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.

Oregon Daily Journal (Portland)

July 14, 1906: Women Are Both Charged With Murder


Ether Mitchell & Her Brothers
Jason Haines, Tim Crabtree, Ed Vilderman & Brighid Thomas
George, Perry, Fred and Esther Mitchell

Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/14/1906 p1

Esther Mitchell, Maud Creffield Are Both Charged With Murder

Two Women To Answer For Crime

The Public Demands Punishment of Those Guilty to End Epidemic of Murders.

Public Subscription Being Taken to Send Destitute Mitchell Boys to Their Oregon Home--Esther’s Father Says Girl is Not to Blame--Is Hypnotized.


(Journal Special Service)


Seattle, July 14.--The charge of murder in the first degree was placed against Esther Mitchell, slayer of her brother George, and Mrs. Creffield, widow of the Holy Roller, who instigated the crime today. The epidemic of murder here following the killing of Creffield has caused a cry that summary punishment put an end to such crimes.


A public subscription is being taken today to send the Mitchell boys, who are destitute, home to Oregon. The father of Esther says the girl is not to blame, still being under the hypnotic influence of Creffield, which began three years ago.




That they alone were in the conspiracy to kill George Mitchell in the event of his acquittal on the charge of murdering “Joshua” Creffield and that they are not insane are the steadfast declarations of both Esther Mitchell and Maud Hurt Creffield. Neither will admit of entering an insanity plea in their behalf and both are emphatic in their denials that any member of the Creffield band of Holy Rollers other than themselves was aware that George Mitchell was to be murdered.


For weeks the plot had been formulated by the two young women, but it was a dark secret in their possession, as they feared that some hint of it might get to Mitchell or the authorities if they took anyone into their confidence. Mrs. Creffield in speaking of the plot said that “Esther was much more secretive in nature than she, and that the young murderess constantly admonished her not to let a hint of the plot get abroad.




Examinations of the women for insanity commenced last evening and will be continued for some time. Dr. McLeish former superintendent of the asylum for insane at Steilacoom, and his former assistant, Dr. J. B. Loughary, are making the tests. They will study the two prisoners closely for some time to come in an effort to discover the true state of their minds, but will not make a report until their tests are completed.


Esther Mitchell faces her fate calmly, apparently having no fear of the gallows. Mrs. Creffield expressed her anxiety at the possibility of hanging but says that life imprisonment would have no terrors for her, as she does not care for her liberty now that her husband is dead.


In speaking of her brother whom she murdered, Esther Mitchell does not show the slightest feeling. She says that as the law would no punish him for his slaying of Creffield she had to do it. Creffield, she says, was a holy man, while her brother was defiled.




Ever known as a girl of strong will, Esther Mitchell does not belie her reputation now. She desires to shield Mrs. Creffield, and in all her statements regarding the murder of her brother attempts to take the entire blame for the crime.


Word comes from Dayton, Wash., where Charles Mitchell, father of the murderess and her victim, is visiting a son, that he will not return to Seattle for his daughter’s trial. He says she is under a hypnotic spell cast over her by the Creffields and that he can do nothing to save her.


An autopsy of the brain of George Mitchell has been made by local physicians. They state that they find his brain was perfectly balanced and that there is no sign of mental weakness.


Although the girl herself refused to admit that she is unbalanced mentally or was at the time of the murder, Attorneys Morris and Shipley, the lawyers who defended George Mitchell in his trial for killing Creffield, have issued a signed statement to the effect that they believe the girl was insane and asking that both women receive fair treatment.


Aside from the attorneys the brothers, Fred and Perry Mitchell, appear to be the only people in sympathy with the murderess. Perry Mitchell is completely upset by the death of his brother and Fred keeps constant watch over him.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/14/1906 p8

Both Killed in Same Way

Bullet Entered Mitchell’s Head Nearly Same Place He Hit Creffield.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal.)


Seattle, Wash., July 14.--That George Mitchell was sane at the time he shot apostle “Joshua” Creffield is the opinion of the surgeon who performed the autopsy upon Mitchell’s body at the morgue of Bonney, Watson & Co. late yesterday afternoon. Mitchell’s brain was removed and found to be well developed. The convolutions were almost perfect.


The surgeons, among whom was Dr. Loughary, expert on insanity and former assistant superintendent of the state asylum for the insane at Steilacoom, declare that if Mitchell had ever been insane his brain would not have been in such perfect condition. It was perfectly normal.


Within one inch of the spot at which the bullet from George Mitchell’s revolver entered Creffield’s head, that of his sister entered his. Esther Mitchell declared that she intended to hit her brother at exactly the same spot that his bullet his Creffield, because she knew his death would be certain. The bullet from her revolver entered Mitchell’s head on about a level with the center lobe of the right ear. The bullet that killed Creffield entered about an inch higher in a straight line.


The autopsy showed that the bullet tore through the skull and lodged in the right jawbone. The carotid artery was cut and death resulted from a hemorrhage. The skull was badly fractured.



Los Angeles Herald 7/14/1906 p1

Sisters Discuss Murder Details


Special to The Herald.


“We did not talk to anybody about it,” said Mrs. Creffield tonight. “We were afraid if we did that someone would talk too much and we would be prevented.


“Esther does not talk as much as I do, and after we had decided to kill George, she came to me time after time and warned me about telling our plans to anyone else. Mrs. Burgess Starr, a sister of Esther and George, was the one person above all others that we tried to keep in ignorance. Esther knew that she could not keep a secret and she kept warning me not to let her know anything about our plans. No one but Esther and I knew what we were going to do.”

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