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.

Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906

Esther Mitchell Kills Her Brother!


Avenge HeadlineSeattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p1

The Times Scoops


An extra edition of the Times, telling of the murder of George Mitchell by his sister Esther, was on the street last evening within twenty minutes after the fatal shot was fired. Other extra editions followed in rapid succession as new details of the tragedy developed, six having been put on the streets before an extra was issued by any other newspaper.


The eighth and last extra of The Times, issued about 8 o’clock, contained the full story of the murder, with stenographic reports of the statements of Esther Mitchell, Perry Mitchell and Maud Creffield, and interviews with a dozen or more eye-witnesses. Newsboys carried this edition to all parts of the city and the suburban towns and many thousands were sold to the people who were clamoring for the facts.


Today the story of the killing is again told by The Times for the benefit of regular subscribers who may not have seen the extras of yesterday afternoon. In addition there are printed exclusive interviews with Esther Mitchell and Maud Creffield as well as all the developments of today.



Seattle Daily Times 7/12/1906 4th Extra Edition p1

Avenge Death of Creffield


  Esther Mitchell, sister of George Mitchell, the slayer of “Joshua” Creffield, shot and instantly killed her brother this afternoon at 4:20 o’clock.


The killing occurred at the union depot as young Mitchell was about to board a train for Portland.


Instantly a great crowd gathered at the depot, and there was the utmost confusion.


Esther Mitchell was taken into custody by the police.


This is the latest chapter in the most sensational murder case in the history of the Pacific Coast.


The young girl, after being reconciled to her father this afternoon, took out her vengeance in cold blood against her brother, who killed Franz Edmund Creffield, the “Holy Roller” prophet of Oregon, for ruining his sister.


It has been but two days since a jury in the superior court acquitted George Mitchell of murder in the killing of Creffield.


George Mitchell’s plea was insanity, and his attorneys attempted to prove that this was a characteristic of the family.


W. D. Wroth, joint agent for a number of transcontinental lines at the depot, from his desk saw the tragedy. He says the girl walked behind George Mitchell as if to accompany the party to the train. Then she pulled the gun and fired the fatal shot from behind.




George and his brother, Fred Mitchell, it is related by bystanders, sat with their sister in the waiting room while waiting for the Portland train to leave. About 4:20 o’clock the caller at the station called the train, and George and Fred arose and started for it.


Esther followed a few feet behind George. Within fifteen feet of the spot where they had been conversing she silently drew a revolver and fired it, point blank, at close range, at George’s head.


The bullet entered the head behind the left ear in a place similar to the fatal wound Creffield received at Mitchell’s hand.


Mitchell fell to the floor without a word and died instantly. Fred Mitchell grabbed his sister and wrestled with her for possession of the weapon.


Officer Mason ran to the struggling pair and took the girl in custody. He was the one who arrested Mitchell the day he killed Creffield. Officer Huth assisted Mason.




The police believe that Mrs. Creffield, widow of the “Holy Roller” prophet, inspired the murder of George Mitchell, and she will be taken into custody at once, if she can be found.


Perry Mitchell, the other brother who followed Esther to the station, said to the chief:

Don’t blame Esther. She is irresponsible. She has been completely under the influence of Mrs. Creffield, who told her to kill George.”


Perry Mitchell, George Mitchell’s favorite brother, was notified of the killing soon after it occurred. He ran with all his might to the union depot. As soon as he looked upon the dead body, he fell over in a faint, and did not revive for several minutes. He was led away by two policemen.


The body lay in the center of the main waiting room at the depot until Deputy Coroner Wiltsie arrived and ordered it moved to the Bonney-Watson Company’s morgue.


Soon after being taken to police headquarters Esther Mitchell made a complete statement to Chief Wappenstein. She said that she had determined immediately after the acquittal of her brother, that he must die. He had killed “Joshua,” she said, and must die for his crime. She had at once procured the revolver and had been looking for him ever since the verdict of the jury was brought in. She shot at the first opportunity.




Immediately after Esther Mitchell arrived at police headquarters in custody she refused to talk when reporters for The Times approached her. She said: “I was told that I should not talk to any reporters.”


She declined to say who told her.


Chief of Police Wappenstein immediately took the girl into his office to closely question her.



Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p1 Seattle Daily Times Front Page

Wanton Murder!

Esther Mitchell Kills Her Brother!


“The reason I killed George was that he had killed an innocent man, and ruined my reputation by stating that Creffield had seduced me.”--Esther Mitchell, to Detectives as she was taken from the city to the county jail.




Esther Mitchell, Inspired by Fanatical Zeal, and Encouraged by Widow of Dead Prophet, Fires Fatal Shot.

Hypocritically Greeting and Shaking Hands With Him as He Is Leaving the City, She Slays Victim From Behind.


Shorn of every sentiment of sisterly affection by the teachings of a false prophet, Esther Mitchell yesterday killed the brother who had jeopardized his life to save her honor. Proudly posing as an angel of vengeance, this young girl hypocritically murdered George Mitchell a few hours after the story of the outrages which Franz Edmund Creffield practiced upon his women victims had impelled a jury to declare the brother not guilty of the murder of the religious fanatic.


Aided and abetted by the wife of this man who had stated that by his illicit relationship he would make Esther Mitchell the mother of the second Christ, this 17-year-old girl killed the brother who had defended her. Mrs. Creffield states that the only reason she did not commit the deed herself is that the Mitchell boys were suspicious of her and that the ruse of a reconciliation with his sister was the only means by which one of them could approach near enough to fire the fatal bullet which they had spent part of their witness fees to purchase.




As told in the special editions of The Times sold on the streets last night, the tragedy occurred in the union depot at 4:25 o’clock yesterday afternoon. George and Perry Mitchell were on their way to Portland and had been accompanied to the station by their brother Fred, with whom they are not on especially friendly terms due to his too close intimacy with Holy Roller practices. He has rather sided with his father and sisters and has not been of any assistance to the attorneys who have been defending his brother.


The three entered the depot together and there saw their sister Esther standing near a pillar. George had made an effort to see her after his acquittal, but he had been unsuccessful. According to the gospel of the Holy Rollers he was impure because he was without the faith and besides that he had slain “Joshua,” the holy man. George Mitchell did not believe that his sister had treated him properly, but still, he was glad that she had relented in her fanatical bitterness enough to come to the station to say goodbye when he left the city of his trial and trouble to go back to Portland to resume work in the mills where he has spent most of his life.


And so, when he saw here there, he smiled and was glad. Fred saw her first and spoke to his brothers.


“Why!” he said. “There’s Esther.”




Dressed in a white shirt waist and light skirt, their sister approached them. She carried a jacket over her arm, and under the jacket was the revolver which Mrs. Creffield had brought at Spangenberg’s for her to kill her brother. But they couldn’t see that.


She hung back at first. She hesitated even for the purpose of carrying out her plan to speak to the boy who had stood in the shadow of the gallows to save her. Finally Fred spoke.


“Won’t you say good-bye to George before he goes away?” he said.


She stepped closer then and took her brother’s hand.


“Good-bye,” she said.


It wasn’t exactly sincere upon either side. George was disgusted and discouraged. He knew that his sister hated him for what he had done, but he hoped that a few months without the sphere of the influence of this man whom he had killed would restore his sister to a sane view of things and a realization of the fact that he had acted only as a brother and not as an enemy.


They chatted briefly. George quiet as always, had little to say, and finally Esther suggested that they walk out to the train together. On their way through the waiting room Fred asked if he might carry her coat.




She readily consented and handed it to him. The next instant, the revolver which this act revealed was leveled at George, who was walking in front of them with his brother Perry. The bullet struck just below the left ear and crashed through the brain. The boy died instantly.


As he crumpled up on the tile floor, Fred Mitchell seized his sister in his arms. She clasped him about the neck and half sank to the floor herself. Perry Mitchell fell on his knees beside the brother who has been his idol. But he could do nothing except to wring his hands while Fred kept repeating in the ear of his sister:

Esther, Esther! How could you? How could you?”


Bystanders rushed to the spot at once as the noise of the shot filled the whole of the great room. A policeman at once placed the girl under arrest and she was hurried to police headquarters. The body of George Mitchell was taken to the Bonney-Watson Co. morgue.


Shortly after the body was taken to the morgue John F. Miller, assistant prosecutor arrived. He had heard of the tragedy at his office. He refused to believe it. He had repeatedly defended the sanity of Esther Mitchell in conversations with her brother’s attorneys, Will H. Morris and Silas M. Shipley, and had resisted an intimation that he lend official aid in the effort to have her taken to Mount Vernon, Ill., with her father.


Mr. Miller rushed into the morgue and there (illegible) first a representative of the The Times. He was pale and excited.


“Is this true?” he asked.


He was told of the killing and asked to see the body.


“I can’t believe it,” he said. “I can’t believe it.”


He was taken to where the body lay on the slab. There had not yet been time to straighten out the stiffening limbs. The head was turned to one side. The newspaper man lifted it so that the man who had prosecuted him for murder but a few days ago could see the face.




“That’s the boy,” he said. “That’s the boy. My god, what is this country coming to!”


Some one started to discuss the case, but Mr. Miller would not listen.


“Let me out of here,” he insisted. “I don’t want to stay here.”


And he went to police headquarters, where he consulted briefly with Chief Wappenstein.


As soon as Esther Mitchell was brought to police headquarters she was taken into Chief Wappenstein’s private office. It required only a few words to show the officers that Mrs. Creffield had been the instigator of the crime, and detectives hurried out to find her. But almost before the men had left the woman herself called up on the telephone.


She said that she had just heard of the killing and that she was wanted. She said that she was a grocery store at 434 North Broadway and would wait there until an officer came for her.


In the meantime Esther Mitchell had made a statement to Chief Wappenstein and to Detective Frank Kennedy. Mr. Miller also talked to the girl. He asked:


“Why did you do this?”


She said: “Because it was my duty.” The girl was then taken to the county jail, while a great crowd watched at police headquarters, and shortly after Mrs. Creffield was brought into the station. She, too, was taken to the chief’s office, and also made a statement. The energies of the police were next devoted to a search for Frank Hurt, Mrs. Creffield’s brother who is now recognized as the head of the Holy Rollers, but late last night Mr. Miller returned to headquarters and after a conference with Chief Wappenstein the search was abandoned.


Mr. Miller told the chief that he was satisfied he could find Hurt at any time he was wanted as a witness and the he did not desire his arrest at this time.




This crime, which has shocked the whole community, was least surprising to Morris & Shipley, who defended George Mitchell at his trial. Day after day these two men sat in Judge Frater’s courtroom beside their client with the uneasy feeling that at any moment a bullet from the crowded court behind might strike them in the back. They had been warned and they were watching not only for themselves, but for their client.


When Mrs. Creffield left the witness stand and walked from the enclosure the eyes of neither man left her for a moment. They were afraid she had a revolver then.


As soon as word was brought to them that Frank Hurt was in town, they made effort to locate him, and finally he was pointed out in the courtroom. He was seen several times in the corridors and the two lawyers always watched closely as they entered and left the courtroom.


During the examination of witnesses the one of them who was disengaged always sat so that he could see the door and their first duty as they entered the door was to see who it was that sat behind them.


But even these men, forewarned as they were, had no idea of such a culmination of the case as this. They had no fear of Esther Mitchell. The idea that she would ever kill her brother never entered their heads. That Mrs. Creffield might attempt his life and their own, or that Frank Hurt might kill any one of them, was, they say, ever in their minds.




In speaking of the tragedy today, Mr. Morris said:


“I can only feel sorry for the two women. They are certainly insane, as I have contended all along. The prosecution would not believe us, but I will leave it to any one who has talked to them. They are absolutely crazy, and have been made so by the acts of Creffield.


“This is an awful thing, but not entirely unexpected when you consider the factors in the case. I only hope that it will end here. We have felt all along that these women should be put under restraint or cared for in some way.”


Chief Wappenstein said:

I have no doubt that Mrs. Creffield is responsible for this crime. I believe she is insane. The girl, Esther, I consider only weak-minded and entirely under the influence of the older woman. There should certainly be some provision in the law for locking such persons up where they cannot commit deeds of violence. I know they are crazy, but I don’t believe I could prove it in court, and that is the great difficulty. We can’t act until it is all over. They talk rationally and there is nothing eccentric in their appearance, but to a man of any experience who has talked to them as I have, there is no doubt of their insanity--at least upon subjects pertaining to Creffield.”


Chief Wappenstein learned this morning for the first time that the two women had revolvers during the time they were at the home of the police matron, and sent for Mrs. Kelly. She came to the station with the guns she had found and taken from the women, and which they had made efforts to get back after they were released. Mrs. Kelly had refused to allow them to have them.




The chief reproved Mrs. Kelly for her failure to notify him of the occurrence and said that had he known of it he would have had the women watched at least. In speaking of the affair afterward, he said that he was satisfied that Mrs. Kelly would not make such a mistake again, and that she had been actuated only by a desire to save the women further trouble.


There have been no legal developments in the case today, because Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh, Mr. Miller and nearly every one else involved have been occupied all forenoon with Judge Emory’s funeral. Besides that, they all seem stunned with the sudden horror of the tragedy, and have not recovered sufficiently to take any steps. The girl has no money and probably no friends who could supply money for counsel, so it is probable that counsel will have to be appointed by the court.



Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p1 1906 Remington Typewriter advertisement

Declares Esther is Surely Insane

S. M. Shipley and Will H. Morris, Who Acquitted Brother Say She Was Unbalanced When She Came to Seattle.


(In a box)

Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield will be charged jointly by Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh with murder in the first degree for the killing of George Mitchell. The information will be filed in the superior court tomorrow morning. No trial can be had until fall. If the women demand it they will be given separate trials. Otherwise they will be tried together.



That Ester Mitchell was insane when she came to Seattle after the killing of Creffield is the opinion of S. M. Shipley and Will H. Morris, who succeeded in having George Mitchell acquitted. They signed statement the two attorneys for George Mitchell declare that during the trial they feared that an attempt might be made to kill them by some of Creffield’s followers. The statement is as follows: “We met Esther Mitchell the morning of her arrival from Portland, and although without any description of her, easily identified her from among the large number of passengers, including probably over fifty ladies, by reason of her strange expression and demeanor and wild eyes, each forming the opinion upon first sight that she was mentally unbalanced.


These convictions were expressed by us at the time to the newspaper reporters and published two day’s after Esther Mitchell’s arrival in Seattle, which was five days after the shooting of Creffield.




It was our belief that during the trial there was great danger that some of the followers and believers in Creffield’s teachings might attempt to do violence to George Mitchell and possibly his attorneys or some of the important witnesses who appeared for the defense, and for that reason Mr. Morris took the precaution of standing with his back to the wall in order that he might see anyone approaching his associate, Mr. Shipley or the defendant, and when Mt. Shipley was conducting the examination Mr. Morris sat close to him with his face turned partly to the audience, in order to protect both the defendant and Mr. Shipley from any act of violence that might be attempted. The same conduct was pursued by Mr. Shipley, and in that way counsel felt that they were using only that precaution which all of the circumstances within their knowledge justified.


However, after going through the trial without any unpleasant occurrences in court, we talked the matter over and concluded that we might have been overly suspicious, and congratulated ourselves that we had been fortunate, but we still had the belief, and openly expressed it, that it was neither right nor safe to allow Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell to be turned loose upon this community. Still, it was beyond our comprehension and beyond the comprehension of the public officials to reasonably believe that such a horrible act could be perpetrated by a sister upon a brother who had been willing to sacrifice his life to protect her honor.




His attorneys, who were closely associated with George Mitchell, knew all of his characteristics. It is due him to state that never at any time did he express a feeling of hatred, malice or revenge toward the living or the dead; that at not time did he ever use a vulgar, rude or profane expression, but his conduct was gentlemanly and considerate for all persons with whom he came in contact and his paramount desire was the protection of Esther Mitchell, to whom he had a great attachment, and his older sister, Mrs. Starr the mother of the three beautiful little children who were so often seen around the court room during the trial.


The act of this brother in doing what he believed essential to ward off future danger from his sister Esther was undoubtedly prompted by the assurance which he had that they were absolutely powerless to resist the evil influences of Creffield and that the future debauching of his sister was sure to follow if not prevented, and that in the act which he did he was answering nature’s higher law of self-preservation which is superior to all human law in extreme cases.


On account of the knowledge of these conditions and influences, Mitchell’s mind up to the time of firing the fatal shots was so weakened that he was mentally irresponsible.




As much as we are horrified and regret the distressing and heartrending afflictions that have been visited upon innocent persons within the last few days within our midst, we do, however, deprecate the tendency manifested by many to be borne off from their equilibrium by these unfortunate and distressing occurrences.


It is a trite but true statement, recognized as a maxim in jurisprudence that “hard cases make bad laws.’ We feel that this community cannot afford to allow their feelings to sweep themselves so far beyond control as to prejudge the unfortunate actors in the late homicides, and thereby deprive them of that calm, fair considerate hearing which the laws of the land vouchsafe to everyone accused of crime.


We believe in the prompt and vigorous enforcement of our country’s laws, but everyone accused of crime is entitled to be tried before being convicted.




An autopsy will probably be held upon George Mitchell and it is more than probable, in our opinion, that his brain will be found to be in a normal condition. However, it may not, but men versed in medical science know that a delusion such as the evidence showed George Mitchell to have been laboring under before the time of firing the fatal shot, having been formed about ten days prior to the killing would, in the ordinary course of events, pass away after the controlling cause had been removed when the shot was fired which ended Creffield’s life.




As much as we are horrified and regret the distressing and heartrending afflictions that have been visited upon innocent persons within the last few days within our midst, we do, however, deprecate the tendency manifested by many to be borne off from their equilibrium by these unfortunate and distressing occurrences.


It is a trite but true statement, recognized as a maxim in jurisprudence, that “hard cases make bad laws.” We feel that this community cannot afford to allow their feelings to sweep themselves so far beyond control as to prejudge the unfortunate actors in the late homicides, and thereby deprive them of that calm, fair and considerate hearing which laws of the land vouch safe to every one accused of crime.


We believe in the prompt and vigorous enforcement of our country’s laws, but every one accused of crime is entitled to be tried before being convicted.



Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p2 Los Angeles Times Front Page

Esther Mitchell is Willing to Hang

Girl With Death of Brother on Her Head Says She Had Rather Let Law Exact Its Penalty Than Plead Insanity

Declares That Every Possibility of Result Was Discussed and That She Acted in Full Realization of Future.

Maud Creffield’s Only Excuse Is, “I had as Good a Right to Cause His Death as He Had to Kill My Husband.


Esther Mitchell knows the penalty the law demands shall be paid by the person who takes the life of another in cold blood. She knows that the law does not take into consideration the promptings of a mind affected by personal hatred or by a belief of personal justification. She knows that the only possible way in which she can escape the hangman’s noose is to plead insanity and in face of all this the girl who shot her own brother with as little hesitancy as would accompany any one of a hundred acts of daily routine declares that she would rather hang than plead insanity as an excuse for her crime.


“I am not insane,” she replied sharply in response to a suggestion put by a reporter for The Times, who talked to her as she stood resting her arms on the little ledge which projects from the barred door of the little cell in the county jail in which she is confined. “Before I shot my brother Mrs. Creffield and I talked it all over. We knew that we would be arrested and that the law would punish us and after my arrest I told the chief of police everything.”


“Did you know that by talking you were convicting yourself?” was asked.




“I did not care, I only told the truth. I knew that the law would not consider the reason which makes me believe that I did right and any way I don’t see what harm it can do, for I am going to be punished anyway, I suppose.”


“Do you think more of the dead man Creffield than you do of your own family?” was asked.


“He was a holy man. My brother was of the world and was defiled. It was right that he should be punished for what he did, and the law set him free.”


That was all. As calmly as though discussing some event of most ordinary character this girl had talked of what the future had in store. Question upon question had been asked and answered, and the seriousness of her position had been emphasized as well as the naturalness of what she had done. Yet never did person appear more at ease than did she.




“I have no money,” she said, “and have no friends to whom I could go it I would, and I would not. If they ask me I will say that I killed George, but will never say that I was insane. I understand that when any one has no money the court gives them a lawyer, but don’t see what is the use so far as I am concerned.”


“No, I do not know Judge Upton. The message he sent me was read to me last night, but I never heard of him in my life and I do not know why he should offer to help me. What can he do” I would not let him tell the jury I am crazy, for I am not, and you say that is the only way I can keep from being hanged.”


Reminded that it was by pleading insanity that her brother escaped punishment for killing Creffield and so obtained his liberty, the girl replied.


“Yes, he was set free, but he didn’t enjoy his liberty long, did he?”


Asked as to details of her crime and the events leading up to the moment when her hand, warm from contact with that of the brother whom she slew, leveled the revolver by which his life was snuffed out, the girl said: “What is the use of going over all that? I told everything to the chief of police.”




“Have you seen Mrs. Creffield?” she asked, and having answered in the affirmative, “How is she? Do you think they would let me see her? I would like to. Yes I volunteered to shoot George. She did not want me to, but we knew she could not do it, for they were afraid of her, and so I did.”


Led back by questioning to the danger she is in and told that despite her wishes to the contrary she would be compelled to stand trial, the girl told again of her knowledge of the law and again what it would demand from her.


Do you fully realize the punishment the law provides in case of a crime like yours? she was asked.


“What, for murder in the first degree? It is hanging isn’t it? I suppose that is what they will do with me.”


Esther Mitchell is all alone in her cell. She rested easily last night and her jailers say that so far as they know she slept soundly. She did not eat any breakfast this morning for her plate of mush and bread and the tin cup of black coffee which was sent in to her came back untouched. A window of her cell opens to the light of day and she has spent most of the time sitting with her face on her hands gazing through the bars into space.


Mrs. Creffield is in the women’s tank. All around her, as prison companions, are women who have run the gamut of all that is degrading. As she talked, Mrs. Creffield shrugged her shoulders in sort of an apology for the oaths which marked the talk of these women and coughed as she caught a whiff of smoke from the cigarette hanging from the lips of a negress who sat at a table close to the door of the tank.


Mrs. Creffield believes in the doctrine of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The only excuse she had to offer for her part in the killing of George Mitchell was based on this deduction.


“I had as much right to cause his death as he had to kill my husband. I would have done it myself, but I could not because they were afraid of me. Esther knew this and volunteered to kill him herself. At first I did not want her to, but when we had talked it over for a while, I told her to do it if she could.




“I knew I would be arrested and I was afraid I would be killed before I was locked up.”


“Why did you fear that?” was asked.


“Oh, I shouldn’t have said that,” she said hurriedly, “but I didn’t know what they would do with me.”


Asked if she feared George Mitchell’s brothers, Mrs. Creffield said she did not, and then she refused to talk upon that phase of the affair.


Mrs. Creffield, like Esther Mitchell, declares that she is not insane and says she will not consent to making that plea in extenuation of the crime. Like Esther Mitchell, Mrs. Creffield said that the matter had been discussed at length and that all danger from the law had been considered and eliminated as not worthy of consideration.


If Mrs. Creffield feels that she was justified in encompassing the death of George Mitchell from any religious motive she will not admit this to be the case.


“George Mitchell killed my husband, and I had just as good a right to kill him.”


This is the only excuse she offers in extenuation of that for which she is directly responsible.


“They can’t hang me, can they?” she asked.


“I don’t care; I will be just as happy there as I have been since my husband was killed, or as I ever can be anywhere.


This last after she had been told that it was possible to send her to the penitentiary for life.


Mrs. Creffield has made no attempt to communicate with her father. She remarked that she supposed he knew of what had happened, but that was all.


At times as she talked the woman would smile, but it was a smile of inscrutable nature, caused apparently by some inner sense which held in light consideration the realization, undisputed, that she was likely to pay the legal penalty for what she had caused to be done.




To the jail officials these two women are a revelation. Crime is an old story to these officers of the law, but never in all their experience have they had to do with prisoners who are as indifferent to what the future may have in store for them as are Esther Mitchell and Maud Creffield.


These men of the law have seen confirmed criminals haunted by the thought of what they have done; have seen thugs and murderers pace their cells at night and grow haggard and old with worry and fear and scheme as to how liberty can be obtained; but never before have they seen anyone in their charge display as great an indifference as do these two women, one a girl in her teens with the blood of a brother upon her hands and the belief that she will be hanged possessing her, and the other, a shade less guilty in the eyes of the law, but holding to her heart the satisfaction that she is avenged for a husband’s death and fully cognizant of the likelihood that prison walls will be the horizon of her world so long as she may live.



Faithfulness is thine and reverence is thine; who then can rob thee of these things? Who can hinder thee of these things? Who can hinder thee to use them if not thyself?--Epictetus



I used no ambition to commend my deeds;


The deeds themselves, though mute, spoke loud the door.--Milton



Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p2

Wagner Would Aid Women in Fight

Portland Man Offers Help, but Begs That Offer Be Kept Secret.


E. G. Wagner who lives at the Lake Charles Hotel, 89 North Fifth Street, Portland, wrote a letter yesterday to Mrs. Maud Creffield and Miss Esther Mitchell offering them any aid he could give. In his letter he refused to go into details as to his plans, but declared if the two women would furnish their address he would communicate at length with them.


Later in the day, when the news of the Mitchell killing reached Portland, Wagner wrote another letter to Mrs. Kelly, police matron, making a frenzied appeal that no one be permitted to see his letters to the women.


“I have only shown my sympathy toward dose lady’s (sic), believing them to be cast out by everybody,” he wrote to Mrs. Kelly.


The letter addressed to the police matron was written on a piece of wrapping paper, but Wagner begs the matron not to let this circumstance influence her charity toward him. “I just heard the news on my way from work and went right to the post office,” he confides to show that if he had time he could have gotten better writing paper.


Writing to Mrs. Creffield and Miss Mitchell earlier in the day, Wagner proposed:

Excuse me for not explaining myself better in this few lines. If you wrote me where I am sure of your getting mail I may be able to do you some good, at least I will do all I can for you.”


Mrs. Kelly turned over the two letters to the chief of police and he, in turn, delivered them to the sheriff. Wagner’s letter will be read to the women this afternoon.



Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p3

Murder Mania is Denounced by Lawyers

John F. Miller Sees Danger Ahead If Public Sentiment Is Not Regenerated and Fear of the Law Created.

Calls Present a Maudlin Condition in Which No Man’s Life Is Safe--Inability to Get Juries to Convict.

Long List of Homicides Cited as Showing Good Reason for Alarm--Attorney Shipley Says He Fears a Reaction.


Seattle seems to be in the grip of a mania of murder. Homicide is epidemic. The officers of the law are appalled at the series of capital crimes which has found its last chapter in the murder of George Mitchell by his young sister.


Both as a matter of enforcing the law and saving the good name of the city they are anxiously seeking some method by which this series can be stopped. It is unprecedented, they say, and alarming in its tendencies.


It was only a few months ago that George Beede shot Ray McDonald in the back on Third Avenue and inflicted a wound ordinarily fatal, but from which, after weeks in the hospital, McDonald recovered. Beede alleged that McDonald was alienating the affections of his wife and breaking up his home.


Two months ago George Mitchell killed “Joshua” Creffield near the corner of First Avenue and Cherry Street. The cause is well known.


Last Saturday night, Chester Thompson killed Judge G. Meade Emory in the hallway of the jurist’s own home because of a girl.


Yesterday afternoon Esther Mitchell killed her own brother in the Union Depot because she says that in defending her honor he besmirched her good name and killed a holy man.


When, ask the officers of the law and many citizens, is this thing going to stop, and how is it to be stopped?




“As long as public sentiment goes to extremes,” said Silas M. Shipley, who with Will H. Morris, defended Mitchell. “The result now will be that some one will be unjustly and severely punished. The rule is, generally, that after a period of clemency and mercy public sentiment swings backward and becomes brutal. I should not be surprised to see some poor devil who had killed a man in self defense sent to the penitentiary for a long term as a result of this.


“Personally, no one can deplore this succession of tragedies more than I do. Of course, I believed that our client should have been acquitted and are very much gratified that he was. In this last case, I am positive that these poor women are insane and we have tried to impress that fact upon the prosecuting attorney and others. I don’t know what can be done stop this thing. I hate to say that anyone should be made an example of because that would be sure to bring injustice.”




“Some one should be made an example of,” said Chief of Police Wappenstein. “This thing is going to far. It is the fault of the juries. We do our duty; the prosecuting attorney works hard and does his full duty--and the jury lets them go. What’s the use?


“Of course, I’m not saying that if I was sitting in the jury box, I wouldn’t have voted to free Mitchell. I think Creffield ought to have been killed. I don’t believe you can find a jury in the world to send these women to the gallows and I doubt id they will go to the penitentiary, but they should be sent to the insane asylum.


“There should be some provision for locking people up after the jury lets them go on the ground of insanity. There should be some punishment for murder. At any rate, I wish these Oregon people would kill each other on their own side of the river.


“Juries are too lenient and the law is too loose,” said Deputy Coroner Wiltsie. “I am amazed at the number of autopsies upon murdered persons which I am called to perform. This thing of allowing men and women to kill in Seattle should be stopped come way. I don’t believe in hanging a crazy man, no matter what he does, but I don’t believe he should be allowed to commit murder and then be turned loose because the jury finds that he was crazy. Such verdicts under the present condition of the law are bound to encourage crime.



Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p3

Suicide Rumor Causes Sheriff Much Trouble

Report That Esther Mitchell Had Taken Her Own Life Gains Unexplainable Credence.


A rumor that Esther Mitchell had committed suicide in her cell in the county jail this morning gained unexplainable credence shortly before noon today and for an hour or more every telephone in the sheriff’s office was kept busy by anxious people asking as to the truth of the report.


Whoever started the rumor did a good job, for it circulated to all parts of the city, many of the telephone inquiries coming from way out in the residence districts.



Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p13

Murder Causes a Sensation in Portland

Mrs. Starr, Sister of Murderess and Her Victim, Glad Fanaticism Triumphs, and Expresses No Regret.

Her Husband Satisfied That Plot Was Hatched Some Days Ago, and Originated With Wife of Dead Prophet.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p1

Mrs. Starr Smiles at Brother’s Death

Her Husband Believes Murder Was Planned With Her Knowledge


PORTLAND, Ore., Friday, July 13.-- Mrs. Burgess E. Starr, sister of George and Esther Mitchell, is rejoicing over the murder of her brother by his sister.


“I am not sorry that Esther did it. I am glad. Esther did the right thing. It was only a just retribution,” said Mrs. Starr today. “I can’t say whether I think Esther will go free or not, but she did the right thing anyhow. I can’t say whether or not I would go into another colony if it were founded by the members of my sect. We can keep faith wherever we are and worship wherever we may happen to be.”


Mrs. Starr firmly believes that the Holy Roller leader will rise from the dead. she looks for the prophet to return soon clad with superhuman powers to open the prison door, to loose the slayers of Mitchell, and to set up a glorious kingdom of Holly Rollerism on earth.



The Times Special Service.


PORTLAND, Ore., Friday, July 13.-- The news of the killing of George Mitchell by his sister Esther caused a tremendous sensation in Portland. Newspaper extras announcing the murder sold by the thousands until late in the evening. Esther is generally looked upon as insane. Where there was universal sympathy for Mitchell during his trial, there is nothing but condemnation for the sister’s crime, which is laid to the plotting of the Holy Rollers, against whom there is great indignation.


Special to the Post-Intelligencer


PORTLAND, JULY 12.--Mrs. Burgess E. Starr, George Mitchell’s married sister and one of Crefeld’s most fanatical followers, heard the story of how her sister had shot her brother from her husband, who broke the news to her at their home at East Main and Seventh streets, this evening. There was a struggle of emotions for mastery, and then fanaticism dominated the natural impulses of a sister. Her lips parted in an odd smile.


Mrs. Burgess E. Starr knew her brother was to be assassinated in the event of his acquittal is the belief of her husband and others familiar with the case. While in Seattle she had several talks with Esther, and, in view of their active interest in Rollerism, it is not believed the idea of avenging Creffield’s timely end was withheld from her.


(Seattle Daily Times) That her brother killed the loathsome Creffield because of his pernicious power her did not seem to add to Mrs. Starr’s interest in George Mitchell. Creffield’s influence seemed to have had the same effect upon her as on Esther--that of poisoning all natural instincts.


(Seattle Post Intelligencer) That her brother killed Crefeld because of his pernicious power over her did not seem to add to her interest in George. Crefeld’s influence seemed to have had the same effect upon her as on Esther, that of poisoning her natural instinct.




She is the woman who deserted he babies in the dead of night to answer Creffield’s summons to the barren camp on the Pacific Coast, in Lincoln County. Only yesterday morning, when George was expected in the city, she told her husband not to bring him around the house under any circumstances.


Mrs. Starr was expecting George Mitchell on the afternoon train that arrives in Portland at 4:30 o’clock. He was keeping a lookout for him when he heard the news of the tragedy. It was a severe blow to him, and he feared it would unnerve his wife completely to learn of the dire tragedy of brother and sister. For this reason, he saw to it that she did not receive copies of special editions containing accounts of the killing.


After supper he concluded she had better be told of the tragedy.


“Can you stand to hear some terrible news” he asked her.


“I think I can, what is it?” she replied.


“Prepare for the worst,” he said.


“I am ready to hear anything you have to tell.”


“Then, Esther killed George this afternoon.”


Her lips tightened and a strange look appeared on her face, Starr said. It was the natural emotion of a sister at hearing of a brother’s death. But it passed in a flash. In another moment she was smiling happily and playing with her little girls, two red-faced healthy little tads of 6 and 8, in plaid calico dresses and bare feet.


Today Mrs. Starr was in smiles. Her manner was that of one who takes a happy view of life and has no worries. It was not improbable she experiences satisfaction in the knowledge that Edmund Creffield’s death had been avenged at the cost of her brother’s death.


Yesterday an effort was made to talk with her on the subject, but she said smilingly she had nothing whatsoever to say to the newspapers. The fact that the press seemed antagonistic to Creffield has frequently aroused her resentment, her husband stated.


Mrs. Starr, who attended the Mitchell trial at Seattle as a witness from beginning to end, is satisfied the plot to kill George Mitchell was hatched some days ago. He also believes its originator was Maud Hurt Creffield, widow of the Holy roller prophet, and that it was originally intended she should kill Mitchell. The result of the trial, however, determined the plotters as to their course of action.


Mitchell having been acquitted of murder on the grounds of insanity, and mental aberration having been shown as a family trait, Mr. Starr believes they figured Esther would be entitled to the same plea and consideration in the event of a trial for murdering her brother. To incite Esther to this act would have been no difficult task, it is believed. throughout the trial she condemned her brother, and when called as a witness for the defense, declined to go into court at first, as did Mrs. Starr. When she did appear she refrained from making any statements that might aid George. Creffield’s strange power dominated her mind completely.


When she was removed from Creffield’s clutches and taken to the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid society two years ago, the girl persisted in Holy roller practices, rolling about the floors and remaining up nights to pray. When forced to go back to bed by the matron she would submit, but at the first opportunity would get out of bed and begin her insane antics again.


Those who know the facts of the case best say it was Creffield’s selection of her to become the mother of a second Christ who, Creffield declared, was soon to visit the earth, that served more than anything else to take away her reason. Because Esther was kept away from the holly Roller and his followers she became embittered towards all her relatives excepting Mrs. Starr, who shared her beliefs.


“George should have been on his guard,” said Starr. “He had seen enough of Rollerism to know that there might be danger. It hardly occurred to me that his own sister would kill him, but I cannot say that I was a great deal surprised when I heard what had happened.


“A few days before the trail was ended Maud Hurt Creffield had a talk with her father, O. V. Hurt, in which she told him that she would have killed Mitchell had she been armed, when her husband was shot down. She also said she had been carrying a gun in anticipation of trouble, but had left it behind on the morning of the tragedy. She added that she was not so sure she would not kill him yet. It was not thought, though, she really meant to carry out the act.”




“Do you think, from what you have seen of them, that these Holy rollers are insane?” Starr was asked.


“I can’t say that I do,” was the reply. “They act ‘off’ on religion but when they get together they don’t talk like crazy people. I believe they figured George’s murder out carefully as to who would stand the best chance of getting acquitted by law for killing; George. It had been proved that there was insanity in the Mitchell family, in fact, Esther was shown to have been out of her mind. This was one of the things that got Mitchell off. No doubt, Maud and Esther Mitchell figured this out between them and acted accordingly.


“It is possible they had the advice of Frank Hurt, Maud’s brother, who was at the trial. Frank was a Creffield follower up to the last and has not yet renounced his Holy Rollerism. He did not talk much about the case while he was in Seattle, and was not put on the witness stand at all.


“I would not be surprised,” concluded Starr, “if they had the financial aid and advice of Sampson Levins, who is said to be trying to take up Creffield’s work in British Columbia. He wrote to Maud a few days before the trial ended, offering her any assistance in his power. It is said he offered to support her is she would join him, but this she denied at the time. Levins was one of Creffields’s worst fanatics, and was run out of Corvallis. He was at Oregon City a few months before going to British Columbia. The two Seeley sisters, Corvallis girls and Creffield victims, went to British Columbia about the same time.


Esther Mitchell worked in the woolen mill at Oregon City for a short time and left about the time that Creffield was killed. The girl did not secure the pay and David Adelstein, superintendent of the tailoring department, now has a check payable to her.



Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p13

Brothers Will Testify Against Esther Mitchell

Crazed with Grief, They Stay in Seattle to Render Aid to the Prosecution.


Perry Mitchell and Fred Mitchell, the brothers of George Mitchell, will appear as Witnesses against their sister, Esther when she is tried for the murder of George. They are remaining at the Stevens Hotel in order to give aid to the prosecution in avenging George Mitchell’s death and punishing Esther Mitchell and Creffield’s widow for the part they played in the murder.


Both the brothers are crazed with grief. Since the killing they have spent their time in their room weeping. Perry, who was one of the main witnesses for his brother, takes his death much harder than Fred, the younger brother. They refuse to discuss the killing.




Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p13

Was One of Most Fanatical of Sect


Seattle Star 7/13/1906 p7

Do Not Believe Hurt Implicated


Esther Mitchell Was Even in the Earlier Days Most Enthusiastic in the Practice of Teaching of Holy Rollerism.

Father-in-Law of Creffield Says He is Not Surprised to Hear of Killing of Prophet’s Slayer by Sister.


CORVALLIS, Friday, 7/13/1906-- Far from being ended, the Holy Roller craze seems but fairly begun. A number of followers of Creffield still remain here and a general renewal of the movement and a fervent outburst of the half smothered faith on the part of these people is expected.


They all express gratification over the crime.


O. V. Hurt said this morning:

I knew my daughter and Esther Mitchell were carrying loaded guns when I was in Seattle. They told me they would walk to Walla Walla to see Mitchell hanged. The next thing I expected to hear is that Maud has committed suicide.


(Seattle Star) Frank Hurt, from Seattle, wired the news of the killing of Mitchell to his father here last night. Those here who know him best doubt that Frank Hurt is likely to be mixed up in the crime because of his lack of aggressiveness. However, he was not in sympathy with the defense at the trial, though he said nothing against Mitchell.


The feeling of satisfaction felt here over the acquittal of George Mitchell gives place to one of sorrow over the news that the slayer has been slain by the hand of his own sister. The entire population is deeply concerned.


Esther Mitchell left this town for Seattle to join Maud Hurt Creffield as soon as the news of the shooting of Creffield was received. On the subject of Rollerism she was always the most fanatical of any of Creffield’s followers. This was evident in the earlier days of the cult, when she was the most enthusiastic of all who practiced it.


It is well known that it was Esther Mitchell that Creffield originally selected to be his companion, but that the plan was disarranged by her being taken East, after which Creffield married Maud Hurt. Esther Mitchell was the first one to be committed to the Boys’ and Girls’ home, having been until that time an inmate for some time of the home of O. V. Hurt.




Then, as now and at all other times, there was a far-away look in her eyes and she had an absorbed air. Little interest was taken in affairs about her. She rarely smiled, and was never gay in disposition, however, she was kindly and gentle.


“I am not surprised to hear of this terrible affair,” said Mr. Hurt. “Esther Mitchell is, as I said in my testimony at Seattle, and have always said, ‘off’ on this subject. They were all mentally unsound on this religious business, though well balanced on all other subjects. That a freak notion to avenge Creffield in the same way that he was killed should have seized her or other pronounced followers of the cult is no more than might have been suspected.


“I was with Esther Mitchell and my daughter in Seattle all of Sunday a week ago, and was twice with them when they visited Creffield’s grave, but nothing was dropped on either occasion giving any kind of desire for revenge. But underneath this religious hallucination and controlled by it ran a current of fanaticism that I was familiar with, and which, before I left Seattle, caused me to advise George Mitchell, in case of his acquittal, to leave at once and come to Portland and there go about his business.




“I felt that something might happen and in this tragedy my fears are realized. It is a most melancholy affair.”


Esther Mitchell was eighteen years old last January. While a witness at the Seattle trial, James K. Berry of the city was asked by the Mitchell brothers to visit her and ascertain if she would consent to accompany her father and Perry Mitchell to Portland, and there keep house for them.


“I made the trip for them, and was kindly and graciously received,” said Mr. Berry. “Esther was then with the police matron. When I explained my errand she readily consented to the plan to go to Portland, but stoutly refused to go East. there was nothing in her manner at the time of the interview to lead me to anticipate such trouble as has occurred, although she was angry with her brother for the killing of Creffield, and did not hesitate to say so.


“The fact that she declared after the shooting that she was commanded by Joshua to do it; that she shot her brother in about the same spot that he shot Creffield, shows how completely she is under the spell of her betrayer still, and in all things connected with religion as crazy as a loon. On all other subjects she is well balanced and intelligent.



Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p13

Creffield’s Followers in Camp at Kiger’s Island


Holy Rollerism really took its present form during the progress of a revival service on Kiger’s Island, three miles from Corvallis, Ore. It was there that Edmund Creffield announced that a new name, that of “Joshua” must be given him, he having received a revelation to that effect. At the same revelation he was told to get rid of a fellow revivalist, Mercer, and the latter was unceremoniously ejected from the island. It was at this summer revival that practically all the peculiar doctrines of the faith were promulgated and the sect got its name for the first time of Holy Rollers on account of their protracted praying periods and their habit of rolling on the ground in the frenzy of their devotions.


Clarence & Hattie StarrClarence and Burt Starr, with their families pitched tents on Kiger’s Island in the summer of 1903, while the heads of the families went on a wood-cutting contract. Shortly afterward Mrs. Victor Hurt, their sister, came to the island with her family and she was followed by Creffield, Mercer and others of the Holy Roller Sect. It was while living on this isolated spot that Creffield, assisted by the fanatical response to his old Salvation Army utterances, conceived of the doctrines which has ended in the breaking up of so many homes and the murder of two men.


As Creffield gradually strengthened his influence over the revivalists he commenced to inculcate new teachings and steadily persecuted those who did not believe his divine relations. He claimed to have revelations which eventually divided families and caused those obnoxious to him to leave the place.


Only four men, Frank Hurt, Levens, Campbell and Brooks, remained faithful to him. All eventually deserted him, except Brooks, who stuck to him until the tar and feather episode later at Corvallis.


Personal purity had been Creffield’s teaching up to the revival on Kiger’s Island, but there he commenced to teach that wedlock was unholy and that free love was divine desire. This eventually became the principal holding of the sect and it was the inculcation of this belief that has resulted in the death of Creffield and George Mitchell. The sect was flourishing when Kiger Island was deserted for services in Corvallis at the home of Victor Hurt.



Seattle Daily Times 7/13/1906 p2

Pay Last Tribute to Memory of Jurist

Friends of Late Judge George Meade Emory Gather in Numbers at Family Residence to Attend Funeral.


In the presence of the members of the Loyal Legion, the elks, the King County bar and a large concourse of prominent men in business and professional life, the funeral of the late Judge George Meade Emory was held this morning at 10 o’clock at the residence of the family, 229 Denny Way. Services of the simplest character were rendered, being conducted by Rev. W. a. Major and Rev. J. P. D. Llwyd, clergymen who knew the sterling worth of the man cut down in his prime.


Nearly two hundred friends of Judge Emory stood under the shade trees on the lawn in front of the Emory house, and waited patiently until the last rites had been said and the last homage rendered to one whom all knew and esteemed and whom many loved dearly. These on the lawn and on the sidewalks skirting the house could hear nothing of the service, but could catch a strain now and then of the numbers rendered by the quartet.




The day was bright and a cool wind blew from the bay. On the lawn where Judge Emory only a few days ago was wont to romp with his little ones, lawyers and business men stood closely, with heads uncovered, while inside the ministers read from Holy Writ words of comfort to the sorrow stricken widow and relatives of the family. The services opened with Newman’s immortal hymn, “Abide With Me.”

“Abide with me; fast falls the eventide,

The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide!

When other helpers fail and comforts flew,

Help of the helpless, O, abide with me!”


As the first few notes came from the alcove where the singers were stationed, there was audible the quiet sobbing of women which ceased only after the song was finished, and Red. Mr. Llwyd read the beautiful funeral service of the Episcopal Church. Rev. Mr. Major read the twenty-third psalm. a prayer and a benediction ended the services at the house, save for the final hymn, “Come Ye Disconsolate.”




As the pall-bearers ranged themselves in the hallway to receive the casket, the members of the Loyal Legion, some grizzled, gray-haired veterans of the Civil War, others with almost boyish faces, stood as a guard of honor on either side of the walk leading to the house. Through this aisle the casket, completely hidden by flowers, was borne to the waiting hearse.


Mrs. Emory, on the arm of her father, Capt. F. S. De Wolfe, followed. She bore up splendidly under the ordeal. Judge and Mrs. Albertson came next and then other relatives.


Inside the hose was an enormous quantity of flowers in most elaborate and handsome designs. A great wreath in white, bearing the letter “T” was notices, and it is believed was sent by the Thompson family.


At the crematory the funeral party did not leave their carriages. The committal service of the Episcopal Church by Rev. Llwyd was read and a benediction pronounced by Rev. Mr. Major.


The members of the choir were Mrs. Farnsworth, Mrs. W. H. Whittlesey, Mr. Conant and Mr. Williams.


The pall-bearers were Frederick Bausman, Daniel Kelleher, Wilmon Tucker, W. C. Keith, E. S. Byrnes and Claude Ramsey.


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