoot the self-(illegible) prophet like a dog. The other, E. W. Baldwin, also of Corvallis, testified that he begged Mitchell for the privilege of killing Creffield, but the young man insisted the grim task had been assigned him by God, and that none but he should perform it.
Testimony of this kind, coming from (illegible) men of reserved and conservative (illegible) and manner, had a profound effect upon the jury. Neither witness seemed to regard shooting Creffield as any greater offense than the killing of a mad dog. That they had good grounds (illegible) of this view was demonstrated when they told the story of the ruin of their families--stories similar to those told by O. V. Hurt and Burgess Starr early in the week.
JURY WILL SURELY ACQUIT
It is generally believed here that the jury is prepared at this moment to acquit Mitchell. Close observation of the hours during the court sessions reveals plainly that the frequent arguments of the state over minor legal technicalities are irritating to them. Several have acquired the habit of looking absently out of the window when these frequent and lengthy objections of the prosecution are imposed.
Public opinion concerning this stubborn clinical skirmishing was plainly indicated during the forenoon and afternoon sessions today, when Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Miller was greeted with min-(illegible) laughter and hisses when he objected to testimony that was being entered. The court was compelled to quell the demonstrations like this three times during the (illegible) . Mr. Miller’s objections are mainly in accordance with principles of law, yet a general contention is put forth that (illegible) trial is deserving of more latitude than strict legal technicalities permit.
The records of the case are literally riddled with exceptions entered by the defense on rulings made by Judge Frater in the state’s interest. This constant angling of lawyers will serve to prolong the trial indefinitely. It had been expected to conclude before the end of this week. Now it is doubted if all the evidence can be put in before the end of next week, if that soon.
MEDICAL TESTIMONY TO COME
Most of the important testimony is in, (illegible) there yet remains a staff of medical experts who will testify in regard to Mitchell’s probable mental condition when he killed the Holy Roller. There is also most of the cumulative evidence to be given. Attorneys Morris and Shipley, on behalf of the defendant, stated this afternoon that they will insist upon entering every scintilla of evidence. They intend to overcome every obstacle put in their way by the state, even if it takes all summer, they say.
Today’s session was taken up largely by witnesses from Oregon. The most important of these were Baldwin and Hartley. Mr. Hartley was put on the stand in the afternoon. He told of Creffield’s influence over his wife and daughter and of his efforts to kill the fanatical viper(illegible) . His testimony was confined to the period after Creffield’s release from prison, when the prophet was organizing a Holy Roller settlement on the coast.
He stated that the Holy Roller’s influence over his daughter, Miss Mildred Hartley, 23 years of age, was such that she gave up going to school. She was then in the Agricultural College at Corvallis, and in her fourth year. Creffield told her that unless she left off school work, God would smite her.
STARTED OUT TO KILL HIM
“When the Holy Rollers started by train for their camp on the coast,” said Mr. Hartley, “I learned what they intended doing and managed to catch the same train. when they learned I was aboard they tried to get me off. Finally they got off themselves. To get back they had to walk 65 miles. I remained on the train.”
“My object gentlemen, to be frank with you, was to kill Creffield. He had ruined my family, and I intended to take his life.
“I followed the Creffield party to Newport. Having no gun with me, I went to a second-hand store and bought a cheap weapon. By mistake or trickery, I don’t know which, the dealer sold me a center-fire revolver and rim-fire cartridges. When the party took a boat to cross the bay to South Beach I drew a bead on Creffield. Had my cartridges been all right that would have ended the matter. The gun snapped and Creffield got away. The rollers then thought Creffield was protected by God and that he could not be killed.
LAYS IN WAIT FOR QUARRY
“The next day I followed them to camp. This time I had a Winchester which would do the work. I lad in wait for Creffield for three days, but he never came in sight. I saw all his followers, but he had evidently gotten away. Later, when I met Mitchell, also hunting for Creffield to kill him, I told him how I had missed the Roller. He did not seem surprised nor displeased.
“He said the reason I had failed was because God had left it for him to kill Creffield. He seemed utterly out of his mind.”
Mr. Baldwin’s story was not less dramatic in its details. He was placed on the stand in late in the forenoon, and completed his statement during the afternoon. He is the father of four daughters, but only one of them came under Creffield’s power. He said, however, that he soon put a stop to it all by forcibly compelling the girl to remain away from the Holy Roller aggregation. She was so completely under Creffield’s influence that she attempted to leave home, packing her clothes for that purpose.
“She was then in a broken-down condition, and I decided to protect her from further folly, even if I had to remove her from the earth,” the witness said. “When I met Mitchell at Corvallis he told me God had commissioned him to kill Creffield. I told him he was crazy to talk that way, and tried to reason him out of his plan. I told him that I wanted to kill Creffield, that he was a young man with his life before him, while I was old and able to bear the consequences. He would not hear of my plan, though insisting it was for him to remove the man by God’s command.
DEMANDED BALDWIN’S DAUGHTER
Mr. Baldwin, in conclusion, said Creffield once sent him word that God would smite him unless he gave up his daughter to the Holy Rollers. He also added that the girl assumed the Holy Roller garb, a thin wrapper.
W. T. Gardner, of Portland, superintendent of the Home of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society, testified regarding the confinement of Miss Esther Mitchell to that institution. She was sent there because of her Holy Roller practices. George Mitchell, her brother, came to him one day and said Creffield was planning to abduct the girl from the home. He asked that special care be taken of her.
Later, Frank Hurt, one of Creffield’s followers, was seen hanging about the society’s grounds. Witness said he was informed that Creffield had selected Esther to be the mother of a new savior who was to be sent into the world by God, and that it was for this reason he had attempted to secure her release.
Mary J. Graham, matron of the society, gave similar testimony. She said Esther was incorrigible in her Holy Roller practices, insisting upon rolling on the floor and praying until late in the night. Witness feared to have the girl about, fearing she might be seized with a hallucination that God had commanded her to kill some of the children or keepers. witness added that Mrs. Starr was also detailed by Creffield to abduct Esther, but was prevented from accomplishing that end.
THREATENS THE GIRL’S SISTER
Mrs. Starr came to the home several times, until she was finally threatened with arrest if she ever showed up again.
The testimony of other Oregon witnesses was of less importance. Armstrong Glover, a Sellwood mill foreman, said Mitchell worked for him for several months of last year and bore a good reputation so far as he knew. J. J. Wood of Newberg testified briefly to the good reputation of Mitchell. His statement was limited by the state’s objections. Johnny Catlin and George Van Dran, of Albany, told of having met Mitchell at Albany, early in the year, when he was following Maud Hurt Creffield, evidently with a view to locating the Holy Roller leader. Mitchell told them, they said, that he was gong to rid the earth of Creffield by God’s command.
The efforts to put on medical experts me with little success this morning. Dr. Crookall was able to answer a number of technical and hypothetical questions, but was restricted in his answers. Nearly all the forenoon was consumed in wrangling over this testimony.
Seattle Star 7/6/1906 p1
Are Sure Mitchell Was Out of His Mind
Six Witnesses From Portland Testify That George Mitchell Was Insane just Before He Left Portland on His God-Given Mission to Kill Creffield.
“Look here, you,” exclaimed a tall woman with a big voice and a white shirtwaist to Deputy Pros. Atty. Miller as the gentleman came down the steps at the court house at the noon recess in the Mitchell trial today, “you don’t have to graft poor George Mitchell in order to get good clothes.”
Mr. Miller raised his hat and stood at attention while the woman surveyed him critically. Garbed in an immaculate suit of blue, with tan vest, shoes polished and void of dust, and in his hand a straw hat of the very latest style, Mr. Miller looked his right to the title of the Chesterfield of the local bar.
He stood for a moment and waited for a further attack from the large woman with the white shirt waist. But it didn’t come. Then Mr. Miller replace his hat upon his head, joined the throng that had jostled him as he stood at attention and passed on his way.
TELLING THE SAME STORY
And this was about all there was to the Mitchell trial this morning. True, there were witnesses on the stand--six of them--and they talked of insanity and spiritualism, of George Mitchell and his sisters and of almost everything else that had been discussed since the trial began. There were the usual objections and the usual bickerings and wrangling, and then, when it was over, everybody walked down town together--everybody except Mitchell and the jury.
Mitchell held his usual reception in the corridors of the court house as he was led back to his cell. His friends from Oregon were there to shake his hand and he smiled as he always does, but never spoke a word. O. V. Hurt, the strongest friend that Mitchell has in all this crowd that has left the farms and fields and workshops down in Oregon to helm him to his freedom, was there as usual with the kindliest greeting of them all.
JUST ONE MISSING
There was just one of the faithful missing. The young woman in the summer suit of white who has been here everyday and who has often brought to the prisoner a beautiful bouquet, didn’t appear. Mitchell seemed to miss her too, for he looked about as he rose from his seat at the noon recess and a shade of disappointment crossed his face.
The jury in this Mitchell trial is growing tired. The close court room and the narrow confines of the jury room are having their effect upon the spirits of these 12 good men and true and they look as though they wanted to go home to their wives and their children. There is not much of interest in the testimony any more. The story of Holy Rollerism has been told--some of the people about the court house call it “the shame of Oregon”--and now the defense is busy trying to prove that George Mitchell is insane.
ATTORNEYS WORKING HARD
Attorneys Morris and Shipley are having a hard time getting their testimony in this regard before the jury. Despite, however, the objections of the prosecuting attorney, usually sustained by the court, they are worming the full story out of the witnesses and are making all of the case that the material at their hands will permit.
This morning six witnesses were examined. They were from Portland and had all seen George Mitchell during the latter days of April, just before he came to Seattle on what he believed to be his God-given mission to kill Creffield. By name they were Dr. F. W. Brooks, Mrs. Harriet Hager, Mrs. Anna Hager, John E. Baldwin, Peter View, and Emory P. Harris.
WHAT THE WITNESSES TOLD
Dr. Brooks had attended Mitchell through a case of measles with which he suffered from the 10th to the 20th day of April. He believed Mitchell to have been in a weak condition, mentally and physically, when he left the office.
Mrs. Harriet Hager had known Mitchell for five of six years, and testified that he was a man of good reputation.
Mrs. Anna Hager testified of conversations with Mitchell about spiritualism. Mitchell had told her that he could talk directly with the spirits. Mrs. Hager, who is a spiritualist herself, disputed this statement with Mitchell, and this morning on the stand expressed the opinion that the spirits with whom Mitchell conversed were not the proper kind of spirits.
ALL THOUGHT MITCHELL INSANE
John E. Baldwin, an employee of the Standard Oil Company at Portland, knew Mitchell well, and talked with him a few days before he left for Seattle. He believed Mitchell was insane at that time.
Peter View, proprietor of a lath mill at Portland, for whom Mitchell worked at various times, saw Mitchell two or three days before he came to Seattle, and he also thought he was insane at that time.
Emory P. Harris, who was still on the stand at the noon recess, had known Mitchell well for the past few years, having been with him almost constantly during all of that time. Mitchell had talked with him incessantly about Creffield and his sisters, and had also told him of the vision he had seen and the divine command that he (Mitchell) should go and find Creffield and kill him.
This afternoon the direct examination of Harris was continued, and the witness was then taken by Mr. Miller for cross-examination.
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/6/1906 p1
Women Battle For Mitchell
Tongue-Lash Prosecutor and Give Bouquet to Defendant.
Manning Not Used
Wrangling of Lawyers Takes Up Much Time During the Morning Session.
Portland Witnesses Testify Relative to Man Who Killed Apostle Creffield.
[Special to The Telegram]
SEATTLE, Wash, July 6.-- Public sentiment favoring the acquittal of George Mitchell for the killing of Edmund Creffield, the Holy Roller profit, was strikingly illustrated today when Deputy Prosecutor Miller, who is actively handling the prosecution of young Mitchell, was approached by an elderly woman, who gave him an unmerciful tongue-lashing in the presence of a number of his friends. Mr. Miller had just left the courtroom at the conclusion of today’s forenoon session, and was walking down Ninth avenue for lunch. The woman, whose identity could not be learned, but who has been in constant attendance at the trial, and is said to be a Baptist church worker, walked indignantly up to the state’s prosecutor and told him he should be ashamed of himself for his bulldozing of witnesses and his efforts to keep testimony in Mitchell’s favor back. She also said the public would not forget him for his aggressive stand against young Mitchell, and added several very uncomplimentary remarks.
The attendance of women in the case has been growing daily and the number of fair spectators this morning was greater than the male attendance. During a recess of court a young woman stepped up to the defendant and presented him with a bouquet of sweet peas and roses, which he accepted awkwardly and with many blushes.
This morning’s session of the court amounted to little. The time was divided between the wrangling of lawyers and the testimony of Portland witnesses concerning Mitchell’s general reputation and personality. It was brought out that he was a firm believer in spiritualism, and the state in its prosecution is endeavoring to bring out that a belief in spirits does not constitute mental unsoundness.
The first witness was Dr. F. W. Brooks, of Portland. He had known the defendant five years, and thought his general reputation excellent. He attended him for a severe case of measles in April last, and heard Mitchell speak frequently of spirits. Mrs. Harriet Hager, nurse at the Good Samaritan Hospital, gave similar testimony.
J. A. Baldwin, a Portland lath-mill proprietor, who employed Mitchell prior to the shooting, gave his testimony. Emery Harris, a roommate of Mitchell for the past four years, is on the witness-stand this afternoon, testifying as regards Mitchell’s habit’s and peculiarities. District Attorney John Manning did not take the stand this morning as had been expected, and will probably not be called before tomorrow morning.
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Seattle Daily Times 7/6/1906 p1
Visits Wrath on Head of State’s Attorney
Elderly Woman Sympathizer of George Mitchell Abuses assistant Prosecutor Miller Because of Activity in Trial.
Takes Exception to his Fine Raiment and Prophesies That He Will Be Sorry for His Attempts to Convict.
Many Witnesses Who Knew and Talked With Defendant Immediately Before Killing Believe That He Was Insane.
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/6/1906 p7
Old Lady Grills Prosecutor.
Woman Tells Miller He Should Be Ashamed of Mitchell Case.
Sentiment Is Against Attorneys For State
Frequent Outbursts of Sympathy for Young Man on Trial Have Forced Court to Threaten to Clear Room Several Times Recently.
by E. O. Kelsey
This morning, for the first time since the commencement of the Mitchell trial, the sentiment of resentment against the attorneys for the state, which has been evidenced in many ways by the spectators, took the form of personal abuse. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Miller, who so far has been the active counsel for the prosecution, was the victim, being subjected to a tirade of abuse from the lips of an elderly woman just as he was leaving the courtroom at the noon adjournment.
“Sir,” exclaimed this woman as she attempted to buttonhole Mr. Miller, “you ought to be able to get fine clothes without grafting in this case and trying to punish this innocent boy. Your efforts at this trial will never do you any good, and you will live to be sorry for what you are trying to do.”
Mr. Miller dresses very well, which is probably they reason for the woman’s referring to his clothing as the forceful portion of her remarks. Mr. miller paid no attention to the woman other than to advise her to keep her opinions to herself.
The woman who made this attack upon Mr. Miller is only one of a large number of the spectators who have on several occasions evidenced their sympathy for the defendant by demonstrations of approval whenever during the trial Will Morris appeared to have the best of some legal squabble with the prosecution.
Frequently Judge Frater has threatened to clear the courtroom because of these outbreaks. These same people, too, have caused the deputy sheriff who has charge of Mitchell during the trial more or less inconvenience during the trips to and from the courtroom to the jail because of their desire to get close to the boy and impress upon him that they are his friends and support him in what he did.
Always, after a session of court, the members of the audience gather in little groups, discuss the evidence which they have heard, and speculate as to its effect on the jury. At such times every feature of the trial which looks as though it might hold a threat against Mitchell’s chances for acquittal is condemned, as are the efforts made by the prosecutors in connection with their sworn duty.
ALL BELIEVE MITCHELL INSANE
Every one of the six witnesses who testified this morning is firm in the belief that Mitchell was insane, not only at the time he killed Creffield, but for weeks before that time. These witnesses have all known the defendant for a number of years and all had seen and talked with him during the latter part of last April and to all affirmed that he had been commanded by God and the spirit of his mother to protect his sister Esther and remove the man who threatened her future.
Dr. F. W. Brooke, a Portland physician who had known the defendant for a number of years and who had attended Mitchell during his illness last April, told how while suffering from a fever and high temperature the boy had constantly talked of his fears that Esther would fall into the hands of Creffield, and how Mitchell had left the sanitarium long before he should have.
Dr. Brooke and Judge Frater are old schoolmates, and before the former left the stand there was a hand clasp and moment’s conversation. They had not seen each other for years prior to the appearance of the witness in court.
HARRIS HAD GIGGLES
Emery Harris, a former roommate of Mitchell’s and the man who has shared many of the troubles of the defendant took the stand with a smile on his face and this smile remained except for one or two intervals when the witness found himself compelled to giggle. Mr. Harris is also a very low speaking person and it required constant urging on the part of Mr. Morris to keep him talking loud enough for the jury to hear.
Harris told that Mitchell was greatly worried about his sister, Esther, and said that he would talk about his trouble long into the night and frequently in his sleep. “He talked so much,” said the witness, “that sometimes I could not sleep myself.”
Peter View, a Portland mill man, for whom Mitchell had worked at one time, had seen the defendant shortly after he left the hospital and had noticed that his actions were peculiar, so much so that the witness had told friends that he believed the boy to be crazy. This part of the testimony was ordered stricken out as being incompetent.
George Baldwin, Mrs. Harriet Hager and Mrs. Anna Hager were other witnesses who knew Mitchell and to whom he had told of his spiritualistic communications and of his command to remove Creffield. They all believed him insane, although the prosecution by cross-examination established the fact that none of them were qualified to be classed as expert witnesses.
SAYS MITCHELL MAY BE RIGHT
Louis Hartley of Corvallis, who testified yesterday afternoon, is of the opinion that Mitchell may have been the one chosen to remove Creffield to a place where he could do no further harm. Hartley had a wife and daughter in the Holy Rollers and he followed them to Newport, where they met Creffield and went to the camp near Waldport.
At Newport Hartley bought a revolver, and running down to the boat landing from which Creffield was just pushing off a boat snapped the revolver in his face five times with no result. An investigation showed that while the revolver was a center fire weapon, the cartridges were rim-fire.
Hartley then secured a Winchester rifle and laid around that part of the country for three days, but did not get sight of the man for whom he was looking. He saw Mitchell on April 30 and advised him against carrying out his announced intention of killing Creffield, but without result.
CATLIN WAS GARRULOUS
In the person of John Catlin, also called as a witness for the defense yesterday afternoon, there entered into the Mitchell trial the first element of Humor that has marked this tale of the morbid horror period of Franz Edmund Creffield’s reign. It was unconscious humor, and the man who caused even Judge Frater to smile was never more earnest in his life than when telling of the acts of George Mitchell around the railroad depot at Albany, Oregon, a few days before he killed the false prophet responsible for Holy Rollerism.
Catlin, who is a little man well along in years, is a veritable Dogberry. He is a constable, deputy sheriff and various other things in Lynn County, and has been an officer of the law for twenty-five years. He is also garrulous, and because, perhaps, of the fact that the attorneys who had spent the greater part of the day in continued bickerings were weary, he was allowed to talk on without the many interruptions which have marked the testimony of the other witnesses. Thus freed from restraint he left the line of materiality of evidence and told the court, the jury and the audience of the “Turrible heavy rains in Southern Oregon,” of late trains and many other incidents which fixed the day George Mitchell was in Albany in his mind.
Under cross-examination he was asked by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney why, if he believed Mitchell to have been crazy and to have been looking for a man with intent to kill, he had not searched him.
DOESN’T ARREST ALL CRAZY MEN
“That certainly should have impressed you as being your duty as an officer of the law,” said Mr. Miller.
“Young man,” came the answer, “I, with my twenty-five years as an officer, believe that I know what is my duty. In that time a man has many experiences, and I have learned that it does not do to arrest or search ever man who acts kind of crazy.”
Catlin and George Van Dran, an Albany hotel-keeper, were called to describe the actions of Mitchell during his stop in Albany. At the time Mitchell was waiting form Mrs. Creffield to board a train, intending to follow her and thus find the man he was to kill. Mrs. Creffield was in the depot at the time, and it was the strange acts of Mitchell which attracted the attention of Catlin and Van Dran.
Both of these men questioned Mitchell, and to both he told that he was following the woman because she would lead him to the man whom God had ordered him to remove. He told them that he meant no harm to the woman, but that he must not let her escape his sight. The men stated that they believed Mitchell was crazy, but harmless, and that they urged him to eat, but he had refused, saying that he could not until he had performed his mission.
FOLLOWED MRS. CREFFIELD
When the train for Portland came along Mrs. Creffield boarded it and Mitchell followed her, and that was the last seen of either so far as the witnesses were concerned.
J. J. Wood, a deputy sheriff of Yamhill County, and Henry R. Morris, mayor of Newberg, were called as character witnesses, and also for the purpose of trying to get evidence before the jury to show that Mitchell’s father was a man with peculiarities which might in the son have taken the form of hereditary insanity. Both of the witnesses have known the father for many years, but they were not allowed to testify on this phase of the defense, Judge Frater sustaining the objection made by the prosecution.
The witnesses did however, testify that the defendant’s reputation in Newberg was good, but neither had seen the defendant for several years and knew nothing of his behavior or reputation elsewhere.
TOOK BIBLE FROM HER
William T. Gardner, Superintendent of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society, told of having a conversation with George Mitchell and his brother Perry at the time Esther Mitchell was confined at the institution. He stated that in his opinion Ester Mitchell was crazy, and that the girl had repeatedly told him that Creffield was God, and had command over her, and the other members of the Holy Roller band. She would lie on the floor for hours with her Bible clasped in her hands and he had finally deemed it best to take the book away from her.
Before coming to Oregon Mr. Gardner had been connected with the New York State asylum for the insane, and he stated that in his judgment, Mitchell was not in his right mind at the time he visited the institution. Mitchell had refused to see his sister after finding out the condition she was in.
Taking the witness for a moment, Mr. Miller said: “Mr. Gardener, you remember my visit to you at Portland some weeks ago, do you not?” Mr. Gardener remembered, and then Mr. Miller wanted to know if he was in error when he held the impression that Mr. Gardner had told him at that time that he had never seen George Mitchell. Mr. Gardner said Mr. Miller was in error in that respect, and left the stand.
Seattle Daily Times 7/6/1906 p14
Claims Mitchell was Insane
W. T. Gardner, of Portland, Tells of Wrongs Which Unbalanced Mind of Young Man Who Killed Creffield.
“There is no doubt in my mind that George Mitchell was insane when he fired the shot that sent Joshua Creffield to a death he richly deserved,” said W. T. Gardner, superintendent of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society of Oregon, who came to Seattle from Portland to appear before a jury on behalf of Mitchell.
“The knowledge that that boy had the fearful wrongs that Creffield had done to his two sisters was enough to drive any man crazy,’ he continued. “He did what he believed was his duty. He had worried so much about the terrible thing that his mind was upon nothing else. Upon that subject he was as insane as it was possible to be.
Mr. Gardner has been in charge of the Society as superintendent for 14 years, and in addition to this experience he was for several years connected in an official way with the insane hospital at Buffalo, N. Y. In Portland he had in his care three young girls, all victims of the crimes of Creffield. These were Esther Mitchell, sister of George Mitchell, May Hurt, sister of Creffield’s wife, and Florence Seeley, another Corvallis girl, all of whom were then less than 17 years of age.
TELLS OF CONFESSIONS
It was to Mr. Gardner that May Hurt made the terrible confessions concerning the doings of the Holy Roller. Mr. Gardner says that both May Hurt and Florence Seeley were victims of the lust of the man who called himself God. Both were insane when they reached the institution. May Hurt was discharged as cured after a year and the Seeley girl somewhat less than a year afterwards.
Esther Mitchell was admitted to the institution Nov 18, 1903. She was discharged uncured Feb (illegible) of the following year at the request of her relatives. With her brother, Perry Mitchell, and her sister, Phoebe, Esther was taken to her home in Illinois. She improved and after a time returned to Corvallis. When Creffield was released from the state penitentiary, he again exerted the old influence over he, and she again became insane. She is in that condition now, Mr. Gardner believes.
Mr. Gardner declared that he received confessions from victims that Creffield had taught his followers to believe that Esther Mitchell was a saint. He told them she would bear a son who would be the second Christ.
PRAYED ON HIS MIND
George Mitchell was informed of all this. It preyed upon his mind to such an extent, Mr. Gardner says, that he became crazed. he knew that were Creffield to be left alone he would yet accomplish the ruin of Esther. He remembered the story of his married sister, Mrs. Starr. He determined that Esther should be saved although his own life might pay the penalty.”
“The acts of that man Creffield were so terrible,” said Mr. Gardner, “that to those who did not actually know the facts it is hard to believe. The newspapers have not printed half. The cannot, for the story is too revolting for print.”
“George Mitchell should be given a bouquet and allowed to return to Oregon. It’s a shame that he has been kept in prison this long for a God-sending act of removing one of the vilest creatures who ever lived.”
Mr. Gardner was on the witness stand yesterday afternoon, but he was not allowed to testify to anything except the conversations he had had with George Mitchell regarding his sister Esther. The confessions Mr. Gardner had secured from May Hurt and other victims of the holy roller, were not admitted.
Corvallis Gazette 7/10/1906 p2
The Mitchell Trial
The trial of George Mitchell for the killing of Edmund Creffield, the Holy Roller leader, is progressing slowly in Seattle. Some points in connection with the case are worthy of note, not because of any new phase of human nature, but for the similarity in the make-up of certain men.
For instance, it appears that several men claim to have been hunting for Creffield while he lived in order that they might kill him. The man who, perhaps, had the greatest provocation to take the life of Creffield was O. V. Hurt, of this city, but it seems Mr. Hurt had no thought to take life. If ever a man was justified in killing another, Mr. Hurt was entitled to slay Creffield.
The courts, of course, must see that a man who takes the life of another comes to trial in order that he answer to society for the deed. However, it is gratifying to note in the present case a tendency of the trial judge to allow greater latitude to the defense than is usually allowed where one man has taken the life of his fellow. Many of us are conversant with the circumstances leading to the killing and we almost without exception justify the deed, but to allow Mitchell to escape trial would be to establish dangerous precedent and one that would place in jeopardy our social system. Hence the necessity for trial in cases where the majority approve the deed committed.
From reports of the proceedings in Seattle it seems probably that Mitchell will be acquitted. One thing is certain, the jury will never agree on conviction. Acquittal is what the verdict of the jury should be, for if ever the damnable practices of any man dictated that he forfeit his life those of Creffield did.
Corvallis Times 7/10/1906 p3
A Great Battle Of Lawyers--The Mitchell Trial--Corvallis Witnesses Return.
That the Mitchell trial at Seattle is the hardest fought legal battle that has taken place in that city for years, is a statement of those familiar with the facts. The information comes from Victor Hurt, who arrived from the battle ground, after a two week absence. Four brilliant lawyers are matched in the case, two for the state and two for the defense, and progress on both sides is contested and disputed inch by inch. Some of the scenes in the court room have been dramatic in the extreme, particularly when the attorneys for the defense have intimated that the judge is partial to the prosecution. Little by little, as they fought, the attorneys for Mitchell have gained favor with public sentiment, until now the over crowded court room, the people on the street, and apparently the united position, save the judge and attorneys for the state seem unanimous and pronounced in favor of Mitchell. Two elderly ladies have administered tongue lashings to Deputy District Attorney Miller for his strenuousness in endeavoring to convict the prisoner. “Are you not ashamed of yourself in trying so hard to indict that boy who did a brothers’ duty in trying to defend his sister against a reptile,” demanded a gray haired lady of Miller as the latter was passing from the court room. “Is it by convicting innocent boys who fight for the honor of their sisters that you get all your fine clothes,” hissed another gray haired mother to Miller the following day as he was passing through the crowd. “If I were the judge of this court, I would clear all that rabble out of the court room” was the fierce remark of the state’s lawyer one day after there had been a demonstration.
The arguments in the case are expected to begin today, and if the jury does not bring in a verdict of acquittal, everybody, even the prosecutors will be surprised. John Manning, District Attorney of Multnomah County, who has been at the trial, expects a verdict favorable to Mitchell.