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.

July 15, 1906: Hurt Will Come to Aid of His Daughter


George MitchellSeattle Sunday Times 7/15/1906 p1

Hurt Will Come to Aid of His Daughter

Father of Maud Creffield Wires That He Has Arranged for Her Defense and for That of Esther Mitchell.

Older Woman Receives News Without Least Emotion, and Her Only Expression is to Remark, “I Am Glad.”

Doubtful if Any of the Attorneys of Seattle Will Take The Case Unless Ordered to Do So by the Court.


O. V. Hurt, of Corvallis, the man whose story of the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of Creffield made him the most important witness of all those who testified at the trial of George Mitchell, is coming to the aid of his daughter Maud Creffield, and Esther Mitchell, her dupe. This afternoon a telegram was received at the county jail addressed to Maud Creffield, reading: “Have arranged defense for you and Esther. will write.” Father and Mother.


The message was read to Mrs. Creffield, but the only expression she gave of whatever she may have felt at the receipt of this was “I am glad.” She displayed no emotion at the news that she still retains the affection of the father whose life she has helped too ruin, and spoke as through the promise was a matter of little importance to her.


It is not known who Mr. Hurt has in mind as the legal defender of his daughter, but it is probable that it will be some attorney from Oregon, as it is hardly likely that any reputable firm of this city will take the case, unless ordered to do so by the court. Messrs. Morris & Shipley, the men who defended George Mitchell, have declared that they desire to have nothing to do with the defense of these women, and will not unless so ordered by the judge before whom the trial will be held. Other attorneys of standing feel the same, for there is no sentiment in behalf of the women.


There are, however, many lawyers of little practice and less repute who will probably be glad to take the case for the advertising it will give them, but it is not likely that Mr. Hurt will trust his daughter’s fate with other than the best legal talent he can possible secure.


In Oregon, too, there is a great deal of feeling against Esther Mitchell and the woman at whose bidding she murdered her own brother, and there will hardly be the same offers of assistance as were forthcoming in behalf of George Mitchell.


Both women are taking their confinement with the same stoicism that has marked their demeanor every moment since the shooting. Neither will admit that religion was the influence which dominated them in the rash act, and neither has shown the least evidence of regret or of fear of the consequences.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/15/1906 p7

O. V. Hurt Sends Aid to Daughter

Father of Mrs. Creffield Says He Has Arranged for Her Defense.


“Have arranged defense for you and Esther. Will write.

“Father And Mother.”


To the foregoing telegram from Mr. and Mrs. O. V. Hurt, of Corvallis, to Mrs. Maud Creffield, their daughter, confined in the county jail on a charge of murder in the first degree, Mrs. Creffield had not much to say.


“That’s very good,” she remarked to Deputy Sheriff Tom Smith, who read it.


Afterwards she said she would right her father last night. She seemed somewhat impressed by the concern which her parents showed for her, and stated that she hardly thought it worth while for them to waste money on her.


She did not care, she said, what happened to her. She had not yet decided, either, whether she would plead guilty or not guilty to the charge of murder when arraigned. She might have something to say later.


Mr. Shipley of Morris, Southard & Shipley stated last night the Mr. Hurt had sent a telegram to the firm and subsequently had talked to him over the telephone.


“We do not think,” he said, “that we can consistently appear in the case, though we have publicly stated and told Mr. Creffield (sic) so, that we believe the two women insane. Their conduct, as reported in the newspapers, indicates this too, although what the women said might seem to point to other conclusions.


Meanwhile, the brothers of the imprisoned girl have not visited her. They are occupied in the endeavor to raise funds to have their brother’s body taken to the cemetery at Newberg, Oregon, where their mother is buried. Such a course would require about $200, but the boys have not the funds on hand. They stated yesterday they were willing to accept money from the public for this purpose, though it was hard for them so to do.



Seattle Sunday Times 7/15/1906 p1

Says Daughter is Not Insane


DAYTON, Wash., Saturday, July 14. Charles Mitchell, father of George Mitchell, the slayer of Franz Edmund Creffield, who was in turn killed in Seattle by his sister, Esther Mitchell, is here to visit his son, d. P. Mitchell, a farm hand near Dayton. The elder Mitchell is walking the streets of Dayton, a living curiosity. So noted a character has not been seen here for many a day. His Salvation Army uniform makes him all the more conspicuous. When interviewed he talked very freely to The Times correspondent, but presented a picture of grief and misery that it would be hard to describe.


The news of his son’s death at the hands of his daughter, Esther, reached him while in the country in company with his other son. The affliction was too great for him to bear, and caused him to cancel his appointment to preach here tomorrow at the United Brethren Church.


When questioned regarding the tragedy that had just occurred, he manifested a marked religious fervor which if transmitted to his offspring could easily be supposed to account in a large measure for the religious fanaticism of his daughter, whom he maintains is not insane. He showed himself to be a typical member of the Salvation Army. he left today for his home at Mr. Vernon, Ill.


“What do you think of your daughter’s tragic act?” he was asked.




“Well, she will have to abide by the consequences of her crime.


“I cannot help her, but I glory in her determination not to plead insanity, agreeing with her that she had better die upon the scaffold with truth upon her lips. I am an honest and upright Christian and do not justify falsehood under any circumstances, however great the provocation.”


As he uttered the last sentence, his eyes flashed with religious enthusiasm that bordered on fanaticism.


“Do you think that your daughter was responsible for her act?”


“No, I do not. She was completely under the hypnotic influence of Mrs. Creffield and the hypnotic influence of the dead Franz Edward (sic) Creffield, who was a religious scoundrel and impostor, possessed of a legion of devils and the very personification of the powers of hell, darkness and damnation. It is a well-known fact that in his meetings at Corvallis, Ore., Creffield employed hypnotic influence to lure his victims into a profession of his degrading and unmentionable doctrines. It was there that my pure and innocent daughter fell into the snares that ruined her life.”


“Why did you not take your daughter with you to Illinois?”


“I did everything in my power to persuade her to leave Seattle. She did not positively refuse to do so, but said that she did not want to return to her home in Illinois. I then appealed to the mayor of Seattle and the sheriff of King County for assistance, but received the reply that this girl was of age and no help could be given. I hold the mayor and sheriff partly responsible for the tragedy, for a moral if not legal sense of duty ought to have impelled these officers to so human an effort.”




“To my mind there is no doubt that when my daughter returned to her home in Illinois after Creffield’s imprisonment at the Oregon state penitentiary she had lost all her filial affection and seemed to be almost a stranger at the home of her childhood. I believe that just then Creffield in the Oregon prison, realizing that he would soon regain his liberty by doing so, hypnotized my daughter and others of my immediate relatives that had taken up his religious doctrines. My daughter was above the average girl in intelligence and nothing but the powers of a strong hypnotist could have induced her to do what she did.”


“What do you think about the continuance of the hypnotic influence?”


“I believe that until some more powerful hypnotist than Creffield shall take action in the matter, the victims will continue to be the fanatics that they have been for some time been.”


“Is your daughter insane?”


“She is not in the ordinary sense of the word and would not have been regarded so at all had it not been for Creffield’s hypnotic influence over her. She is no more crazy than I am. I have been called crazy, but I hope that the species of insanity with which I am afflicted is incurable. If religious enthusiasm is to be regarded as insanity, then God grant that I shall continue insane.”


“Was your son insane when he killed Creffield?”


“He was not, and I strongly disapprove the attempts of his attorneys to prove that he was. The simulation of insanity to justify crime is a monstrous practice. When my son’s attorney wrote me for money with which to acquit him by proving him to be insane, I emphatically replied that I would give no money for that purpose. I was then requested to remain where I was, but I at once went to Seattle to assist in the defense. Some important witnesses from Portland, Ore., had little money and I paid their traveling expenses and their living expenses in Seattle. I believed that my son, George, thought that he had committed a justifiable act when he killed Creffield, but I was unwilling to have him perjure himself even to save his own life. I love truth and righteousness and rather than have my son saved by falsehoods, I would gladly have died for him.



Seattle Daily Times 7/15/1906 p6


-- The brothers of George Mitchell are trying to beg money enough to take the body of the dead back to Oregon to bury. In the meantime they are perfectly willing that their sister should be tried for murder, and hang if need be!


-- The surgeons who examined the brain of the late George Mitchell report that it was in normal condition and that he was not only sane, but a sane man with more than ordinary intelligence. Isn’t that contempt of court after the jury found Mitchell insane?”



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/15/1906 p5

Surprised by the Action of Manning

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Says Oregon Man Appears Inconsistent


The statements of John Manning, district attorney of Multnomah county, Oregon, who testified in the Mitchell murder trial and who has now expressed the belief that Esther Mitchell killed her brother in a spirit of revenge has caused much surprise to the prosecuting attorney’s office. In speaking of the statements of Mr. Manning, as published in the Post-Intelligencer yesterday morning, Judge Miller, assistant prosecuting attorney, said:

The statements of Mr. Manning were a surprise to me. I hardly care to discuss the matter, but I will say that we believe in a different method of prosecuting criminals from Mr. Manning. There is to be no half-hearted prosecution when these two women are brought to trial. We are convinced that Esther Mitchell and Maud Creffield are sane, just as we were convinced that George Mitchell was in his right senses when he killed Creffield. No matter what the physicians report regarding the sanity of the women, the case will come to trial. It may not come up before October, owing to the press of work in the office.


“There seems to be a slight inconsistency in Mr. Manning’s statements made during the recent trial of George Mitchell and made since his murder. The discovery that Mitchell had a normal brain has merely confirmed the contention of this office that he was sane when he committed the murder.”


Judge Miller also expressed himself as surprised that Mr. Manning could believe the brother insane and the sister sane.



Seattle Daily Times 7/15/1906

An Epidemic of Murder


Three murders have been committed in the City of Seattle within the last sixty days. Every one of them have apparently been deliberate, intentional--or “with malice aforethought” -- as the law has it.


Without regard to the motives which impelled these murders, the number which has occurred in the short space of two months seems to indicate the propriety of the caption of this article.


These murders have not occurred in the heat of passion--wherein men and women have engaged in personal and physical quarrels with no thought of committing any serious crime, at the beginning.


Every one has been the result of cool, calculating, deliberate judgment on the part of the persons who have taken life, contrary both to the moral law as well as the statutory laws of State and Nation.


In the month of May of the present year George Mitchell followed Franz Creffield from Oregon to Washington for the express purpose of killing him--and on the 7th day of that month consummated his purpose.


Mitchell was promptly arrested, incarcerated, tried and acquitted--the defense being “insanity” on the part of Mitchell when he committed the act!


The alleged cause for the murder of Creffield was the assertion that Creffield, while pretending to be the author of a new religious cult, was really a corrupt man engaged in breaking up families and destroying the homes of men already established or wrongfully influencing members of other families.


Creffield had been charged with the crime of adultery in the State of Oregon with Mrs. Starr--the older sister of Esther Mitchell, George Mitchell and two other brothers.


Creffield had been found guilty, given the limit of the law and served a term of imprisonment before he came to Washington.


Subsequently he married the daughter of O. V. Hurt and evidently came to Washington to establish his cult in a State free from his operations theretofore--and brought with him Esther Mitchell as an alleged companion of his wife.


It was the claim of George Mitchell that Creffield had not only broken up the Starr family, but that he would ultimately destroy the younger sister--and it was to avenge the one, and prevent the other that Mitchell killed Creffield.


Before the common eye Mitchell was justified in what he did--but he was not justified by either the moral or statutory law.


Had Mitchell gone to Creffield at the time he was endeavoring to break up the Starr family, and there remonstrated against such conduct--his admonitions being refuses--and in the heat of temper had killed Creffield, no one would have condemned him for the act!


Instead, however, Mitchell waited until the law of Oregon had exhausted its penal power, and then, two years or more after the crime had been committed, followed his victim to another State and shot him in the back!


If justification existed in the first place for Mitchell to kill Creffield--two years of imprisonment and the leaving of the State wherein his crimes had been committed had reduced that justification that would not permit murder--which involved direct and positive cowardice on the part of the murdered.


And still, under our laws no man could serve upon the jury that tried Mitchell who knew anything about the story--which practically relegated the whole subject to a lot of men who at least do not read the daily newspapers.


A verdict of acquittal followed within a short time after the trial closed--and of course, the acquittal was based upon the insanity of Mitchell when he did the shooting!


But if Mitchell were insane enough to carry murder in his heart for two and a half years before consummating the deed he wasn’t sane enough to be allowed to go at large after his acquittal--but should have been arrested promptly, and sent to Steilacoom, where the State incarcerated the insane.


To do this would have been only an act of protection to the community--for an insane person who has once committed murder is certainly not a safe person to run at large where new temptations to kill may be placed before him.


Before Mitchell had even been acquitted, but within a week from the time it was apparent that he would be acquitted another young man concluded that an eminent Judge stood in the way of the consummation of certain personal desires--and immediately that young man prepared to do murder!


Within one hour from the time Judge Emory told Chester Thompson that he could not see Miss Whittlesey in the Judge’s house, Thompson had changed his clothes, gone to a gun shop, purchased a revolver and numerous cartridges, put the same in a cowboy belt and made for Judge Emory’s home!


That Thompson might not miss in his determination to kill he divested himself of coat and hat before he ever entered the premises of Judge Emory. Indeed, the judge said that Thompson had his revolver half drawn from the belt when he rushed up the steps of the Emory home.


The moment that Judge Emory attempted to interfere with this man--armed to the teeth, murder in his heart, and entering a private home, Thompson as deliberately shot the Judge down as if he had been a yellow cur!


Now it will be arranged to enter a plea of insanity, and by due process of law obtain a jury incompetent to sit upon a case involving a thousand dollars in value, with the expectation of freedom under the plea of “insanity” impel Chester Thompson to commit murder under the expectation that he could escape under a like plea.?


No sooner had Mitchell been allowed his freedom than the wife of Creffield and Mitchell’s sister connive to take the life of George Mitchell!


Apparently these women reasoned that George Mitchell had killed the husband of one and the religious teacher and leader of the other. Anyhow, the Mitchell girl declared that she killed her brother because her brother had killed Creffield, and ruined his sister’s reputation by charging a false crime against her and Creffield!


But without regard to motive--these women undoubtedly reasoned that if Mitchell could kill Creffield for an alleged crime committed two and a half years before--and escape under the plea of insanity--why couldn’t these women kill Mitchell immediately after a miscarriage of justice from their standpoint, and escape under a like plea?


Already a man having once occupied the Superior Court bench in one of the richest counties of the Commonwealth has congratulated Esther Mitchell on the killing of her brother, and offered his legal services to defend her in the trial which she must stand doe murder!


Does any one doubt for a moment but that the plea in behalf of this girl will be insanity?


And thus, if Thompson and Esther Mitchell be acquitted under the pleas of insanity, does not the caption of this article become doubly forceful?


Under such circumstances what is the community to do?


Is every person who happens to hold a grudge against another, whether justifiable or not, going to be permitted to arm himself and kill his enemy without regard to the rights which civilization, and the laws established there under, are supposed to be uphold in every community?


It seems to us there can be but one answer to the proposition, namely:


If deliberate murder be committed by a person in his right mind--then there is no reason why punishment should not follow in proportion to the crime committed.


If murder be committed by an insane person, then that insane person should be incarcerated at once in the institution provided for the insane.


Had this been done in Mitchell’s case then at least he would have escaped the bullet which found lodgement in his brain Thursday afternoon from a pistol in the hands of his sister.


If this epidemic of murder cannot be prevented by law, as established and partially maintained by public officials, then there will be but one end to such a continued epidemic--and that will be the rule of mob law.


Sometime--and that within the near future--some person in the heat of temper will kill his enemy--or some one whom he thinks has done an injury to the assassin--and the public will take that murdered and execute him on a telephone pole.


In other words, when a community gets to that point where murder can be done at will, and for the gratification of mere spite, as both the Emory and the Mitchell murders were, and the murderers escape under the plea of insanity, the whole community will go insane long enough to put an end to that which ought to be stopped by the public officials who have charge of the administration of law and the protection of the public.


We know of nothing that could be worse than the rule of mob law, except the total disregard of law altogether--but the “total disregard of law” will result in violence by an outraged community just as surely as crime continues to be committed and go unpunished!

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