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 12, 1906: General Rejoicing at Mitchell’s Acquittal
Morning Oregonian (Portland) 7/12/1906 p8
Of the three murders recently most notorious it may be said that each originated in an injury, real or fancied, for which the law provided no adequate remedy. Creffield had debauched members of Mitchell’s family and though he had been imprisoned for this and other similar deed, the term was brief and upon his release he was ready to resume his detestable practices. White had debauched the lady whom Thaw afterward married. For this he was not and could not be legally punished. If he continued his pursuit of her after her marriage he was still safe from the law. All this will be admitted readily enough, but the reader may still question whether Thompson had suffered injury from Judge Emory. Few, however, will deny, upon reflection that to be forbidden to marry the lady of ones choice is an injury, though it may not be a wrong, and in Thompson’s case it undoubtedly was not. Judge Emory was justified beyond all doubt in inflicting this damage or injury upon Thompson; still it was an injury and the law gave no remedy for it.
The plea of insanity in Mitchell’s case may be classed among legal fiction. It was resorted to merely as a euphemistic way of advancing his real defense, which no lawyer would dare to state nakedly in court, though it is harmless to so here. His defense, then, was that the injury he had suffered justified his act. The law provided an inadequate penalty for Creffield’s misdeeds; therefore it was proper for Mitchell to modify the law, impose the death penalty and execute it himself. Under the guise of finding Mitchell insane the jury accepted his defense and the juries which are to try Thaw and Thompson will be called upon to do the same thing, for neither of these men is insane except in some remote, technical sense, which would apply to almost every person in the world. Nobody either within or outside the courtroom can misunderstand the real significance of the plea.
The interesting question that arises, under what circumstances, if ever, a man should be permitted to enact special legislation imposing the death penalty, to adjudge an offended guilty under his law, and execute the sentence himself. We are not thinking now of murder committed in the heat of passion of in self-defense. This is a very different affair. The cases we have in mind are those where an individual deliberately takes upon himself the duty of remedying the defects of the law by inflicting the death penalty upon his fellow-man. When is this permissible, if ever? From Mitchell’s case, we may conclude that it is permissible when an offended’s religious views and practices have rendered him abhorrent to the community where he resides. Should Thaw be cleared, one must conclude that any man has the right to pass a law making seduction a capital crime and proceed at once to execute any offender whose victim he may wish to marry.
The acquittal of Thompson would mean that a parent or a guardian, who denies his daughter’s or ward’s hand to a suitor may properly be slain. Whatever we may think of the preceding, this is certainly a novel rule of law. It will be sought in vain in the codes of the nations, either ancient or modern; but American criminal jurisprudence has already afforded many surprises to the world, and this would fit in very well with the rest.
Seattle Daily Times 7/12/1906 p2
General Rejoicing at Mitchell’s Acquittal
Lawyers Who Defended Youth Receive Many Telegrams of Congratulations--Get Little for Their Services.
Telegrams of congratulation from all parts of Oregon and from several cities in this state poured into the office of Morris, Southard & Shipley this morning congratulating the legal firm upon their success in acquitting Mitchell. One of the first telegrams received came from O. V. Hurt, the father of Creffield’s widow. It reads as follows: “Accept my thanks and congratulations for services performed. Charles Schnobel, formerly district attorney of Multnomah County, Oregon and Henry C. Beach, city attorney of Bellingham, also sent telegrams of congratulations.
Many messages of congratulation came over the telephone. A woman telephoned to Lawyer Morris making an offer to give George Mitchell an education. She refused to give her name, but gave her address. The defendant’s lawyers must content themselves with a very small fee. The only money available for the defense was &650 raised in Corvallis. Out of this the attorneys must get their fee and pay the expenses of the trial.
Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/12/1906 p5
Mitchell’s Father Leaves for East
Happy and contented to think that his son had been freed from the charge of murder, and receiving congratulations and bestowing smiles on everybody, F. M. Mitchell of Mount Vernon, Ill., father of George Mitchell, the slayer of Franz Edmund Crefeld, left the city last evening for his home. In Mount Vernon he is a Salvation Army officer.
Mr. Mitchell arrived here only last Friday to console his son before the case went to the jury, and remained with him until the verdict of not guilty was pronounced. Since that time Mr. Mitchell and two sons, Perry and George, have been at the Stevens hotel.
“I expected the verdict,” said Mr. Mitchell last evening, prior to departure, “and as a matter of course am greatly pleased, not only because my son was freed, but because I think the jury was composed of upright and conscientious men.”
George and Perry Mitchell will leave this evening for Newberg, Or.
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Seattle Daily Times 7/12/1906 (5 o’clock edition) p9
Is Reconciled to Her Father
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/12/1906 p8
Members of Mitchell Family Reconciled
Esther Mitchell, Sister of the Man Who Killed Joshua Creffield, Meets and Talks With Her Parent.
Family Is Gotten Together Through Work of Police Matron--Girl Goes to Live With Widow of Holy Roller.
Charles Mitchell, father of George Mitchell, the young man who a few days ago was acquitted of the charge of murdering Franz Edmund Creffield, leader of the Holy Rollers, and his daughter Esther, who for several days refused to see her father, had a meeting of reconciliation last night.
Esther, the girl for whom her brother, George, took the life of the self-styled Joshua had heard that her father was going to return to his home in Illinois. Through the efforts of Mrs. Kelly, the police matron, the family was gotten together. They talked the matter over, and parted good friends. At this meeting were Esther, Perry and Fred Mitchell, and the father, Charles Mitchell. Between the girl Esther and the man whom the jury excused for the crime with which he was charged, George was not asked and did not have any desire to be present.
Esther denied that she had left the police matron’s home because she did not want to see any of her relatives.
Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield, the widow of the Holy Roller, have rented a room near Sixth Avenue and Pike Street and announce that they will live in Seattle for a while at least. They have formed no definite plans for the future. The women yesterday sold their witness certificates and secured enough money to keep them going for some time.
George Mitchell and his two brothers will leave tonight for Oregon, where George and Fred lived prior to the killing of Creffield. Perry announced that he would go with his brothers and that the three of them would seek employment in the same place.
Seattle Star 7/12/1906 p7
Mitchells Go to Portland
George and Perry Mitchell left Seattle last night for South Portland, where they will work in a rice mill (sic). The young men will be employed by Peter Diew (sic), one of the witnesses at the Mitchell trial.
Mitchell’s father yesterday returned to his home in Mount Vernon, Ill.
The father and brothers have decided that there is nothing to be done for Esther Mitchell. The girl and Mrs. Creffield are determined to join a Roly (sic) Roller colony in British Columbia and they will be allowed to do so.
Seattle Daily Times 7/12/1906 (5 o’clock edition) p6
-It was reported that George Mitchell got out of the State of Washington just as quickly as steam would carry him after the gracious verdict of a Seattle jury.
-Now will the courts of Oregon see to it that George Mitchell be properly incarcerated in an insane asylum? A jury in Washington has said that the young man was insane when he killed his man, which according to the statue would otherwise have been murder. Who knows how soon he may commit a like deed in his own state unless restrained