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.
July13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Draws Gun From Under Cape and Kills Geo. Mitchell
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/13/1906 p2
Esther Mitchell Draws Gun From Under Cape and Kills Geo. Mitchell
Angeles Herald 7/13/1906 p2
Repays Brother With a Bullet
Holy Roller Girl Glories in Murder of Brother, Who Slew “Joshua” Creffield for Her Sake--Urged On by Creffield’s Widow.
SEATTLE., Wash., July 13--Esther Mitchell shot and killed her brother George, the slayer of Franz Edmund Creffield in the Union Depot at 4:20 o’clock yesterday afternoon, as George and his brother Perry were on their way to take a northern Pacific train for Portland.
Miss Mitchell was walking behind the two brothers in company with a third brother, Fred. She had gone to the depot for the purpose of killing her brother, and though she greeted him with a smile and a hearty handshake, she loitered behind to get her opportunity. A revolver purchased the day before by Mrs. Creffield for the assassination was carried concealed under a cape thrown carelessly over Esther Mitchell’s left arm.
Fred Mitchell offered to carry the cape and as she handed it to him, the sister raised her revolver and fired. The bullet struck young Mitchell behind the left ear and he died instantly.
BROTHER LEAPS TOO LATE
As the gun was brought up Fred Mitchell leaped to seize the weapon but he was too late. He grabbed Esther’s arm just after she fired and the girl collapsed in his arms. She stayed there until depot policemen hurried up and placed her under arrest.
Both Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield, who was arrested at 7 o’clock tonight, while on her way back from the cemetery where “Joshua” Creffield is buried, acknowledged in statements taken before Chief Wappenstein that they had conspired to kill George. Had it been necessary Esther Mitchell was prepared to follow her brother to Portland. It was this insane demand for vengeance that prompted her to refuse to accompany her father on his return to Illinois.
“I killed George because he had killed an innocent man, and because he had ruined my reputation by saying that Creffield seduced me.” Esther Mitchell declared, but both her statement and that of Mrs. Creffield indicate that the two had conspired to assassinate.
MRS. CREFFIELD, BOUGHT GUN
Mrs. Creffield prompted the shooting, and she bought the gun with which it was done. It had been agreed between them that the first one seeing George should slay him.
George and Perry Mitchell were to have gone to Portland Wednesday. In fact, George had made all arrangements to meet certain newspapermen upon his arrival. At the last moment, however, L. T. Sandell, who testified in George’s behalf at the trial, asked George and Perry to spend the night as his guests at Southeast Seattle, where a small group of Holy Rollers, including Frank Hurt and wife, reside. They did so.
Yesterday Fred Mitchell said his sister, and he told her that the departure of his brothers had been delayed. He told her they would leave Seattle at 4:30 o’clock in the afternoon. She took the gun Mrs. Creffield had purchased and went to the depot to meet them.
ESTHER TAKES BROTHER’S HAND
Perry Mitchell saw his sister standing near a pillar when he checked his grips. She had been seated near the center of the room watching for the three boys and had arisen when he passed. Perry greeted her and a moment later signaled to George, whom Esther had not seen. He approached and without words the brother and sister shook hands.
Esther offered to accompany the brothers to their waiting train and the four started down the aisle toward the door. George and Perry Mitchell were in front with Fred and Esther walking a short distance behind. Fred was at the side of Esther, but about two feet distant. She was carrying a cape thrown over her left arm, and beneath it was concealed the revolver.
Fred offered to carry the cape as the group passed down the aisle and reached for it. As he took it from Esther’s arm she whipped the revolver into her right hand, raised the gun and fired. George dropped, killed instantly.
MURDERESS COLLAPSES AFTER CRIME
Esther fell back as Fred Mitchell reached for her revolver and sat down into his lap with her arms about his neck. Fred has wrested the gun from her, but too late to prevent the killing.
By a curious coincidence
Officer Hurt, the man who arrested Mitchell when he killed Creffield, was the
depot policeman who took Esther into custody for slaying her brother. Hurt
turned her over to Officer Mason. To Mason the girl
said, answering a question:
I am George Mitchell’s sister and I shot him.”
“Why did you do it?” asked Mason.
“I will make my statement later on,” said the girl calmly. She did not show any emotion.
Hundreds of curious spectators attracted by the shooting thronged the depot, surrounded the jail and fought for admittance at the morgue where Mitchell’s body lay. But so far as possible the police kept the crowd away. Chief of Police Wappenstein detailed special squads to drive back people.
BITTER AGAINST FRANK HURT
Perry and Fred Mitchell were brought to the station later. Perry sobbing bitterly, but Fred bearing up under the strain without manifesting emotion. Between his sobs, Perry begged that the police relieve Esther of blame, declaring that she was deluded and irresponsible. But he cried for vengeance against Frank Hurt, whom he accused of supplying Esther and Mrs. Creffield with money, and Mrs. Creffield, whom he declared must have inspired the girl.
“Don’t blame Esther,” he said. “She was not responsible. It’s Mrs. Creffield. Esther has been prevailed upon to do this. She thought it was right. When I saw her at the depot she came toward me as though she was glad. She greeted George without saying anything, but in a manner that indicated that she was ready to be reconciled.
“Then she volunteered to walk to the door with us and we started ahead of her with Fred and Esther following. She shot George,” he ended with a sob.
Fred Mitchell supplemented the statement with an explanation that he had gone to see Esther in the morning to effect a reconciliation. She declared to him again that she felt a deep resentment toward George and did not believe the family had treated her properly in giving family details publicity. But she received the statement of George and Perry’s intending departure with apparent interest.
At that time she did not
indicate any intention of going to the depot. Later Perry Mitchell dictated
this statement to the Chief of Police:
At the depot I went to check my grip and when I came back I saw Esther standing behind the pillar there, looking around the crowd, seemingly looking for us.
“Looked as if nothing was the matter. I said,
‘Why, Esther.’ She said
‘I just came down to see you off.’
“Just then I motioned for George. He came up and spoke to her. (She made the remark to the matron that she wanted to see George.) George shook hands with her there.
’I will walk out to the door with you.’ George and I walked on ahead, talking. She dropped back and Fred was by her side.
“Fred said to her:
Let me carry your coat’--she had a coat over her arm and seemingly had a gun in her hand. And she said,
‘All right,’ and like a flash shot him before we had time to even think.”
Arriving at the police station, Miss Mitchell, apparently unconcerned, walked without assistance into the office of the Chief of Police. As she passed two newspaper men requested an interview, but she retorted “I was told not to talk to newspaper men” and that was the attitude she maintained after her arrest.
But to the Police Chief she
readily gave her explanation and later dictated this statement to Detective
Kennedy, called in to get a stenographic report of her confession:
Mrs. Creffield and I had talked over the matter of killing George. The one that had the best chance was to do it. Mrs. Creffield bought the gun at Second Avenue and Union Street. We were at the room about 4 o’clock this afternoon and I thought that I would have a better chance to do it than Mrs. Creffield, as my brother George wanted to see me, and I believed that he would think nothing about me going to the depot. Then Mrs. Creffield gave me the gun and I was to do it. We agreed that it was to be done as soon as possible.
MRS. CREFFIELD LOOKED FOR VICTIM
“Mrs. Creffield had been out once or twice looking for George, and if she had got the chance she would have done it, and I would have done the same. The first one that got a chance was to do it. I would have done it before if I had got a chance.
“I took the gun yesterday and my brother Fred walked with me down to the depot when my father went away.
“They wanted me to see George, and I didn’t want to, because I couldn’t get the gun unwrapped. I had the gun wrapped up and concealed, and I refused to see George.
“When I went home I took the gun and placed it under the mattress. Then I took it out about noon today and kept it with me. My brother Fred was up to my room today and said that Perry and George were going to Portland at 4 o’clock. I went to the depot and saw Perry get his ticket, and I followed him.
“At last I saw George, and I shook hands with him and I was walking to the door with him. He and Perry were walking in front and Fred and I were walking behind.
“At that time I had the gun in my coat, having removed it from my bosom, where I had it concealed.
“Fred offered to carry my coat, and I told him ‘all right.’
“Then I was walking to the door and George was in front of me.
JUST THE CHANCE SHE WANTED
“It was just the chance I wanted and I shot him.
“My brother Fred grabbed me and I sat down on his lap and put my arms around his neck. I sat there and the officer came.
“I do not regret doing it. I am glad I did it.
“I fired once, and tried to fire another, but there was such a loud noise made by the crowd I don’t know whether I fired again or not.
“I shot him in the head, and I knew if I hit where I intended it was sure death.
“I intended to follow him to Portland if I did not shoot him here.”
Acting under instructions from Deputy County Attorney John F. Miller, who had prosecuted her brother, Dr. J. B. Loughary made an examination of the girl to test her sanity. His report was that she was sane except on the question of the Holy Rollers creed.
When Mr. Miller entered the Chief’s office to see Esther he asked her if she knew him, and she promptly replied: “Yes, Mr. Miller. I know you.”
REASONS FOR KILLING
Later, as she was being taken away in a carriage to the County Jail, Miss Mitchell declared to Chief Wappenstein: “I killed George because he killed an innocent man and ruined my reputation by saying that Creffield had seduced me.”
Esther was taken to the County Jail in a private carriage, and she asked that the blinds be drawn to shield her from the curious crowd. Police Matron, Mrs. Kelly supported her as she emerged from the Chief’s office, but the girl’s steps were firm and her attitude showed she did not need assistance. Sheriff Smith was in charge of the girl.
Orders were given for the arrest of Mrs. Creffield immediately after Esther Mitchell had been taken. Detectives failed to find her at the lodging-house where she had stayed with Miss Mitchell. Half an hour later Mrs. Creffield telephoned from a grocery store at 434 North Broadway to Police Captain Sullivan, saying she would remain there until an officer called. She announced she presumed she was wanted.
HEARD OF MURDER ON STREET
When Detective Brown found Mrs. Creffield at the grocery store, she declared she had seen two “plain-clothes men” approaching the house as she left and thought they might want to see her. She insisted that she had been to the cemetery to visit “Joshua” Creffield’s grave, and on her way back heard the crowd on the street discussing George Mitchell’s killing. Then she left the car and telephoned the police.
“Will you see these reporters,” Chief Wappenstein asked her at the police station. “No,” she responded. “Tell them to go up and see the other fellow they sympathized with so much.”
Later she reiterated her refusal to talk, but she did tell the Oregonian correspondent that she had planned the killing and that she walked the streets yesterday looking for George Mitchell. In her statement dictated to Kennedy, she tells all this in greatest detail. Her statement reads:
ESTHER VOLUNTEERS TO SHOOT
“As soon as George Mitchell shot my husband, I made up my mind to kill him.
“I talked with Esther after the trial, and told her that I didn’t think I was going to get a chance to kill him; that they were suspecting me--at least that was what I understood from what I heard.
“At first I wasn’t willing to let her, but afterward I became willing to let her do it. When I got the gun I intended to do it myself. I got the gun Wednesday morning--am not sure, but I think it was Wednesday.
“Every once in a while I spoke to her about killing George. Sometimes, my courage was weak, and then the papers came out and praised him so, I got courage again and made up my mind to do it. Today, when Esther left me, she left with the understanding that if she got a chance at the depot she would kill him.”
“Why did she become determined to kill him? Was it an understanding between her and you that he was to be killed by either of you?” asked Detective Frank Kennedy who was taking the woman’s statement in shorthand.
PLANNED AFTER THE TRIAL
“Not until after the trial,” replied Mrs. Creffield. “Before the trial I was determined that I would do it.’”
“Yesterday, when I bought the gun I intended to kill him. When I got back with the gun I told Esther I though they were suspecting me, and were watching me, and that I wasn’t going to get a chance. Esther said she would do it for me and I told her I would be glad if she would, and that I was determined he had to die.
“Today, Esther got the gun and put it in her bosom about 1 o’clock. I told her not to put it next to her because perspiration would rust it. She said she would fold a cloth next to her. I told her I would be greatly relieved when I heard that she had killed him. Esther told me that she was going to Portland if she didn’t get an opportunity to kill him here. I told her to telephone me and let me know if she went to Portland.
GAVE THE GUN TO MITCHELL GIRL
“When I heard the jury said ‘not guilty’ I went up to Esther’s room and told her I would kill him. Wednesday I went down and got the Post-Intelligencer and saw it was so.
“I went down to Second Avenue and Union Street and bought the gun and took it up and loaded it, and I told Esther from what was said--what I heard--they suspected me and I don’t think I would get a chance to kill him. She said she would do it then, and I told her I would be glad if she could.
That Esther Mitchell had planned to accept her brother’s charity, if need be to accomplish his death, was shown tonight by a statement from Chief of Police Wappenstein. When the police matron searched the girl she found only a few cents in money upon her person and no railroad ticket.
ESTHER HAD NO MONEY
Esther and Mrs. Creffield both say the girl was to follow George Mitchell to Portland, if need be, to kill him. Before going, Esther was to telephone to Mrs. Creffield, and the fact that the widow of “Joshua” only escaped from the boarding house where she lived as the detectives were entering the place to arrest her, shows she remained there in anticipation of such news. Without money, Esther Mitchell had to depend upon her brother’s charity to take her to Portland.
INTENDED TO ASK GEORGE FOR MONEY
There is no question, from the statements of Esther, but that she intended to appeal for funds to make the trip if it became necessary. She would have borrowed from George or one of his brothers that she might kill the man who shot down Creffield.
The police believe that if the opportunity had not come as it did, Esther Mitchell would probably have shot on the train before the party reached Portland, a chance would certainly have been given, unless a chance exposed the gun and disclosed the plot. The heartlessness or insanity of the plot to murder has shaken even Chief Wappenstein, a thief-catcher and officer since he was 14.
Curiously enough, though the feeling that runs through official circles is one of pity for the officers all believe both Mrs. Creffield and Miss Mitchell insane on the Holy roller creed. A lunacy commission is apt to be called to examine both women, though the State’s Attorney has already tested Miss Mitchell
NO FAVORS FOR MRS. CREFFIELD
The courtesy that was shown Esther Mitchell in sending her to the County Jail in a private carriage was not extended to Mrs. Creffield. She was bundled over in the patrol wagon in company with several police officers, after her examination in the Chief’s office had been concluded.
Both the police and the County Attorney’s office hold Mrs. Creffield responsible more than Miss Mitchell for the crime. In law, she is an accessory before the crime, and as guilty as Miss Mitchell.
Deputy County Attorney Miller did not see Mrs. Creffield after her arrest. He had gone to the morgue, when the body of Mitchell was carried there, bewildered at the story of the crime. He would not believe the report until a newspaper man accompanied him into the room where George Mitchell lay.
OFFICIALS ARE HORRIFIED
“My God, what is the country coming to,” exclaimed the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney as he gazed at Mitchell’s lifeless form. Then he turned away and hurried to the police station, pale and almost unnerved.
Silas M. Shipley of the firm of Morris & Shipley, who so successfully defended Mitchell during the trial, states that he strongly advocated before Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Miller that Esther Mitchell be place in the custody of her father. He says that Police Matron Kelly said to him in the presence of Superior Judge Frater and Mr. Miller, that the best thing to do would be to get Esther Mitchell out of the city and away from all influences connected with the case.
It was then said that Miss Mitchell ought to go east to relatives with her father. She refused to go, saying she wished to stay here. It was then that the question of taking her away by force was brought up.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Miller, in reply to a question, stated that if such an attempt was made to take Esther Mitchell out of the city his office would in nowise interfere or take action.
The police matron with whom Miss Mitchell stayed advocated her return to the East, and urged upon the County Attorney that her father carry her away. But neither Mitchell’s attorneys nor the County Prosecutor believed there was anything more serious to confront than the problem of caring for a deluded girl.
County Attorney Mackintosh, when told of the shooting, was dumbfounded.
“It is almost too terrible to believe.” he said. “However, I can’t say that I am surprised. Nothing in that case would surprise me. I told the jury that if Mitchell was freed, that it would mean other killings in the case. I firmly believed it. You see that my prediction has come to pass.”
Immediately after the killing became known a story spread that the Prosecuting Attorney’s office had been advised Tuesday that Esther Mitchell should be at once taken into custody, as she might do some harm. Deputy Prosecutor John F. Miller stated that no such advice had been given the office, and that no one had made any application for Esther Mitchell’s arrest.
STORY OF EYEWITNESS
L. T. Sandell, with whom the
Mitchell boys spent last night, was with them at the depot. He called at the
police station after Mrs. Creffield had been taken and said:
I went to the depot to bid good-bye to George and Fred (sic) who were going to Portland. A short time after we reached the waiting-room, and after George and Fred had gone to check a grip, I saw Esther step into the waiting-room. At first, she did not see us. She stepped over near the south entrance and stood by one of the pillars.
Presently Esther saw Perry and me talking. She came over toward us. We went toward her. Perry placed his arm around his sister and kissed her.
In a moment George and Fred came into the room. They walked toward us and George offered his hand to Esther, who coolly shook it.
“Just then the depot master announced the departure of the train, and we all started to the gate. Esther said that she would go to the train with us. We almost walked arm in arm, although George and Fred were a little in advance of us. Perry, Esther and I were close together, and Esther was directly behind George.
“Suddenly, and without the least warning I saw Esther pull a revolver from under her cape, and she aimed it directly at the back of George’s head. I jumped at the pistol, but did not reach it in time. The gun was discharged. George uttered a cry and fell over backward almost at our feet.
“Esther turned, still holding the smoking revolver, stepped back a few paces, and fell into on of the seats, her weapon dropping beside her. Perry grabbed his sister, and two or three officers ran up and took her in charge.
(Under this is, what is obviously an ad “Fair face, white hands, satin skin given by Satin skin cream and powder, 25¢.”)
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Telegram (Portland) 7/13/1906 p1
Esther Mitchell Says She is Not Insane
Esther Mitchell Says She is Not Insane
Hang Than Go Free On That Plea
Avenger Of Creffield Avows Full Malice And Is Ready For Consequences.
(In a box)
SEATTLE, Wash., July 13.--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 by his Sister Esther. The information will be filed by Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh this morning. The trial cannot occur before fall. Both women will be tried together unless they demand a separate trial.
SEATTLE, Wash., July 13.--Fully cognizant of the punishment the law demands for the crime of murder in the first degree, Esther Mitchell declares she had rather be hanged than obtain liberty, or even immunity from law, on the ground of insanity.
“I am not insane,” she insisted this morning, “and before shooting my brother I gave all the possible results the fullest consideration.
“I knew that I would be arrested, and that the excuse I had for doing what I did would not be considered by the court.”
to a question as to whether or not she though more of the dead Holy Roller leader, Creffield, than she did of the members of her own family, the girl replied that Creffield was a holy man, and that her brother George was defiled.
She admitted that she had, as was stated by Mrs. Maud Creffield, volunteered to kill her brother, knowing that Mrs. Creffield would not be able to do it.
The girl, during the conversation, evinced no emotion, and stated that she was willing to plead guilty to the crime of murder in the first degree and take her punishment. She said she had no money and knew no one who would lend her any financial assistance if she wanted any, which she says she does not.
Mrs. Creffield is also willing to submit to whatever punishment may be in store for her. She, too, declared that she is perfectly sane, and the only excuse she offers for her share in the killing is that she was as justified in bringing about the death of George Mitchell as he was in killing her husband.
“I would have killed him myself if it had been possible,” she said, but I knew it was not, and after we had talked about it, Esther Mitchell volunteered to do it for me. After some hesitation I let her do it. I expected to be punished at the time, and expect to now. I have no money, and will not admit that I am crazy, for I am not. I am just as happy here as I have been at any time since my husband was killed, and I don’t care what comes now.”
The women are kept separated in the jail. Esther Mitchell being confined by herself in a small cell just off the jail office, while Mrs. Creffield is in the woman’s ward. They have seen none of their friends.
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/13/1906 p1
Mrs. Starr of Portland Declares Esther Mitchell, Her Sister, is Sane
Seattle Star 7/13/1906 p7
“Sister Smiles Over Murder.” 13 July 1906. p7.
Mrs. Burgess Starr Shows Only Amusement When Told Of Brother’s Death At Hands Of Other Sister--Will Testify For Esther.
PORTLAND, Ore., July 13.--That Holy Rollerism destroys all respect for family ties and the bonds of kinship and love is evident from the view of Mrs. Burgess E. Starr takes of the murder of her brother, George Mitchell, by her sister, Esther.
As far as any display of sisterly emotion or live is concerned, the avenger of her honor might have been a mad dog running about the streets and laid low by bullet, for the assassination of her brother has aroused in her no sorrow, and her attitude, as displayed this morning, when she discussed the latest tragedy of “Holy Rollerism,” was entirely in keeping with her statement, two days ago, that George Mitchell should have been punished for the murder the same as any other criminal.
[(Seattle Star). . . the assassination of her brother has aroused in her no more sorrow than the death of a mongrel cur might have done.]
She will not attend her brother’s funeral and will not contribute to a monument for his memory, if the public should decide to erect one, but she will go to Seattle to offer all the solace and aid she can to her sister if she is sent for.
She will also testify in Esther’s behalf if subpoenaed, and is not the least surprised that Creffield’s slayer was killed.
(Evening Telegram (Portland)) That she knew more or less about the plot to kill her brother in case he was acquitted of the murder of Creffield is entirely within the bounds of belief, but that she was a party to the fiendish conspiracy to end his life is not so clear.
Her husband believes she knew more or less about it. She evades the charge.
WAS NOT SURPRISED
“I heard about George’s death last evening,” she said, this morning, “and I am not a bit surprised that he was killed.”
“Did you know that there was a plan on foot to kill him if her were acquitted?”
“I don’t care to answer that.”
“Didn’t you discuss the matter with your sister, Esther, while you were in Seattle?”
“I talked with her about the trial a good many times.”
“Wasn’t the plot to kill George mentioned in any of these talks?”
“They say you knew all about it over in Seattle.”
“Who says so?”
“George’s friends. Mr. Hurt thinks so, and your own husband hints at it.”
“Oh, they don’t know what they are talking about.”
“Now, Mrs. Starr, did you or did you not know that George was to be killed?”
“I suppose almost anything might have happened.”
“Don’t you know that Mrs. Creffield and your sister Esther and perhaps others intended to put George out of the way, and that Mrs. Creffield was selected to do the deed, and don’t you know that Esther was picked out to do it because she could plead insanity?
SAYS SISTER IS NOT CRAZY
“Esther is not crazy. Anybody that has ever talked with her knows that she is not crazy. It is nonsense to talk about her being insane. It is ridiculous.”
“Will you attend George’s funeral?”
“No!” with emphasis.
“There is a movement on foot to erect a monument in his memory. Will you help any?”
A rift of amusement softened the serious expression on her face, but she did not answer.
“Have you heard from Esther since the murder?”
“No, I haven’t”
“Will you go over to Seattle to help her, or attend the trial?”
“I can’t say. I presume I will go if I am needed and can get away.”
“You probably know that Mrs. Creffield and your sister Esther hunted two days for George looking for a good chance to kill him, don’t you.
I”I haven’t read the morning paper.”
“You know that Mrs. Creffield bought the revolver that was used in killing him, don’t you?”
“People don’t know what they are talking about.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Pressed for an answer she turned away and resumed the work of tidying the kitchen. she said she did not care to talk about the matter further, admitting as a final statement that she had not heard from Levins, the “Holy Roller,” who is supposed to be planning to start a new camp for the cult in British Columbia.
(Seattle Star) Mrs. Starr deserted her husband and children to follow the Holy Roller after he was liberated from the penitentiary, where he served a two-year sentence for intimacy with her.
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/13/1906 p2
Esther Mitchell Draws Gun
AN ABRIDGED VERSION OF THE SAME ARTICLE ALSO APPEARED IN
Corvallis Times 7/13/1906 p3
Shot to Death
by a Sister’s Hand--Acquitted by Court, but Condemned and Executed by Fanatic.
MISS MITCHELL AT CORVALLIS
Esther Mitchell’s start in Rollerism was at Corvallis. Her father is a Salvation Army officer in Illinois, and the family in several instances has an over allowance of what might be called frenzied religious enthusiasm. Esther was a girl with a far away look in her eyes, a dreamy, absorbed expression as though not in complete harmony with this wicked world. She was given much to silent though and was but rarely seen in smiles. In disposition she was gentle and kindly, especially with her more intimate friends. She is of slight build, medium height, and dark hair. In appearance she is described as slightly, perhaps more than good looking. She passed her eighteenth birthday last January. She was always a bosom friend of Maud Hurt Creffield. She was with Creffield and the other followers of that illustrious wretch in the camp on the island that first fatal summer when Rollerism originally appeared. She was the most ardent worshiper of them all. She was more fanatical than any of the others, according to the statement of those familiar with the facts. There is no doubt that she was originally slated by him to be the companion of Creffield, probably his wife. It was testified to on the witness stand at Seattle that Creffield planned for her to be the mother of a new savior. When her family put her in the Boy’s and Girl’s home at Portland and after that took her East, the plan was disarranged, and Creffield wedded Maud Hurt.
FLEW TO SEATTLE.
Esther Mitchell was taken from Corvallis to the Boy’s and Girl’s home, and was the first one of the sect to go from this town. She went first to the home of a private family in Portland and after a day there, walked out to Carlton and there took the train to Corvallis. Her elder sister, Phoebe Mitchell, followed and got Esther in Corvallis taking her at one to the Boy’s and Girls’ Home. Esther went unwillingly, and it was with the greatest of difficulty that she could be restrained at the Home. She made a good deal of trouble there for the authorities, and Mrs. Gardner, wife of the superintendent, became afraid of her, on account of her fanaticism, which it was feared might take a violent form.
After the killing of Creffield, Esther Mitchell went from Corvallis to Seattle. She came out with the others on the cult in a wagon from the ill starred coast camp. The next day she took the train for Seattle to be with Maud Hurt Creffield, and where during the trial and since she has contrived to be a conspicuous example of the deadly influence of the damnable Creffield upon those who believed in him.
Incident to Esther Mitchell’s last journey to Seattle is the untold story of Creffield’s flight from the Coast. He was along with his other villainies, a white-livered coward, and when he found that Lewis Hartley was after him, he hurried with all his haste down the beach in a flight for his life. He did not stop at the camp, except to bid the outfit goodbye, but pushed on into the mountains in an easterly direction, headed for Eugene. To the latter town he fled precipitately, traveling on foot, and almost without food, by day and night. At Eugene he took a train for Portland and thence for Seattle. On the Sunday in which Creffield was conducting his masterly retreat, George Mitchell was in Corvallis in consultation with Creffield’s victims here. About the same time a Corvallis man, armed with a Winchester was watching the Alsea passes for the appearances of the fugitive in his flight from the coast. Had they met, Seattle would have been spared the trial and the two tragedies. Creffield, however, eluded observation, and escaped to Seattle where, after all his pains, a righteous vengeance over took him.
GEORGE MITCHELL AT CORVALLIS
It was on a Sunday that George Mitchell was in Corvallis. It was the following day that Maud Hurt Creffield passed over to Albany from Yaquina on the C. & E., and it was that evening that George Mitchell and a Corvallis man searched the trains at Albany. They missed Creffield, but they did not miss him much. He passed that way, but just when, nobody knows. He may have been secreted; he may have been on the blind baggage; in his feverish state of nervous fear that his crimes were overtaking him, he was capable of any abject ruse to evade the evenhanded justice that was fast seeking him out.
At Seattle, several Corvallis people were in touch with Esther Mitchell. O. V. Hurt spent one Sunday with her and Maud Creffield in one of the parks of the city. They had lunch together, and the day was given over to recreation. Maud Creffield chatted sometimes almost gaily, but Miss Mitchell rarely smiled. She was kindly, but the far away look shone dreamier than ever and the self-absorption was deeper than usual. No mention was made of the passing events, though at the same moments the great trial was on, and the fires of revenge were undoubtedly smoldering in both women. Aside from the subject of Rollerism, both at the time were mentally sound as anybody. On tow other occasions Mr. Hurt accompanied them to Creffield’s grave on which they placed flowers.
MISS MITCHELL’S STATEMENT
After her arrest, Esther Mitchell made the following statement:
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/13/1906 p8
Mrs. Creffield Loaded Down With Weapons to Kill Geo. Mitchell
SEATTLE, Wash., July 13 Mrs. Creffield while in Seattle, had three revolvers in her possession at different times. After the killing of “Joshua” she took a revolver from her room. This she turned over to the police matron after her arrest as a witness. While in the custody of the police matron and under the closest surveillance, she succeeded in obtaining another weapon. This she gave to the matron Monday night when she was released. Wednesday morning she purchased at Spangenberg’s cutlery store the gun with which Esther Mitchell killed her brother. She bought the revolver Wednesday morning at 7:30 o’clock, a few minutes after the store opened. She told the clerk she wanted the weapon to keep around the house.
Tuesday night, when Mrs.
Creffield returned to the police matron’s house to get some clothes she had
left there, she asked for the return of the two revolvers. The police matron
refused to give them to her. She then said:
Why you might as well give them to me. I have money enough to buy another.”
The revolver with which the killing was don was bought with part of the witness fees paid Esther Mitchell and Creffield’s widow as witnesses at George Mitchell’s trial.
E. G. Wagner, who lives at the Lake Charles Hotel in Portland, wrote a letter yesterday to Mrs. Maud Creffield and Esther Mitchell, offering them any aid he could give.
Later in the day, when the news of the Mitchell killing reached Portland, Wagner wrote another letter to Mrs. Kelley, police matron, making a frenzied appeal that no one be permitted to read his letter to the women.
“I have only shown my
sympathy toward the ladies believing them to be cast out by everybody,” he
wrote to Mrs. Kelley. Writing to Mrs. Creffield and Miss Mitchell earlier in
the day, Wagner proposed:
Excuse me for not explaining myself better in these 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.”
“My act in writing to Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell was one which I believe any Christian might consider it his duty to do so,” said Mr. Wagner when seen at the St. Charles Hotel in this city this afternoon. “I did not offer them any money or any material aid of any sort in the letter. I did not offer to give them a home.
“I felt down in my heart that these two women, still mourning the death of their spiritual leader might need some comfort in their distress, and I tried to give it to them. I do not know them, but felt sorry for them. I advised them in a spirit of friendliness to go away where they were not known until all the excitement and worry the tragedy had brought upon them had worn away, and that if I could do anything to help make their burden less grievous to bear, I would be only too glad to do it.”
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/13/1906 p6
It is hardly conceivable that one vicious human being, selecting the sacred cause of religion as the agency for the indulgence of loathsome iniquity, could work more complete ruin than Creffield, the notorious Holy Roller, has done. The wrecks of families, the blasting of human character in licentious fanaticism, the evolvement of bitter hate between brother and sister, of insanity and murder, are the fruits of this creature Creffield’s evil life. the latest act in the tragedy is the intensification of the evil that has been done, and discloses to us the possibility of continued evil, wherein fanatical insanity will clothe crime with sanctity.
The entire Holy Roller episode is abnormally horrible. Society well understands the baseness of it. It was believed that with such restraint and punishment which the law could inflict Rollerism would be stamped out and be remembered only as a frightful dream. But there is evidence of persistency that is anything but encouraging. It is such as to practically convince us that the snake has been scotched, not killed.
The killing, the complete extermination of this sort of thing, has become a matter of significant concern. When women, normally intelligent and gentle in their dispositions, are transformed to moral perverts, when they can be brought to commit murder with a smile and to glorify the act as one of virtue and not of malignity, society is facing a terrible menace.
How we shall effectually deal with this menace is not an easy matter to determine. There is, perhaps, little gained in the mere statement of the difficulty. But it is essential that the difficulty should be recognized, that the inadequacy of legal provisions now applicable be appreciated. The fundamental evil in the Creffield character is apparent. The problem for society to solve, in its own defense, is how effectually to squelch that particular evil when it shows its ugly head.