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

July 14, 1906: Brothers Refuse to Aid Esther Mitchell


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

Seattle Daily Times 7/14/1906 p1

Brothers Refuse to Aid Esther Mitchell

Perry and Fred Devoting Their Attention to Raising a Few Dollars to Take Murdered Man’s Body to Newberg, Ore.


Fred and Perry Mitchell will not assist their sister, Esther, who is locked in a cell in the county jail on the charge of murdering their brother, George. They do not even intend to see her before they leave Seattle. Their sympathy is all with their dead brother and their attention now is devoted to an effort to raise the few dollars necessary for the removal of his body to Newberg, Or., where they desire to see him laid to rest in a grave beside his mother’s before they again take up the battle with the world for a living.


The two brothers, completely reunited by this latest tragedy in their afflicted family, were waiting in vain in their room at the Hotel Stevens this afternoon for the arrival of their father and a third brother, Hurley Mitchell, from Dayton, Wash., when they made this statement. They were asked if they had made any arrangements for securing legal advice for their sister.


“No,” said Fred Mitchell, “we haven’t got around to that, and I don’t think we ever will. Esther will have to get her own lawyers.”


Then Perry, the youngest and his dead brother’s best friend, spoke up:




“It’s pretty hard,” he said, and his lip quivered. “She is our sister. We know that, and that’s what makes it so hard, but after all we’ve done and tried to do, she killed George, and I don’t see how we can do anything to save her. I don’t believe it will be much of a trial in court. There isn’t anything to it.”


“Will you go to see her before you leave?” was asked.


Fred Mitchell sat on the bed with his elbows on his knees, looking straight ahead. He was silent for two minutes. Finally he shook his head slowly. He didn’t want to see her.


Perry Mitchell sat in a chair on the other side of the room, his hat on, his big hand clasping and unclasping and his eyes filling with the first tears that have apparently been shed by any of the Mitchell family since they became a center of interest in Seattle.


“I don’t think,” he said slowly and brokenly “that I could talk to her after what she’s done. I am sure that Mrs. Creffield persuaded her to do it, but she killed her own brother after all he had done for her, and I can’t see what I can do now. I don’t want to see her.”




So Esther Mitchell is left alone with her only friend, the woman who states openly and freely that she gave her the revolver to kill her brother and that she would have committed the deed herself had she not feared that she would not have an opportunity such as the sister.


It is probable that the defense will have to be undertaken by some lawyer appointed by the court. The women themselves have made no effort in that direction and it is known that the families of neither have the money to retain counsel. O. V. Hurt of Corvallis, father of Mrs. Creffield sacrificed practically everything he had to aid in the defense of George Mitchell and the father and brothers of Esther are almost penniless.


The only thing that has been done in this direction has been by telegrams sent toe Seattle by Mr. Hurt. One was a pathetic message to his daughter:

What can your papa do for you, dear?”


The other was addressed to Morris, Southard and Shipley, attorneys for George Mitchell asking what charge would be made against his daughter. After a consultation with Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh, Mr. Morris wired Mr. Hurt that his daughter would be charge with murder in the first degree on Monday morning.




Both Mr. Morris and Mr. Shipley stated that their firm would not undertake to defend the two women unless ordered to do so as any lawyers might be by direction of the court, under the law which provides that every person accused of crime is entitled to counsel.


They feel that they would not be able to adjust their views of the case to the ordinary relations of attorney and client and are unwilling to act at all.


Mr. Mackintosh expects to file on information in the superior court on Monday morning charging both of the women with murder in the first degree. He stated today that he didn’t believe that either of them was insane and that he expected to have ready expert testimony to prove that both are sane and responsible for their actions. To this end, Dr. Loughary has been retained by him and has already had several talks with the two women in the county jail. He will probably see them at least once every day for two or three weeks before he submits his findings to the prosecuting attorney.


One strange thing in connection with Mrs. Creffield is that since “Joshua,” her husband, failed to arise from the grave at the end of the fourth day, as she expected, she has never referred to the religious or fanatical phase of the case. She justifies the killing of George Mitchell upon the simple ground of personal revenge and outside of the strange light in her eyes there is nothing to make her view of the case any different than if her husband had been some hard-working laborer instead of a professing prophet.


Upon one occasion recently she visited Creffield’s grave with her father and Mr. Hurt reasoned with her.


“Why is he there, Maud,” he asked her, “if he is divine?”


“Oh, it isn’t Joshua any more,” she answered, “it is only Edmund.”


Although it is positively known that she did predict that her husband would rise from the grave, she has since repeatedly denied, except to her father, that she ever made the statement. When asked about it by her father she only said that someone had been talking too much.




Esther Mitchell explains part of her murderous animosity toward her brother on the ground that he killed a “holy man,” but mainly she justifies her act upon the ground that he had ruined her reputation.


George Mitchell did say that his sister had been ruined by Creffield. He said so to a representative of The Times in his cell in the county jail the day after his arrest. It seems, however, that although he believed it, he was mistaken. It had not yet come to that in her case. But as soon as Esther Mitchell heard that he had so stated to his attorneys and others she showed the only trace of emotion she has shown in the whole proceeding. That emotion was bitter anger.


“I’d like to hear him say that to me,” she said.


And so here, too, it is a distinctly human, rather than supernatural element which enters the case.


The father believes his daughter to be still under the spell of Creffield’s teaching and will not return to Seattle. He was notified of the murder of his son while visiting at the home of another boy, Hurley Mitchell, near Dayton, Wash. He is on his way to his own home at Mount Vernon, Ill, and will proceed.


“I don’t see that I could do anything, if I went back,” he said, and besides the condition of his finances would make the trip a difficult undertaking.




No effort has been made to find Frank Hurt or other members of the Holy Roller sect. The prosecutors do not want them and the police are taking no action.


The autopsy performed upon George Mitchell revealed a very peculiar wound. It had been supposed that the bullet had entered the brain and caused instant death. It was found, however, that it had not touched that organ, but had crashed through the lower bones of the head and severed the carotid artery. It is probable that the shock of the bullet rendered the boy unconscious and that he did not die until the rush of blood from the severed artery had drained his life out a few minutes afterward.


The brain was found to be perfectly normal and well developed, which was not surprising to those who knew him. It was plainly stated by the attorneys for the defense that their client was perfectly sane at the time of the trial and they expected no evidence of diseased mentality to appear under the knives of the surgeon at the autopsy.


Aside from the observations of Dr. Loughary, there is no evidence to secure and until some arrangements are made for the defense of the women there will be no developments in the case. It must remain a quiescent memory of a horrible tragedy until it is revived by the trial of the two women in the fall.



Seattle Daily Times 7/14/1906 p4

Seek to Raise Money to Bury Their Brother


Several small offers of financial assistance to the two Mitchell brothers, now in Seattle have been made indirectly. The young men are practically penniless and only desire the twenty or thirty dollars necessary to pay for the removal of their brother’s body to Newberg, Ore., where there is a lot in the cemetery in which their mother is buries.


Several of these offers have been made to the young men in person at the Hotel Stevens and some by telephone to Morris, Southard, & Shipley, the attorneys who defended George Mitchell.


“It is very kind, “ said Perry Mitchell this morning. “I never did the like before, but we haven’t time to wait to earn the money, and I think George ought to be buried beside his mother. There’s a lot there and there’s room enough for us all in it, and I think that’s where we all ought to be when our time comes. I hope we can take him there. I hate to ask any man for money, but I’m afraid we’ll have to now.



Seattle Daily Times 7/14/1906 p6

The Insanity Farce


In the three recent murder cases--each an apparently deliberate crime--the assassin has been charged with being insane by those interested in the defense. Each of these cases was remarkable in the atrocity of the offense. Each showed a strangely calm condition of the assassin after the crime had been committed. In each case there seems to have been deliberate intent to murder.


Why are such people alleged to be insane?


Insanity technical is a breaking down of the mind. It may be a total eclipse, in which reason is gone entirely or it may be a slight aberration of a particular part of the brain. To be sane means a perfect condition, and it has been said there are no really sane people on earth, that everyone is insane more or less on some topic. In this last sense they are not termed insane, but cranky, eccentric, queer, mentally unbalanced, or weak!


Accepting that insanity which means an irresponsibility for the acts of the individual as a defense for any of the recent sensational murders committed in this city is absolute folly.


Every one of the assassins was undoubtedly as sane as the average man and woman who walks the streets. Every one was equally as responsible for his or her acts as the average pedestrian on any of our avenues.


The plain and simple truth is that they had permitted themselves to be controlled by their passion and have ignored the law. They have with premeditation, determined to avenge their own wrongs and in their angry mood cared not what the law did with them on account of their acts.


They simply held themselves above the law--they ignored the law, and did it with a full knowledge that their crimes were as black as hell.


The fight for life and for sympathy comes to them after their passions have cooled and the love for life and God’s sunlight comes back (illegible) to them. All such persons deserve that (illegible) one punishment--the full penalty of the law for cold, deliberate murder?


To say that Mrs. Creffield or Miss Mitchell is insane because each has followed a pernicious religious teaching which has led them to ignore law and hate all those who oppose them, is to say that the man who becomes a criminal and persists in following the dark and devious paths of the burglar or the thief, instead of the straight and narrow way, is insane.


Men and women may break the law of God or the law of man with equal ease and neither is evidence of insanity.


It may be a strange perverseness--a morbid selfishness--an utter disregard of the teachings of civilization--a mere placing of one’s wisdom on a pedestal above that of either God or civilization, but it is not irresponsibility!


Some men who pretend to be experts on insanity are as likely to be insane as the persons they examine--for few men are capable of saying how much of insanity is in a man. Some see nothing in individuals to indicate insanity but a “strange look” in the eye, and if the person with the strange look commits a murder, then that strange look was caused by insanity!


The line of division between insane persons responsible for their acts and insane persons not responsible has become in law a farce--a byword--a joke! It is time it became a serious matter.


When the police were dealing with the Creffield case they knew they were dealing with religious fanatics--a class of persons possibly as sincere in their beliefs as any other class of worshipers.


The association of carnal pleasures with religious worship made it, apparently, to them, superior to the ordinary forms of worship. It was contrary to the laws of civilization and it had to be broken up, and the driving of the sect from the pillar to post and finally the killing of the “Joshua” who lived in the twentieth century as “Joshua of old” was believed by them to live--embittered them and made them hat the law.


The conspiring of these two women--Esther Mitchell and Maud Creffield--was the sane work of fanatics. Nothing more. It was no better, nor no worse that the conspiring of the anarchists before the bomb exploded at the Haymarket in Chicago, except that this was against an individual instead of against society or organized government.


To plead that these women--both equally guilty--were insane, is to plead that there is no law--that passion and revenge and hatred can take its place if one will only “look strange out of the eyes” before avenging outside of law the death of loved ones.


Let us have no more of this insane sympathy under the insanity plea. Good sound, wholesome law and its execution are necessary.



Seattle Daily Times 7/14/1906 p4

Four Holy Rollers Living at Everett


EVERETT, Saturday, July 14.--Devotees of Holy Rollerism are flourishing in Everett. So far as known the followers of the dead Creffield number four, though they are known to be working to extend their membership. The cult here consists of a man and three women, living together in a small house in the eastern portion of the city.


Another man, a former member, disgusted with the practices, left the city, and his wife is one of the three now here with the male Roller.

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