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 8, 1906: Plan To Revive Holy Rollerism


Maud Hurt
Maren McGuire as Maud Hurt Creffield

Seattle Sunday Times 7/8/1906 p17

Mitchell Jury to be Given Case Wednesday

All Evidence Will Be in by Close of Court Monday Afternoon, and Attorneys Are Ready to Begin Argument Next Day.

Manner in Which Hardest Fought Murder Trial in Northwest Has Been Conducted Praised by Oregon Lawyers.

Defense Feels That Yesterday’s Session Successfully Established Claim That Mitchell Was Insane.


by E. O. Kelsey


If the expectations of the attorneys both for the state and the defense are realized the last witness in the Mitchell trial will have been examined by the close of court tomorrow evening. If so, the case will go to the jury Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning at the latest. How long it will be before the jury decided whether or not George Mitchell was insane when he killed Franz Edmund Creffield or whether, being sane, he was or was not justified in his act, is a matter of speculation.


Neither side in the case looks for a long deliberation on the part of the jury, and attorney for the defense Will Morris last evening expressed the opinion that the result of the trial will be known before Thursday night. In this view Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh coincides, but the ways of a jury have ever been beyond comprehension, and a verdict returned in a held hour, or one which requires two days to determine, would create no great surprise.


Present plans are for Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Miller to make the opening argument for the state, and Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh to make the last presentation to the state’s case to the jury. For the defense, Attorney Silas M. Shipley will make the opening argument and Attorney Will H. Morris the closing. In neither case is it the intention of the attorneys to make a long argument. The trial has been one of weary length and every one who has been obliged to attend constantly in any capacity whatsoever is looking anxiously forward to the moment when the foreman of the jury will hand in the verdict.




That this verdict will be one of acquittal is the belief of the majority of the attorneys who have listened to the proceedings as spectators, and in holding this belief the fact is not overlooked that never in the history of King County and probably not in the history of the Pacific Northwest have stronger or more intelligently directed efforts been made to secure a conviction than in this case. Both Mr. Mackintosh and Mr. Miller have used every legal instrument in their power to overcome, not only the sentiment in favor of the accused, but the efforts of the defense to prove insanity. What degree of success will reward these efforts remains to be seen.


And as is the truth in connection with the part taken in the trial by the attorneys for the state, so is it with reference to the attorneys for the defense. Confronted with the indisputable fact that their client had taken a human life in cold blood that this killing was premeditated, Messrs. Morris and Shipley have been put to the test of trying to prove legal insanity, always a difficult defense, and particularly so in this case where the only evidence obtainable was of such a nature as to make the question of its admissibility a very delicate one.


Not for a moment has either side relaxed its vigilance and for hours at a time not a witness would be allowed to give his answer until every legal argument both for and against the propriety of admitting the question was exhausted. Time and again the jury would be dismissed while the attorneys read authorities and advanced reason upon reason in support of divergent contentions. It was this feature of the trial which, while wearying to the spectators, held much of interest for attorneys.




In speaking of the events of the trial to a group of newspaper men during a recess yesterday, District Attorney John Manning of Portland said: “I have had much experience in the courts, both in Oregon and other states, have met many members of the bar and have tried many intricate murder cases, and I want to say right here that during the time I have spent in listening to this trial, Messrs. Morris and Shipley have without exception protected the interests of their client to better advantage than I ever before witnessed in a murder case, and this notwithstanding the fact that I have seen cases tried by attorneys of much wider reputations. If they don’t clear George Mitchell, it will not be because they have failed in a single detail from a legal standpoint.


“And right here I wish to state that if an acquittal is obtained, one of the greatest facts in praise of the attorneys for the defense is the credit of winning against the masterly fight put up by Mr. Mackintosh and Mr. Miller to secure a conviction.


William T. Gardener, Superintendent of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society and formerly a lawyer, echoed the sentiments of Mr. Manning, and declared the trial on to be the most interesting from a legal viewpoint which he had ever attended.


Both Mr. Manning and Mr. Gardener were witnesses for the defense, and the former has stated that had the killing occurred in his county, he would never have issued a complaint, but would have ordered the discharge of Mitchell as soon as the affair was brought to his notice.




Almost the entire session of yesterday was given over to the introduction of testimony tending to confirm the contention of the defense that Mitchell was actuated by an insane delusion when he killed Creffield. This is a line of evidence which the defense has been trying to get before the jury ever since the trial began, and when Judge Frater ruled that it was proper for Dr. Nicholson to express an expert opinion as to Mitchell’s condition prior to and at the time of the shooting, it was expected that a number of other witnesses would be permitted to go on the stand for the second time and give evidence concerning the defendant’s father and other members of the family with regard to mental condition.


In this expectation, however, the defense was disappointed, for Judge Frater refused to allow these witnesses to testify along this line. E. R. Bryson, district attorney of Benton County, Ore., was place on the stand for the purpose of testifying as to the insane mental condition of Esther Mitchell while she was at Corvallis, but Mr. Miller objected, and was sustained in this objection by the court.




Mr. Morris offered to prove the insane condition of both Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Starr by a number of witnesses, all of whom had been on the stand before, but he was not allowed to. Mr. Morris also wanted to place Mitchell on the stand to prove that Fred Mitchell was insane at the time he attempted to kill himself at Portland, but this request was also refused. The jury was dismissed while the matter was argued and when it was recalled Mr. Morris again tried to have the witness testify, and again an objection of Mr. Miller was sustained. An exception was taken and the entire transaction made a matter of record. The greater part of the afternoon was spent by Mr. Miller in cross-examination of Dr. Nicholson, without, however, altering the opinion of the witness that a man having the same symptoms as those described as being possessed by Mitchell was suffering from an insane delusion and not mentally responsible for his acts.


At the opening of court Monday morning several other medical experts will be placed on the stand and one or two witnesses may be called in rebuttal, but to all practical purposes the case is at an end, so far as taking testimony is concerned.


It is estimated that the expense of the case to the county will be between $2,000 and $2,500.



Seattle Sunday Times 7/8/1906 p21

Mitchell Seeks Aid

Father of Man Who Killed Creffield Wants to Take His Daughter Esther Back to Her Old Home in Illinois.


Broken physically, almost insane himself as the result of the strain which he has been under for the past two month, aged Charles Mitchell, father of the slayer of Joshua Creffield and of the two girls whose blind belief in the Holy Roller leader has led to disgrace for one and insanity of the other, has yielded to the advice of friends in Seattle and asks the financial aid of anyone who is sufficiently interested in his welfare and that of Esther, the young daughter, who is the direct cause of the shooting, to aid him in returning to the home at Mt. Vernon, Illinois.


“I have been told by my friends, and from a close watch I am more than satisfied that my child Esther is not right in her mind, and can never be until she is removed far away from any possible influence of ‘Holy Rollerism.’ We all think that if we can get her back to our home in Illinois, that with proper care, rest, and attention, she will soon be like she was in childhood, but that so long as she stays here surrounded by scenes and people which will always revive and continue the outrageous beliefs taught by Creffield there is no chance of her ever being herself.


“I have been told that there are many kind friends here who will help us to get Esther home. I am a poor man, and all the money I had has been expended in coming out here and in aiding George, and it is absolutely impossible for us alone to do as we want. It is with a feeling of degradation that I ask for aid, but comfort myself with the thought that the object is a worthy one, since it will mean the saving of a human life and soul.”


Mr. Mitchell is staying with his son Perry at the Stevens Hotel in this city.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/8/1906 p12

Mitchell Insane Expert Testifies

Statement Of Dr. Nicholson Unshaken By Close Cross Examination

Will Not Go On Stand.

Lawyers For Defense Claim They Have Established Legal Excuse For Killing Crefeld.


The climax in the Mitchell defense came yesterday afternoon when all the careful cross-examination by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John F. Miller was unable to shake the testimony of Dr. Donald A. Nicholson, introduced by the defense as an expert on insanity, that a man who acted in the manner in which Mitchell had acted, both before and after the shooting of Franz Edmund Crefeld on the street on Seattle, would be insane.


At the close of the day’s proceedings Attorneys Will H. Morris and Silas M. Shipley made one last attempt to introduce evidence as to insanity in the brothers and sisters of George Mitchell, and then dismissed the majority of their witnesses, after making a record of the ruling of the court.


Mr. Morris announced last night that the defense would call four more medical experts Monday, including Drs. John Wotherspoon and W. I. Miles, and with that would probably conclude its case. It will not place Mitchell on the stand. Mr. Morris thought that by Thursday evening at the latest, the verdict would be received by the jury. Mr. Miller thought the proceedings would be over by Wednesday evening. He stated that he did not know, as yet, whether the state would put on any witnesses, bit if it did, it would be in rebuttal of the expert testimony in behalf of Mitchell.


Dr. Nicholson, for five years before coming to Seattle, eighteen months ago, had been in charge of the Minnesota state asylum for the insane. Insane delusion, he said, is a form of delusion, which had gained such a strong control over the patient as to compel him to act in a manner contrary to reason.


The “hypothetical question” on which so much of the defense’s case hinged, was put. Mr. Shipley recited what he considered a statement of facts regarding Mitchell’s actions, and the mental conditions to which he had been subjected, and asked the physician if he thought a man who acted in such a manner, and under such conditions, would be insane. The answer was that he would, and that such mental conditions would show mental delusion.


Another “hypothetical question” related to the probable mental condition of such a man’s brothers and sisters and antecedents. The witness stated that he would expect to find similar mental conditions, or “dispositions,” not necessarily similar actions, in other members of the family.




“I would say such a man was possessed with a delusion,” said witness to Mr. Miller who had propounded another “hypothesis,” “and had lost control of himself; that as a result of this delusion he was insane.


“The fact that he had expressed this desire for such a long period, in opposition to the arguments of others, would show he had a delusion. The belief in the direction of God for one man to kill another is pretty generally agreed among authorities not to be the working of a normal mind. When a man says he has a command from God to kill another, we really have no means of telling, from the words themselves, whether he is insane or not. That must be judged by taking into consideration other conditions.


E. R. Bryson, deputy districts attorney for Benton County, Ore., was not allowed to testify as to any peculiarities he had noticed in Esther Mitchell three years ago. Mr. Morris then had placed on record the statement that defense had thirteen other witnesses to offer to show facts concerned with the mentality of relatives of George Mitchell.


It was for the purpose of introducing Testimony of this sort that the defense had called District Attorney John H. Manning and Sheriff M. P. Burnett in the morning. They were not allowed to give the evidence.




The announcement of Mr. Morris last night that George Mitchell would not take the witness stand comes somewhat as the clearing up of a mystery.


“We have no occasion to do so,” said Mr. Morris, “because we have proven that the man was insane. This is a legal excuse for the act. Even if we had shown no legal excuse, the jury would be excusable in bringing in a verdict of ‘not guilty.’ But as it is it is impossible for the state to disprove that we have established such excuse.


The evidence for the defense is expected to be all in tomorrow. The state will in that case have an opportunity to put on witnesses in rebuttal Tuesday. Prosecuting Attorney Kenneth Mackintosh, will probably make the opening statement for the state, to be followed by Mr. Shipley and Mr. Morris, while Mr. Miller will close. All promise that they will not tire the jury by extended arguments.



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 7/9/1906 p2

Plan To Revive Holy Rollerism

Sampson Levins, Of Corvallis, Would Succeed Creffield As Prophet.

Colony Across The Line

Writes Letters To Dead Leader’s Dupes Inviting Them To Come To Allavia, B. C.--Is Not Likely To Succeed In Scheme.


SEATTLE, Wash., July 8.--(Special.)--Word has been received by the authorities here that an effort is being made by Sampson Levins, a former Corvallis man, to get members of the Holy-Roller flock into British Columbia and organize a colony there. Levins was one of Creffield’s right-hand men, and it is said he proposes taking up the dead man’s work. He is now working in a logging cam at the settlement of Allavia, B. C.


It is not altogether peculiar and significant coincidence that the two Seeley sisters, former dupes of the Holy-Roller prophet, are located at the same place. Levins is reported to be trying to make local converts at Allavia as well as to get the Oregon aggregation to come to him.


Maud Hurt Creffield, widow of the Holy-Roller leader, is known to be numbered among those who have received letters from Levins. It is learned from an authoritative source that Mrs. Creffield was assured that Levins would take up her husband’s pseudo-religious work and also support her and any members of the fold she might bring with her.




To her father, O. v. Hurt, Mrs. Creffield denied this afternoon that Levins wanted her to join him. She said the letters merely contained offers of financial aid. It is a peculiar fact, however, that she did not take advantage of her father’s invitation to return, since she is known to be without means.


Corvallis people who are now in Seattle do not believe Levins can succeed in reviving Holy Rollerism. They say he is an uneducated man, without any of Creffield’s devilish craftiness or knowledge of the Bible. They believe that the notorious creed is buried with Edmund Creffield in his grave at Lakeview cemetery here.


Frank Hurt, a staunch Creffield follower and the only man to accompany the “prophet” and coterie of female fanatics to the last Pacific Coast camp, was looked upon by some as a possible successor to Creffield in at least continuing a semblance of Rollerism. Frank stated today, however, that he is done with the repulsive, unwholesome creed.




Although he sacrificed everything and followed Creffield with the fidelity of a dog up to the time of the shooting, the notorious fanatic’s influence over young Hurt is now broken.


“I am ready to go back home now to Corvallis and take up my work once more,” he said yesterday. He did not believe, he said, that Levins or any other man could take up Creffield’s so-called religious work and conduct it successfully.


All hopes that the fanatical viper will be resurrected from the dead has been abandoned even by the dead, even by the widow. Mrs. Creffield has visited her husband’s grave on several occasions in the hope of finding it cast open and Creffield returned from the dead.


Those Corvallis men whose homes were broken up by the Holy Roller, are making commendable efforts to patch up family ties and forget the past. O. V. Hurt, whose entire family suffered through Creffield’s poisonous influences, has many things to overlook, but he has decided to stand manfully by his family. Yesterday he called on his daughter, Maud Creffield, and invited her to return home, assuring her that she would be cordially received.




She hesitated and would give no answer yesterday, but Mr. Hurt is confident that she will make up her mind to accompany him before he leaves the city.


Burgess E. Starr will take his wife, one of Creffield’s principal victims, back to Portland with him, probably tomorrow. He, too, has decided to forget the past entirely.


Believing his brother George will be acquitted within the next week, Perry Mitchell has made plans to accompany Creffield’s slayer to Portland as soon as he is released. He also hopes to get charge of his sister Esther and escort her back to the old family home in Illinois.



Corvallis Gazette 7/10/1906 p3

Will be Acquitted


O. V. Hurt arrived home Sunday evening from Seattle, where he had been a witness in the case of George Mitchell for the killing of Edmund Creffield, the Holy Roller Joshua. Mr. Hurt thinks that the case will go to the jury within a day or two and feels certain of a verdict of acquittal for Mitchell.


In speaking of the case Mr. Hurt says that the statement given out to the effect that E. H. Baldwin, of this city, had said on the witness stand in Seattle that he would kill his own daughter rather than see her in the snare of a Holy Roller such as Creffield, was untrue. Mt. Baldwin did not make such statement. What he really said was that he would kill anyone who lured her to such a fate rather than see her a victim of such practices.

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