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 Star

July 14, 1906: Mitchell Boys Are Done With Esther


George MitchellSeattle Star 7/14/1906 p1

Mitchell Boys Are Done With Esther

“Let Her Get Her Own Attorney. We Don’t Want to See Her Again,” Is Their Reply to Inquiry as to Their Intentions---Wish to Leave City Tomorrow to Take Brother’s Body to Mother’s Grave.


“Let Esther get her own attorney. We do not want to see her again!”


Thus spoke Fred and Perry Mitchell this morning, when asked whether they intended to stay and help their sister. The girl who murdered her own brother has quite evidently lost herself forever from the two brothers who should be nearest and dearest to her.


“That is a hard question to answer,” continued Perry Mitchell after a moment’s thought. “But I do not believe that I ever want to see the girl again. I cannot realize yet that she killed George.


SHAKES HIS HEAD Esther Mitchell


Fred Mitchell answered the query with a negative shake of his head. His action bespoke a firmness and determination that showed what ever brotherly affection he might have had was quenched when Esther Mitchell fired the shot that brought her brother’s life to such a tragic end.


The only plan which the two Mitchell boys have arranged is to take the body of George and bury it in the little family plot at Newberg, Ore., where their mother lies buried. They wish to leave with the remains tomorrow afternoon, if possible.


“There is a place there for all of us,” said Fred Mitchell, as he sat on the edge of the bed with his head buried in his hands. He spoke with resignation and seems to have conquered the first wild grief which he experienced immediately after the tragedy.


Insanity is the only defense which Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield can successfully advance when their trial is heard, according to lawyers who are familiar with the points involved. There is no such a thing as justifiable homicide in this state, and the only successful fight which can be made against a charge of murder in the first degree is to prove mental aberration.


Dr. J. B. Loughary is now engaged in making an exhaustive examination as to Miss Mitchell’s sanity and will have the girl under his observation for a short time during each day for a couple of weeks. The results of this examination, as already stated, will be made known only to the prosecuting attorney. If the girl is adjudged sane, as expected, the case will be vigorously prosecuted.


Under the conditions as they now exist, Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh looks for one of two things; either that the girl will be adjudged insane and confined in an asylum, or declared sane and convicted of the crime of murdering her brother.


Ether Mitchell
Brighid Thomas as Esther Mitchell



The duty of appointing attorneys to represent Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield in any defense they may make will devolve upon the court. In the opinion of attorneys who are familiar with the case this is the only course which will be open. Neither Mrs. Creffield or the Mitchell girl appear to have even thought of preparing for any defense.


Owing to their familiarity with the trial of George Mitchell it is anticipated that the court will appoint Attorneys Morris and Shipley for the defense. This is a peculiar position for the attorneys, who are thus called upon to defend the murderer of the boy whom they successfully defended on a similar charge previously.


“If we are asked by the court to defend Esther Mitchell,” said Mr. Shipley today, and his reply was endorsed by his law partner. “We will, of course, do so as is our sworn duty. But you can say that we will have nothing to do with the case unless we are forced to do so by order of the court.”



Seattle Star 7/14/1906 p1

Need Money for Mitchell Funeral

Star Will Receive Contributions To Help Send George’s Body To Be Buried Beside Mother.


The Star has been appealed to by many of its readers to accept contributions to aid in defraying the expense of the care of the body of George Mitchell, and its transportation to Newberg, Ore., to be buried beside that of his mother.


As already told in the Star, Fred and Perry Mitchell, the two brothers of the dead man, are in Seattle and destitute of funds. Friends whom they had hoped to come to their relief seem to have forgotten them in this hour of their severest trial.


For two days they have walked about the streets hoping against hope that someone would come to their aid. But they have walked in vain, and today noon were fearful that their brother might be sent to a pauper’s grave.


Because of this unfortunate condition of affairs The Star has consented to accept contributions. Several have already been made to this office, and these will be credited in Monday’s paper. Whatever is to be done must be completed by Monday noon, as it is desired to forward the body at that time to Oregon.



Ether Mitchell
Brighid Thomas as Esther Mitchell

Seattle Star 7/14/1906

Father’s Love is Still Alive


(In a box)


Corvallis, Ore.

Mrs. Creffield,

Care Sheriff Smith,

Seattle, Wash


What can papa do for you, dear?




With sorrow’s leaden hand upon his aching hear, the father of the woman who planned the killing of George Mitchell penned the above telegram to his daughter. A simple endearing message of few words, but it tells of the great love that is welling up in the bosom of this old man for his erring daughter.


In the twilight of his life, with the grave the only place where he may hop to forget, this kindly old man is still “papa.” It matters not that his daughter has gone beyond the pale; that she has cast him off from her love; that she has plotted murder. She is still “dear” and he is still “papa.”


Once more, in her hour of trouble she is the little innocent Maudie of his younger and happier days. She is the little girl who was his joy and pride before fate marked him for the cruelest torture in her bountiful store.


His daughter is in trouble, she is suffering, and who should attend her with loving care? Thus reasoned the noble old man who had (illegible) shame and humiliation to the last bitter dregs. His daughter has brought ignominy on his name, and glories in her transgression. She has spurned his fatherly love to follow a beast; base ingratitude has been her return for fatherly devotion--and yet the old man loves her.


Up in the county jail sits Mrs. Creffield, calm, self-possessed, without a worry for herself or anyone. Not one thought of the old heart overfull with woe, in her girlhood home, disturbs the serenity of this woman.


Satisfied that her revenge has been accomplished, the monumental selfishness of Mrs. Creffield blots out every other sentiment of the human heart save the perverted gratitude she shows Esther Mitchell.


There is never a thought of the white-haired father who is trembling under his burden of woe, in a household without honor. On her cot in her cell she sits brooding. Now a smile flits across her face as before her eyes flit the scenes of the tragedy enacted in the union depot; again her face hardens, perhaps in memory of that May morning when her husband fell dead at her feet with a bullet through his brain. A great sorrow and a great revenge fill her soul and there is little room for a white-haired father. But to him she is still “dear” and he is still “papa.”



Seattle Star 7/1906 p1

Insanity Plea Is Loophole In Law

George Mitchell Jury Well Knew That Boy Was Never Insane, But It Was Their Only Means Of Acquitting Him.


The jury that found George Mitchell not guilty of murder in the killing of Franz Edmund Creffield didn’t believe that George Mitchell was insane at the time the crime was committed or at any other time.


This at least is the firm belief of all those who watched through the 13 days of the trial. All that Messrs. Shipley and Morris, for the defense, hoped to do was to give the jurors some excuse for acquitting their client.




Found not to be insane, it would have been the sworn duty of the jury to find the defendant guilty of murder either in the first or the second degree.


The testimony upon which the defense hoped to secure the acquittal of their client, and upon which they did secure his acquittal, was that which told of the conduct of Creffield as leader of the Holy Rollers.


When O. V. Hurt, a kindly faced man, honest and honorable, and the father of Mrs. Creffield, went on the stand and told the jury of the wrongs this man Creffield had done to him and others in his community, it became quite apparent that all the logic and eloquence of prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh and his deputy, Judge Miller, might bring to bear upon the case would be of little avail.




Hurt’s story, told while the tears streamed down his cheeks, a story of a broken home, of wife and daughters led away from him and ruined, a story of shame and disgrace brought down upon the family of a man who had always lived a law abiding God Fearing life--made an impression upon the minds of every juror so deep and indelible that no amount of argument or evidence could stamp it out.


It was the story and the stories told by others of the conduct of the Holy Roller chieftain that gave to George Mitchell his liberty.


“From the introduction of the first testimony there was never any question as to what the verdict would be,” one of the jurors has since state.




But to get before the jury the testimony of Mr. Hurt and the others who told of Creffield it was necessary that the defense should be made upon the ground of insanity. In no other way could the jury be enlightened as to the practices of the Holy Rollers. As these conditions might tend to unbalance the mind of George Mitchell, so they were admitted in evidence. Whether of not they did unbalance him mentally was of little moment. It was but the means to an end, and the means were justified.




The jury must be given an excuse for a verdict of acquittal, and in this way an excuse was given. The state was powerless to prove to the jury the truth or falsity of these stories told of Mitchell’s spiritualism and his command from God. As a matter of fact, that truth or falsity of them did not enter into the case. The question was whether or not the witnesses had told to George Mitchell these same stories as told upon the stand.


That Mitchell had every moral justification for the killing of Creffield was shown to the jury beyond any doubt, and it was this that secured his acquittal. But that he was insane at any time prior to committing the deed or at the time the crime was committed was not made evident to the jury.




In the light of recent events it would have been much better had the jury brought in a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. Mitchell would then have been given a penitentiary sentence, and it is quite probable that after he had served perhaps not more than a year, that Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh and his assistant Judge Miller, would have been among those to petition the governor for his pardon. He would then have been punished for his crime and would undoubtedly have escaped the tragic death that came to him last Thursday.


That Esther Mitchell or Mrs. Creffield are more insane than was George Mitchell is not believed by those who have talked with them. Their crime differs from that of George Mitchell in that any moral justification is lacking in the latter killing. They knew what they were doing, knew that they were committing a crime for which they might go to the gallows. They have admitted this.




They schemed for two days prior to the killing, waiting and watching for an opportunity. Nothing was done on the impulse of the moment. Calmly and deliberately, Esther Mitchell walked up to her brother, hiding beneath her cloak the weapon of death. While his back was turned to her she fired a distance of but two feet, and the brother fell to the floor and expired almost immediately.


There is but one defense for her crime and for Mrs. Creffield, equally guilty, and that is insanity. And in this connection may be used the quotation from a decision handed down by Judge Orange Jacobs, when that gentleman was chief justice of the superior court of this state, quoted by Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh in his address to the jury in the Mitchell trial:

The world has had quite enough of that kind of insanity that begins just as the sight of the barrel of a pistol marks a mortal spot on the body of the victim, and ends as soon as the bulled has sped on its fatal mission.”





Seattle Star 7/14/1906 p3

Doesn’t Blame His Daughter

Father Of Esther Mitchell Says She Is Under Creffield’s Hypnotic Influence, Having Been Fond Of Dead Brother.


Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/14/1906 p1

Esther Hypnotized, He Says

Father Says She Should Not Be Punished for Murder


DAYTON, Wash., July 14.--”My daughter Esther is not responsible for the killing of her brother George. She has been under the hypnotic influence of Franz Edmund Creffield for three years and this influence continued after Creffield’s death.”


This is the statement of Charles Mitchell, father of the principals in Thursday’s tragedy at Seattle. He was in Dayton yesterday on the way back to Illinois, remaining here to visit his son Perley.




When informed of the murder of his son by the boy’s sister, Mitchell declared he would not return to Seattle, as his daughter was thoroughly under the influence of the Creffield’s and his presence would accomplish no good.


“Never did a girl think more of a brother than did my daughter. Creffield taught her, as he did hundreds of other girls, to submit to his wishes to purge her of sin. He threatened girls who would not submit with the vengeance of God. He was educated as a priest, but studied hypnotism.




“Creffield was accustomed to get females into his rooms, put them under hypnotic influences and have them strip off their clothing, roll on the floor and submit to his every demand. He was not satisfied with ruining young girls, but caused them to go through most debasing actions. He was sent to the Oregon penitentiary, but after being released resumed his original orgies.


“I do not think my daughter should be punished for killing her brother, because she was undoubtedly under hypnotic influence. Mrs. Creffield was a hypnotist also.”



Seattle Star 7/14/1906 p1

Women Have No Defense Plans


Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield spent a quiet night in their cells in the county jail last night. Esther occupied a cell next to the office while the wife of the leader of the “Holy rollers” is in the woman’s ward.


There is nothing about the actions of either that would go to show that they experience any remorse over the affair.


Mrs. Creffield stated to a reporter for The Star that as yet no arrangements had been made to secure the services of an attorney, and that no plans for the future had been considered. From all appearances it would seem that both Esther and Mrs. Creffield will permit the law to take its course with no thought or consideration for the outcome.



Seattle Star 7/14/1906 p1

Flowers Deck Body of Boy


Floral offerings decked the body of George Mitchell on the slab in the morgue today. At an early hour this morning the stream of visitors began and continued practically all day without intermission.


The great majority of those who go to see Mitchell’s body are women and not a few of them bring bouquets. Long before the noon hour arrived the room was banked with flowers.


Many of those who brought bouquets are women past the middle age of life and their flowers quite evidently come from the home gardens. There was a profuse display of sweet peas, nasturtiums, and other old-fashioned varieties.



Seattle Star 7/14/1906 p1

File Charges Next Week


Owing to the press of other matters today, Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh announced that he would not be able to file the formal charges of murder against Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield until Monday or Tuesday.


“We will proceed to make the charge as quickly as possible,” said Mr. Mackintosh, “and it will not be until October that the trial can come up. The prosecution will do its duty in this, as any other case where the law has been violated.”



Seattle Star 7/14/1906 p1

Dr. Haynes Roasts Seattle Reporter


TACOMA, July 14.--That George Mitchell was justified in the murder of Edmund Creffield was declared preposterous by Rev. Myron D. Haynes, pastor of the First Baptist church of Seattle, in an address before the Tacoma district Baptist Young People’s union last night.


“It is a fearful thing--this disregard of law”--said the speaker. “Tonight Seattle is agog with a murder horror. Some weeks ago I stood in my pulpit and declared against the sentiment that the boy Mitchell, was justified in killing the wretch, Creffield. I said that the latter was worthy of 1,000 deaths, but that Mitchell had committed a crime, and should be punished for it.


“A reporter for a Seattle evening paper, with a brain like a soft-boiled egg, had the foolishness to quote me as sympathizing with Creffield. That was ridiculous. But when a man may break a law on our statute books and go scot free, we are in danger of reaching a state of anarchy.


“Some say they are justified in not attending church on Sunday because they have worked so hard on the other six days. This spirit is spreading among our young men. If our present day life is breeding young men so weak and puny they should be swept out and left in the mountains to get a little vitalizing air.


“Disguise the fact as we may, there has been a deterioration in the life of our cities, financially, socially, politically and religiously, during the past years.


“People feel the need of a change. The reform is beginning simultaneously at many points. We cannot ascribe it to any one man, to Folk, to Weaver, to Roosevelt, or any single citizen. While the reform does not come from the church, yet the leaders are preeminently Christian men.


“Roosevelt, than whom there is no greater in the history of America, is doing all in his power to throttle the abuses to death (illegible). He is a Christian man. Mayor Weaver is a Christian and a Baptist. Mayor Patterson is a Methodist, and Joseph Folk, the matchless governor of Missouri is a Baptist.



Seattle Star 7/14/1906 p7

Holy Rollers at Everett


EVERETT, July 14.-- The police are investigating the report that a small colony of Holy Rollers are to make their headquarters in this city. If they find the report to be correct, they intend to force them to leave the city.

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