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 10, 1906: Mitchell Case Goes To Jury


Will MorrisSeattle Post Intelligencer 7/10/1906 p4

Mitchell Trial About Concluded

Slayer of Holy Roller Leader Will Soon Learn of His Fate.


By this evening it is expected that the fate of George Mitchell, who shot and killed Franz Edmund Crefeld, leader of the “Holy Rollers,” in this city on the seventh of last May, will be in the hands of the jury. The evidence is supposed to be all in, the instructions have been prepared, and are in the hands of the court counsel for both sides have assured Judge Frater that the argument should not take longer than a day.


When the case was called yesterday morning the killing of G. Meade Emory by Chester Thompson was injected into the case. As soon as court convened Attorney Will Morris for the defendant arose and called the attention of the court to the flag on the court house grounds which hung at half-mast in memory of Judge Emory.




He requested the court that the bailiffs in charge of the jury be advised to take every precaution that the jury learn nothing of the shooting of Judge Emory until the trial of the Mitchell case had been concluded. He also suggested that when taken out for their daily exercise walk it be by such a route that they would not have a chance to see the flag.


There was no objection by the state and the instructions were given as desired.


There was the usual crowd on hand when the case was called yesterday morning, among them being quite a number of women. One woman who has been a constant attendant since the trial began met the accused on the landing at the noon hour and after a few words presented him with a large bouquet of sweet peas. Mitchell thanked her and then proceeded down the stairs to the jail.




The witnesses for the defense yesterday were Drs. Wotherspoon, Wright and Miles, who testified as experts on insanity. In reply to hypothetical questions by Attorney Shipley for the defense, if a man suffering from a delusion on one subject could be considered insane on that one subject and rational on others, the answer to all the medical experts was in the affirmative and favorable to the defendant.


Severe cross examination by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Miller failed to shake the testimony of any of the witnesses.


When the defense rested at 4:13 o’clock in the afternoon, the state announced that the defense had closed so suddenly that it was not prepared to state whether it would introduce any witnesses in rebuttal. No objection being made, and adjournment was taken until 10 o’clock this morning.





Seattle Daily Times 7/10/1906 p1

Thompson is Charged With First Degree Murder


Corvallis Times 7/13/1906

Thompson is Charged With First Degree Murder


Seattle, Wash., July 10. Chester Thompson is charged with murder in the first degree by information filed in the superior court this afternoon by Prosecuting attorney Mackintosh for killing Judge George Meade Emory. The young murdered, who is a member of one of the most prominent families in Seattle, will not be brought into court until September. The long summer months he must spend in a cell with other criminals.


Thompson’s mother, in ignorance of her son’s criminal act, is dying at the family mansion. She will not be told of her son’s crime. The mother of young Thompson and the Emory family have been friends for two decades. Knowledge of the crime it is believed would make her end extremely bitter.


Will H. Thompson, the father of the boy, will be chief counsel in the defense. He is the most eloquent speaker in the state. His friends declare that the end of the trial will mark his death.



Seattle Star 7/10/1906 p1

Mitchell May Know Fate Before Night

Attorneys for Defense Spring a Sensation by Declining to Address the Jury, Thereby Cutting Off the State’s Strong Argument--Move Threw Prosecution Into Confusion and Was a Telling Blow.


Before sundown tonight George Mitchell will know whether or not he is to suffer the penalty of the law for the killing of Frank Edmund Creffield.


Just before the noon recess today Attorneys Morris and Shipley rang in a surprise on the state’s attorneys by announcing after Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh had addressed the jury for 20 minutes, that the defendant’s attorneys would waive their right to address the jury.




John F. Miller, the brilliant deputy prosecutor, was being saved by the state for the closing address. Mr. Miller’s eloquence and logic was looked for by the state to bring in a verdict that would at least send Mitchell to the penitentiary for a term of years. The hope of a verdict of murder in the first degree had long since been dispelled and all the efforts of Mr. Miller were to be devoted to securing a verdict of any sort other than acquittal.




When at the conclusion of a very able address by Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh, Mr. Morris arose and announced to the court that the defense would waive its right to argument, the state’s attorneys were thrown into confusion. A brief recess was taken and during the recess Mr. Morris informally laid before the court authorities sustaining him in his action, which action would prevent any further argument by the state, this cutting Mr. Miller out.


When court again reconvened Mr. Morris briefly announced on behalf of the defendant that no further argument would be made. Mr. Miller did what he could to stem the tide, but in absence of any authority sustaining him in his position the court ruled with the defense, stating, however, that if Mr. Miller could produce any authorities at the beginning of the afternoon session that the court would listen to them.


After two hours argument this afternoon Judge Frater ruled that the state could present its closing argument despite the fact that the defense waived its right to address the jury. The decision was a reversal of the opinion handed down after the recess in the morning trial.


The state immediately waived its right on the condition that Judge Frater explain the situation in his charge to the jury. the defense will make no plea to the jury and the prosecution will rest with the address of Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh.


This morning’s session began with the announcement by Mr. Morris that if the state would agree all argument would be waived. Mr. Miller interposed an objection to this, but agreed in an informal way that two hours would be sufficient for each side.


Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh thereupon began his brief address to the jury. He referred to the crime as a premeditated and deliberate murder, in connection with which the jury had no right to consider the character of the victim. The insanity plea her referred to as the usual “insanity dodge.”


“There was no other defense to be made,” declared Mr. Mackintosh. Caught almost at the moment of committing the crime there was but that one defense left. Had he walked up to Creffield and standing face to face with him, fired the fatal bullet, he might have claimed to have committed the deed in self defense. But instead of this he laid in wait for his victim, stepping out from a doorway as he passed, and like a coward, shooting him in the back. There was but one defense to be made in a case of this kind, and that was insanity.”




Mr. Mackintosh then quoted from memory from a decision handed down by Judge Orange Jacobs when that gentleman was chief justice of the supreme court of the state.


“The world has had quite enough of that kind of insanity,” quoted Mr. Mackintosh, “that begins just as the sight of the slayer, ranging along the barrel of a pistol, marks a mortal spot on the body of the victim, and ends as soon as the bullet has sped on its fatal mission.


Mr. Mackintosh concluded with an appeal to the jury to remember the statement each juror had made under oath that in arriving at a verdict the character of the victim of Mitchell would not be taken into consideration.



Seattle Star 7/10/1906 p1

Esther Mitchell Makes Her Escape

Sister Vanishes From The Matron’s Home, Where She Was Being Held In Custody--Police Find No Trace Of Her.


Esther Mitchell, sister of George Mitchell, now on trial for his life and who has been held as a witness in charge of the police matron, escaped from the matron’s home yesterday afternoon.


Yesterday forenoon, her father called at police headquarters and asked the police to turn his daughter over to him to be taken to the family home in Mt. Vernon, Ill.


The police refused, but a few hours after the interview, she succeeded in making her escape from the matron’s home.


Esther’s sister, Maud (sic), was questioned, but claimed to know nothing of the affair and every effort to locate the missing girl appeared futile. Esther is absolutely without means and must stay in the city unless supplied with funds. The police think that they will be able to locate the girl within a short time, although they will not turn her over to the father, unless so ordered by the court.



Seattle Daily Times 7/10/1906

Mitchell Case Goes To Jury

Mitchell's Fate is Now With The Jury

Judge Frater Finishes Delivering Instructions Shortly After Three o’clock After Unusual Procedure By Defense.

Attorney Will H. Morris Wants To Waive All Argument And Then, After Mackintosh Opens, Rest His Case.

Court Adjourns Forenoon Session To Allow Prosecution Time To Submit Authorities Claiming Right To Close.


by E. O. Kelsey


George Mitchell’s fate is in the hands of the jury which, for the past two weeks, has listened to evidence and argument on the part of the men who hope to enforce the law which they are sworn to uphold and secure a conviction, and on the part of the men who have tried just as hard to free him from nay punishment for the killing of Joshua Creffield on the morning of May 7. The case went to the jury shortly after 3 o’clock this afternoon.


The defense in the case cast a bomb into the plans of the prosecution at the opening of court this morning by waiving argument after Prosecuting Mackintosh had made the opening argument for the prosecution. Mr. Miller, also for the state objected, stating that there was no law to sanction such a procedure, but Judge Frater ruled with the defense, although he agreed to let the final decision on the matter go over until 1:30. The court also stated that he had not expected anything of the kind and was not prepared with his instructions to the jury, which were in the hands of the stenographer.


At 1:30 Mr. Miller submitted a number of authorities in support of his contention. He was opposed by Mr. Morris for the defense, but Judge Frater stated that, while in ordinary cases, he would hold with the defense, in this case he would permit Mr. Miller to close. Mr. Miller stated that if it was agreeable to the defense to have the jury instructed that both sides waived further argument, he would be willing to do so. This was agreed to by Mr. Morris and the jury was brought in and instructed.


It looked for awhile this morning as if the case would have to go over until this afternoon without any progress whatsoever, for H. E. Start, one of the jurors, who has been ailing for the past day or so, became suddenly ill after the jury had been brought from the hotel to the jury room, and it was deemed advisable to call Dr. J. B. Loughary. The doctor, after an examination, stated to the court and attorneys interested in the case that Start was suffering from cholera morbus, and that it would hardly be advisable for him to take his seat in the jury box under the circumstances.


Mr. Morris for the defense and Messrs. Mackintosh and Miller for the state discussed the matter with Judge Frater and it was finally decided to leave the matter with the juror and abide by his decision. In answer to a question from Bailiff Vincent, Star said that he would try and carry out his duties and the jury was then brought into court. There was a fear that he might become so ill as to preclude all hope of continuing the trial and thus make it necessary to draw another jury and go over the entire proceedings again.




When court opened Mr. Morris said: “May it please the court, your honor, we offer to submit our case without argument. We realize that every one concerned in this trial has been placed to considerable inconvenience and are anxious to bring proceedings to a speedy close. We are willing to let the case go to the jury on the instructions of the court.”


Mr. Miller objected, saying: “On behalf of the state, may it please the court, we would gladly accede to the suggestion of counsel, were it not for the fact that deem it our duty to proceed as is customary. It is not for personal reasons that I oppose the suggestions of counsel, but because of the fact that I feel we would not be doing our duty by the state if we agreed to waive the right to which we are entitled under the law.


When Mr. Miller had finished Attorney Shipley said: “Your honor, as the offer of the defense will agree that a limit of two hours be placed on the arguments for either side.” Judge Frater stated that in cases of this kind there was no limit to the time of either side’s argument and that the records need not show any agreement in this respect.


Mr. Morris wanted to know if the court would sit as a sort of umpire and call time when either side had reached the two-hour limit.


Again the court refuse to take any part in the limitation of time and it was then agreed between the attorneys interested that the arraignments for either side should be limited to two hours. With this understanding Prosecuting Attorney Macintosh opened for the state.




Prefacing his argument with the customary “may it please the court and gentlemen of the jury,” Mr. Mackintosh dwelt for a few moments on the tediousness of the trial and on the presupposed desire of all concerned to have it over as soon as possible. He stated that the defendant had seen Creffield when the latter was a block and a half away from the scene of the shooting and that Mitchell had waited until his intended victim had passed before he approached him from behind and “fired the cowardly shot.” Mr. Mackintosh stated that the question before the jury was whether or not the facts of the killing constituted a deliberate and premeditated murder or not:

“There are three defenses in a case of a killing of one man by another,” said Mr. Mackintosh. “One of these is that of self defense, another is where the murderer makes his escape and then tries to prove an alibi, and the third is, as in this case, where the man is caught in the act and then sets up the plea of insanity; all other defenses having been eliminated by the nature of the crime and the conditions surrounding it.”


Mr. Mackintosh told the jury of the difficulties which the prosecution had been placed under because of the peculiar nature of the evidence admitted to establish the insanity claim, saying that there was no way in which the statements of the various witnesses as to the doings of the Holy Rollers could be refuted. It was pointed out that even had these statements been false, they had, according to the testimony of the witnesses been made to the defendant, and consequently the effect on his mind was a matter of legal consideration.




Mr. Mackintosh referred to the testimony of these witnesses as having been of such a nature as to indicate that it was prepared beforehand, and with a view of securing the acquittal of the defendant. In this connection Mr. Mackintosh admitted that it was possibly a good thing that Creffield had been removed from this life, but stated that this did not justify any man in taking the law into his own hands, and went on to point out that any man might consider himself sufficiently wronged to, in his mind, justify taking the life of the man who had wronged him.


“No man,” said Mr. Mackintosh, “commits a crime of this nature in his normal mind. But are we to consider such insanity as a justification for the taking of a human life? If so, there is scarcely a man in this community who could not secure immunity from punishment after he had committed a murder on the plea of insanity.”


“At first the defense attempted to establish the existence of heredity insanity; then, seeing that this would not accomplish the purpose desired, because it could not be proven, a change was made to an insanity resulting from an attack of the measles. In the effort to establish this claim and also that of the defendant receiving a divine command there is a too great correspondence in the testimony of the witnesses. This is suspicious. Too many told the same identical story.”


Mr. Mackintosh then told how the insanity plea had been worked and worked and for the purpose of disqualifying this sort of a defense quoted the decision of Judge Orange Jacobs in the case of William McAllister vs. Washington Territory, as follows:

“The world has had quite enough of that kind of insanity which commences just as the sight of the slayer ranging along the barrel of a pistol marks a vital spot on the body of the victim, and ends as soon as the bullet has spend on its fatal mission.




Mr. Mackintosh then urged the members of the jury to remember that they had sworn to try the case in cold blood and not to allow sympathy to influence them. He told them that Donna Starr, the only sister of the defendant who had been seduced by Creffield was of an age where she was capable of reasoning for herself, and that the fact that she had given away to the teachings and desires of the dead man was no reason why the defendant should come to Seattle and commit murder.


He closed by reminding the jurors of their sworn duty to the state, cautioning them not to pay too much attention to what he termed “expert evidence prompted by the pocketbook,” and asked them to decide “whether a man is law in himself and whether a man is goes out and kills another man and then comes in to plead insanity should not be punished.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/10/96 p1

Mitchell’s Fate Now With Jury

Final Argument Waived by Defense Which Prevents Closing Talk by Prosecution

District Attorney Much Put Out by Being Shut Out From Summing Up Case--All That Remains for Court Is to Instruct

The Jury and for It to Vote.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal.)


Seattle, July 10.--Early this afternoon the fate of George Mitchell, charged with murder in the first degree for killing Edmund Creffield, leader of the holy rollers, will be in the hands of the 12 men sworn to try the case according to the law and evidence. All that remains this afternoon is for the court to instruct the jury. The case should reach the jury by 4 o’clock at the latest.


A sensation was sprung in the trial this forenoon. After Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh had finished his closing argument to the jury, Will H. Morris representing Mitchell announced that the defense would waive all argument. He also asserted that by his waiver, John F. Miller, the deputy prosecuting attorney, who has carried the chief weight of the case, was precluded from making an argument to the jury as the last speaker.




John F. Miller made a long argument tending to show that he had a right to make an argument to the jury whether the defense wished to do so or not. The court, however, took an opposite view of the matter and much to the disgust of Miller, who had prepared himself for an extended argument that it was believed would shatter Mitchell’s case, held that Miller could not make any argument.


The attorneys in the defense were congratulated for their brilliant tactics. Miller is regarded as a dangerous man to address a jury, and the defense by their clever play cut him out.


Shipley of the defense, in his opening statement, went over everything that could be said in Mitchell’s behalf and the tactics that cut out the chief deputy as prosecuting attorney from making a brilliant argument are regarded as extremely clever.




Yesterday afternoon ended the testimony in the case. Dr. Miles, one of the foremost medical men in the city testified in answer to hypothetical questions that he believed Mr. Mitchell was insane when he fired the shot that ended Creffield’s life. The prosecution was unable to drive him for his position. He declared that any man who believed that he had a divine command from God and did something in pursuance of that supposed command was insane.


On cross-examination he declared that he believed that Joseph Smith, leader of the Mormon Church, was insane when he said he had a command from God.


Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh in his argument pleaded with the jury to bring in a verdict of murder in the first degree. He said the prosecution wished for no compromise verdict. In his closing words he said:

There is too much of this insanity in the world that commences when the eye takes sight along the barrels of the revolver and marks out a vital spot and ends when the bullet has arrived at the end of its mission of death.”



Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/10/1906

No Argument For Mitchell

Defense Springs Surprise And Cuts Off Further Speechmaking.

Acquittal is Likely

Case Of Creffield’s Slayer Will Be In Jury’s Hands Today.


[Telegram Coast Special]


SEATTLE, Wash., July 10.--Mitchell’s attorneys today submitted their case to the jury without argument and before night the fate of Creffield’s slayer should be known. A technical argument will consume a few minutes this afternoon, then the court’s instructions will be given and the case rests with Mitchell’s peers.


The action of the defense was a startling denouncement, and one for which the state was wholly unprepared. Early in the morning session Attorney Morris announced the defense was willing to submit the case without any argument, but the state wanted to talk. County Attorney Kenneth Mackintosh made an impassioned appeal to the jury and the state expected to draw an answer from the defense. Instead, when Mackintosh finished.


Attorney Morris arose and repeated that the defense had no argument to make. He declared that the jurors were worn out and the issue was clear to the court and jury. Juror H. E. Start had suffered from illness during the night and a physician was called to treat him this morning. Attorney Morris cited this fact for hurrying through the case and rested.


Deputy County Attorney John F. Miller, who had prepared to tear the defense’s arguments to shreds, and who was to have made the principal speech for the state, attempted to address the jury, but the court refused to allow him. Judge Frater held that the defense had the right to close as it saw fit. Since the defense would make no argument he refused to allow Miller to speak.


Mr. Miller asked for time to produce authorities, but precedent is all against him, and the court, in every probability will refuse him a chance to speak this afternoon. In any event, the case will go to the jury early. Not even the prosecution expects a conviction, for the state has been convinced for a week that its case was lost.


County Attorney Mackintosh’s argument was an appeal on the evidence, laying stress on the necessity for proving insanity. He insisted the defense had not shown Mitchell was unbalance. He did not get in any reference to the Emory tragedy, but, in closing, Mr. Mackintosh quoted from a thrilling charge to the jury delivered by Judge Jacobs of King County in territorial days, when he questioned the sanity of a murderer capable of sighting calmly along a pistol barrel at his victim and of adopting all precautions for his own safety.



Corvallis Times 7/10/1906 p4

Levens’ Letter

For Revival of Rollerism--What They did to Levens when Creffield got tar and Feathers.


“If there were to be a revival of Holy Rollerism, I would be the natural leader, but I do not intend to take any further interest in that faith. I do not know what others intend to do, but if they wish to practice that doctrine any more, they will have to float in their own boats.”


That was the statement of Maud Hurt Creffield made to her father in Seattle before Hurt left there. It was brought out by a report in circulation there to the effect that an effort is to be made to get former Creffield followers together for the purpose of continuing worship in that faith. The report had wide publicity, and according to it, Levins; a former Corvallis man, and former member of Creffield’s followers wrote letters inviting all the Rollers to assemble at a point in British Columbia where he could take up the leadership and resume Roller orgies.


It turns out, however, that the only letter written by Levens was to Maud Hurt at Seattle, and that the letter was not an invitation to her to go to British Columbia, but an ordinary epistle, such as any person similarly situated would write. The writer added incidental to other things that if Mrs. Creffield was in need of assistance that he would be glad to serve her as far as possible.


That was the only letter written by Levens, and that is all there is to a concerted movement for a Roller Revival. None of the faith in Corvallis have received letters from Levens or from others on the subject. The Seeley girls, former members of the Corvallis Rollers are now at the place where Levens lives, and that is supposed to have given rise to the report.


The incident recalls a little incident in the career of Levens. He and a man named Campbell were with the others in the house across the Willamette the night Brooks and Creffield were tarred and feathered. With Creffield and Brooks, they were brought by the vigilantes across the Willamette to the place of operations. They were commanded along with the bogus prophets to strip, and like their chief, were quick to obey. There was but little faltering or hesitation when orders were given that night. After tar and feathers had been applied in beautiful profusion to Creffield and Brooks the vigilantes turned to Campbell and Levens. On the top of the head of each a gob of tar was poured and in it feathers were stuck, giving the men the appearance of Indian chiefs. With these and a little daubing in another place or two, Levens and Campbell were let off. Nobody ever say either of them afterward in Corvallis. They got away with great dispatch, and the late letter from Levens is the first heard of him by the general public. Levens worked around Corvallis for some time, having at one time engaged in logging. Campbell worked some with him in the latter employment. Campbell was a bald headed man and the tar on the top of his pate is said to have given him a dashing appearance.


Maud Hurt’s declaration that she has done with Rollerism, and a similar announcement by Frank Hurt makes it pretty likely that there will be no more of that wretched practice. In fact, when George Mitchell pulled the trigger of his revolver in front of a Seattle drug store on that late eventful morning, he laid low the incarnation of Rollerism, and provided for its oblivion for all of which the public owes him thanks.



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 7/11/1906 p4

Blesses the Newspapers

Hurt Rejoices Over the Acquittal of Young Mitchell.


CORVALLIS, Or., July 10.--(Special.)-- The news of the verdict in the Mitchell case was received here with universal satisfaction. such an outcome of the case had been generally expected, but the actual realization that the case was ended, and that Mitchell was free, relieved the tension, and put the people of this town in an excellent humor.


By nobody was the verdict more warmly appreciated than by Victor Hurt, the man who has suffered more than any other at the hand of rollerism, and whose testimony did so much to turn the tide to flowing in young Mitchell’s favor in the late trial. Mr. Hurt said:

The verdict buries Rollerism forever. It went to the grave with Creffield, and can no more rise from there than he did. He was the lifeblood of the cult, and had a power over individuals that was unaccountable, and that in its effectiveness for his purposes was beyond what the public even dreams. for lack of that power, no other individual would be able to gather the late followers of the cult together, and exert even a small part of the influence over them that was wielded by Creffield.


“The incident of Rollerism is closed. It is past history, and I thank God and the Seattle jury for it. And to Will H. Morris and Silas M. Shipley, whose untiring efforts on entirely inadequate compensation have done so much to secure the verdict of acquittal, immense credit is due. Finally, The Oregonian and other Portland papers, and the Seattle papers, whose influence was exerted from the first on the side of right and justice, have aided materially in helping to stamp out this guilty cult from the Northwest. God bless newspapers of the country.


“In conclusion, I desire to add that it is a solemn thing to take a human life. Few are the times that such an act is justifiable. But it is also a solemn thing to enter a household and take the light and happiness out of it, or to enter a mind and take its sanity away. If George Mitchell did the one, it was because someone else did the other, not once, but many times. I hope all the past Rollerism is buried, and that this is to be my last public or private utterance on the hated subject..”



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 7/11/1906 p4

Murder Cases Won by Attorneys


SEATTLE, Wash., July 10.--attorneys Morris and Shipley, who conducted the case, were congratulated on many sides for their efforts in the defendant’s behalf. this is Mr. Morris’s 12th first-degree murder case, in all of which an acquittal has been secured. The most prominent ones were:


State vs. Bradley, for killing the seducer of his daughter on a public thoroughfare in this city about six years ago; jury was out one hour and five minutes. State vs. Shomo, for killing Maughbacher. The Considine brothers, for killing Chief of Police Meredith in this city; Mike Bartlett, a wealthy Klondiker, for shooting his wife three times with a 45 caliber on Pike Street, this city three years ago. the jury was out 45 minutes in this case, after a trial lasting several weeks.

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