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 17, 1906: Let’s Think When We Talk
Seattle Star 7/17/1906 p4
Let’s Think When We Talk
One of our greatest faults as a people is that we talk too much.
When George Mitchell killed Creffield we went about telling each other what a good thing it was.
Most of us expressed the wish that Mitchell would not be punished.
And when he was acquitted most of us expressed gratification thereat. Since Mitchell’s was acquitted there have been more killings and now we are going about regretting his acquittal and expressing in a most emphatic way our belief that these killings wouldn’t have followed if Mitchell had only been sent to the penitentiary.
But worst of all we are loud in our declaration that some one must hang. It doesn’t much matter who it is, but we must have a hanging.
There are altogether too many shootings, we declare, and the only way to put a stop to these incidents is to string somebody up.
If we’d all quit talking for a while and allow the juries to determine what should be done with these people who are accused of murder we would be much better off.
If there is anyone deserving of death by hanging or imprisonment for life or for a long term of years, wouldn’t it be a good idea to allow the courts to so determine.
Let the young man and the two women now in the King County jail, charged with murder, be tried for the crimes which they committed and not for all the murders that have been committed in King county during the last year.
And let’s be done with this crying out for someone to hang. Let’s be fair and if the courts say that anyone now up in King County jail must be punished by death or by long imprisonment let us allow the sentence to be imposed without criticism or applause.
Don’t let’s talk so much--or if we must talk, why not do a little thinking at the same time?
Corvallis Gazette 7/17/1906 p2
“’Tis a mad world my master.” Yea, verily! Of all the various forms of fanaticism the hardest to deal with springs from a religious source. No sensible man, believer or non-believer, will combat a good, healthy, well principled religion. But the existence of a religion so fanatical as to cause its adherents to commit acts of violence and immorality is deplored by all sensible people, both in the church and out of it.
The citizens of this community have true insight of the evils resulting from a frenzied state which previously existed here in the name of religion. Holy Rollerism. Certain of our people, of our ministers, foretold the end with considerable accuracy. First of all there was a degeneration of all moral sense. To reason, argue or plead with these moral degenerates was to labor in vain. They pursued their course in a state which they were pleased to term religious fervor, heedless of all things, good or bad, and with utter disregard of the entreaties of relatives and friends.
Interference by local authorities resulted in nothing and the orgies of the Holy Roller prophet and his followers became wilder and more damnable. Above all things there is supposed to be religious freedom in this country and for this reason it is more difficult to check an evil growing in the name of God than one claiming not the support of the deity. The privilege granted in this country giving the individual the right to “worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience” is often abused to the shame of decent communities.
So, in the course of Holy Rollerism we find a calendar of crimes leading to the killing of Edmund Creffield, the Holy Roller, “Joshua.” He was killed by the brother of one of his female victims. Of the killing of Creffield in Seattle and the trial and acquittal of the slayer, George H. Mitchell, together with all the nauseating details, most people are familiar. Thursday evening the country was shocked by the intelligence that Esther Mitchell, the girl ruined by Creffield, had shot her own brother and killed him.
That this is madness, not religion, seems more fitting to us. True, all these crimes result from what some may term religion, but it is not so. It resulted from madness, mental and moral depravity, and permeating it all it seems there was not lacking a mixture of pure “cussedness.” The question is “How much cussedness is to be allowed in the name of religion? If the line indicating personal responsibility is not to be drawn before murder has been committed, what protection has any man? It would seem that a law defining the difference between true religion and religious fanaticism, providing adequate punishment for the latter, is now in order. The protection of the innocent, pure and worthy, both in and out of the church, should be paramount to all other considerations.
Corvallis Gazette 7/17/1906 p2
The killing of George H. Mitchell by his sister, Esther Mitchell, suggests criminal negligence somewhere. On all hands the mental condition of Miss Mitchell was known to have been such as to cause apprehension. If she really was unbalanced on religion she was dangerous, if she was just purely vicious she was no less dangerous. The same must be said of Mrs. Creffield. To allow either to posses a revolver was to make it possible for them to commit a crime. Any way one looks at the matter it is apparent that their mental condition was such that they were dangerous.
From reports sent out is seems that the police matron at the Seattle Bastille sympathized with these young women while they were in her charge. This seems a very indiscrete act on the part of the matron and one she should have been wiser than to commit. To what degree did her sympathy count in the killing of George Mitchell? It may have cut quite a figure to judge from what is reported.
Seattle Star 7/17/1906 p1
Early Trial for Women Slayers
Mrs. Creffield And Esther Mitchell Will Be Tried Before Chester Thompson--Attorneys Decline Case.
Information charging Mrs. Maud Hurt Creffield and Esther Mitchell with murder in the first degree was filed in the county clerk’s office this afternoon by the prosecuting attorney’s office. John F. Miller, assistant prosecuting attorney, this morning stated that the trial of the two women would probably be concluded before Chester Thompson is brought to trial.
Attorney Will H. Morris this morning wrote a long letter to O. V. Hurt, Mrs. Creffield’s father, advising him that he could not defend the two girls, owing to urgent business. Mr. Morris stated that the defense of the two girls would probably be place in the hands of a young attorney in this city at the request of Mr. Hurt.
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/17/1906 p8
Hurt’s Letter Most Moving
Father Full of Solicitude for Mrs. Creffield--Mitchell Buried.
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/17/1906 p1
In First Degree
Esther Mitchell And Mrs. Creffield Are Charged With Murder.
O. V. Hurt Writes Loving Letter to Daughter Behind the Bars--Father Declares His Heart Is Broken Over Late Terrible Tragedy.
SEATTLE, WASH., JULY 17.--Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield were formally charged with murder in the fist degree for the killing of George Mitchell, by information filed by Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh today. The women were charged jointly, only one information being filed. This does not mean that they must be tried jointly, for if they desire each may have an individual trial. It is probable, though, that the women will consent to have a single jury determine their fate.
“I love you more than I ever did,” writes O. V. Hurt to his daughter, Mrs. Maud Creffield, in jail here on a charge of murder in the first degree, in connection with the killing of George Mitchell by his sister, Esther Mitchell, last Thursday.
Mr. Hurt, in addition to testifying on the witness stand in favor of George Mitchell, also furnished some financial assistance to the boy who was destined to become the victim of his sister and whom Hurt’s daughter herself afterward confessed she desired to kill. The letter from the grief-stricken father follows:
My Own Dear Girl--I hardly know how to commence to write to you this morning. I expected to see you before this, but the attorney said I could do nothing by going. I wired you yesterday that we had secured help for you, and this is all we can do now until your trial. Then we will be with you. Only God knows my feelings.
“Oh, Maud, my heart is broken about this, and after all I love you more than I ever did. You’re my daughter, and nothing, as I told you at the depot, could drive me away from you. But I cannot realize that my sweet Maud would have ever allowed herself to do such a rash act. My God! My God! help us at this time.
“I know they will not hang my girl, but I am afraid of the penitentiary. Don’t talk too much, Maud; don’t talk to any one but your lawyer. I will sent him to you. I can’t write more at this time. write to me, dear, and tell me all.
“Your Loving Father.”
The letter was answered immediately by Mrs. Creffield. The woman shows most feeling when talking of her father, and it is evident the bond between them is close. Inadvertently, through the introduction of a new man on the jail force, the first telegram sent by Mr. Hurt to his daughter did not arrive Friday, the day it was sent. She seemed much disappointed when asked if her father had sent her any word, but said she had not sent him any, as a sort of half excuse for him.
Seattle Star 7/17/1906 p1
Will Provide for Daughter
O.V. Hurt Writes That He Will Furnish Counsel For Her And Esther Mitchell.
The long-expected letter which Mrs. Creffield has been awaiting from her father, O. V. Hurt of Corvallis, arrived in the last mail of yesterday afternoon. In that letter the sad father tells his “deluded” daughter that he will provide counsel for both her and Esther Mitchell.
The letter, in feeble handwriting, reads in part:
My heart is broken and after all I love you more than ever I did, although I cannot clearly realize the situation.”
He also tells the girl that he will do all in his power to provide proper defense for the two women, and that he will be present at the trial.
Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/17/1906 p16
Still Loves His Daughter Maud
Father of Mrs. Creffield Writes Long Letter to Woman in Jail.
Will Come To Defense.
Morris & Shipley Make Positive Announcement They Cannot Defend Women.
Mrs. Maud Creffield and Esther will not be without counsel when the time comes for them to be placed on trial for the murder of George Mitchell. Neither will it be obligatory on the court to appoint attorneys for their defense. O. V. Hurt, father of Mrs. Creffield, has written his daughter that he will give her all the assistance in his power. He also says he will protect the interests of Esther Mitchell.
Will H. Morris and Silas M. Shipley, who defended George Mitchell, make the positive announcement that they will not take the case of the two women, although they have been requested to do so by Mrs. Creffield’s father. They feel that it would be indelicate for them to defend a person charged with the murder of one who was their client.
At the county jail the two accused women are accommodating themselves to surroundings. Despite the character of the crime with which she is charged, Mrs. Creffield, whose companions are a lot of hardened women, enjoys their respect. “The other women prisoners were very kind to me,” she said yesterday, and added, “i try to be as kind as I can to them.”
As to the future, she said that she did not know or care.
“I understand Father has said he would engage counsel to defend me, and that he will be here when the time comes for my trial. It seems to me, however, as though he was going to a useless expense. I do not care what becomes of me. While I feel for my father, I am sorry he should be so concerned about my condition.”
Mrs. Creffield received a letter from her father yesterday deploring the condition in which his “Little Maud” is placed. Notwithstanding, he declared he will do all he can for her. “My heart is broken,” writes the father, “and after all, I love you more than I ever did.” He can hardly realize the situation, but he has secured help and will be in Seattle at the trial. The letter was answered soon after its receipt.
Esther Mitchell has not yet been visited by any members of her family. She hold but little conversation with her jailers and talked briefly yesterday with Attorney A. J. Speckert, who may be her counsel should she be placed on trial. Mr. Speckert has written to Oregon, and until an answer is received is not prepared to say whether or not he will undertake the case.
Seattle Daily Times 7/17/1906 p8
Murderers Are Examined Daily
Insanity Experts Making a Special Study of Slayers of George Mitchell in Behalf of the Prosecuting Attorney.
So Far No Complete Report Has Been made, but Work of Alienists Will Continue Until Definite Decision Is Reached.
Information, Making Formal Charge of Murder in First Degree, Filed This Afternoon--May Be Joint Trial.
Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield are being examined daily by Dr. J. B. Loughary, who calls in one or more consulting physicians to act as advisers in an effort to determine the mental condition of the women who are responsible for the death of George Mitchell. These examinations are being made at the request of Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh, and the reports made by the physicians are being kept a secret. It is stated, however, by Mr. Mackintosh that no complete report has been made so far, and it is probable that the examinations will be kept up for some little time. The women so conduct themselves as to make the determination of their mental condition a baffling proposition.
Attorney Speckert today received a telegram from Judge Upton of Walla Walla to the effect that the latter could not possibly assist in the defense of Esther Mitchell.
Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield, the woman whose dupe the former is were jointly charged with murder in the first degree today by information filed direct in the superior court by Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh. A single information covers the charge against each of the women, but this does not mean that they must stand trial together, for if they wish each may demand a separate trial. This is not likely, however, unless whoever is employed as attorney insists, for the women have by confessions to the authorities admitted that each is equally guilty with the other.
Deputy Prosecutor John Miller yesterday received a letter from O. V. Hurt, father of Mrs. Creffield. He states that he cannot forget that it is his daughter who is now in trouble and says he feels duty bound to come to her assistance. Speaking of Esther Mitchell, Mr. Hurt states that she has no friends or relatives who will come to her aid and that he as believes her to be demented he will assist her as well as his daughter.
For his daughter Mr. Hurt asks the kindness of Mr. Miller so far as making her life in the county jail as free from unpleasantness as possible, and urges that if it can be done she be removed from the enforced association with the kind of women who occupy the tank with her. If it is possible Mr. Miller will have this request gratified.
Mr. Hurt has also written to his daughter promising that he will aid he in her present trouble. The woman read this letter with as little show of emotion as she has treated every event connected with her arrest.
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/17/1906 p6
Lies Beside His Mother
Seattle Daily Times 7/1906 p8
Mitchell Buried in Oregon
A SLIGHTLY ABRIDGED VERSION OF THE SAME ARTICLE ALSO APPEARED IN
Corvallis Times 7/20/1906 p1
Mitchell Buried in Oregon
George Mitchell Buried In Cemetery Of Friends Church At Newberg.
Simple But Impressive Services Over Remains
Townspeople Raise Money To Defray Expenses Of Burial Of Slayer Of Holy Roller Apostle Who Was Murdered By His Sister.
The Times Special Services
(Special Dispatch to The Journal.)
Newberg, Or., July 17.--Beside his mother in a quiet cemetery of the Friends church, in this town, George Mitchell lies in the last long rest. He was buried this afternoon by the Friends church, personal friends of the family and townspeople of Newberg.
Assembled at the depot this morning a large crowd awaited the arrival of the remains of George Mitchell, slayer of Franz Edmund Creffield, the Holy Roller “apostle,’ who, after his acquittal on the charge of murder, was killed at the Seattle depot by his sister, Esther Mitchell. at 8:45 o’clock the train pulled into the station and with sad faces the grief-stricken brothers of the dead man, Fred and Perry Mitchell, alighted.
The plain casket, still heaped with floral tributes from kind-hearted Seattle people, within which the last earthly remains of George Mitchell reposed was removed from the baggage car, placed within a waiting hears and conveyed to the undertaking parlors of w. w. Hollingsworth. The brothers were escorted to the home of friends.
This afternoon simple but impressive funeral services were conducted at the undertaking parlors by Mrs. M. E. K. Edwards of the Friends Church. Mrs. Edwards is an old friend of the Mitchell family and is broken hearted over the dire trouble in which the members of it have been involved.
At the conclusion of the services at the morgue the funeral procession wended its way to the Friends cemetery where, with a few last words, the body of George Mitchell was laid at rest beside that of his mother.
Money to defray the expenses of the funeral was raised among the good townsmen of Newberg, who also subscribed a sum sufficient to pay for the trip of the grief-stricken brothers who accompanied the body. The Mitchell boys’ expenses back to Portland, where they expect to work, will also be paid by the local people. The money was raised through the efforts of Mayor H. R. Morris and Marshal J. J. Woods, who after their return from the Seattle trial, where they were called as witnesses on behalf of George Mitchell, started a personal canvass to secure the necessary subscriptions.
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/17/1906 p8
Mitchell is Buried
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/17/1906 p3
Mitchell is Buried
Body Is Laid Beside That of His Mother at Newberg
[Telegram Coast Special]
Newberg, Or., July 17.--Without any special demonstration on the part of the relatives or citizens of Newberg, the remains of George Mitchell were laid beside the casque of his mother here today. a simple service was held at the undertaking parlors, a moderate sized crowd being present.
The Mitchell family, which was large and in poor circumstances, came here from Illinois several years ago and located on a farm near town. a few years later the mother died, and the father, Charles Mitchell, being of an eccentric turn of mind, soon after left the children to shift for themselves, went to one of the southern states and later to Illinois, where he married again.
Much sympathy is expressed here for the children, as it is believed that had their mother lived to care for them they would have turned out differently and the horrors lately chronicled would have been averted.
Newberg Graphic 7/19/1906 p1
A Second Mitchell Murder
(The Usual, plus. . . )
The body of the murdered man was brought to Newberg Tuesday for burial beside the grave of his mother, who died here several years ago while the family was living on the place now owned by E. N. Whitlaw at the end of the railroad trestle near town.
At the close of the trial Charley Mitchell, the father of the unfortunate children, started for his home in Illinois but stopped off at Dayton, Washington, to visit his son Pearley. The dispatches say he stated on hearing of the shooting that he would not return to Seattle, as his daughter was under the influence of Holy Rollerism and he could do nothing for her.
The belief is prevalent in Newberg among those who knew the family when they lived here, that, had the mother lived to care for the children the awful record that has been made by them would have been averted.
Corvallis Gazette 7/20/1906 p2
George Mitchell Buried
A special dispatch from Newberg Wednesday says:
The last act in the Creffield-Mitchell drama so far as George Mitchell figured in it, was closed here today when Mitchell’s body was laid to rest beside the remains of his mother. A number of old neighbors attended the funeral.
The Mitchells came from a good family, the father, Charles Mitchell, having been born and raised to manhood on a farm near Bloomingdale, Park County, Ind. After his marriage he located in Illinois and some 15 years ago he removed with his wife and a large family of children to Oregon, settling on a small place near Newberg, where a few years later his wife died.
Mr. Mitchell was always of an impulsive and rather an eccentric disposition and for some time immediately following the death of his wife he showed such extreme agitation of mind that fears were felt for his sanity. A few months later he left the children to shift for themselves, going to the State of Georgia for a time and later back to Illinois, where he was again married.
Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/18/1906 p10
Threaten Sister of George Mitchell
Special to the Post-Intelligencer
PORTLAND, July 17.--Another chapter of the Holy Roller episode that may have tragic results came to light today when the fact was learned that Mrs. Burgess E. Starr was the recipient of an anonymous letter which threatened her life if she persisted in maintaining the stand she has taken relative to the death of her brother, George Mitchell, the slayer of Creffield.
The letter, which was received by Mrs. Starr last Saturday, has been turned over to District Attorney Manning.
Mrs. Starr would not say anything on the subject aside from making the admission that the letter contained the clause: “If you do not desists I, or if I cannot, some other member of the club, will mete out to you what your sister dealt her brother.”
The letter was signed in a man’s writing with only the initials G. C. G. (sic) and was postmarked Station B, indicating that it was mailed in Albina. District Attorney Manning intends to make a thorough investigation.
Los Angeles Examiner 7/17/1906 p14
Heartsick Father Seeks to Save Maud Creffield
Esther Mitchell, the actual slayer of Mitchell, her brother, declares she will never go to trial with a plea of insanity.
“Such a course,” she said today, “would be the height of folly. And besides I don’t think that a jury will look upon my act as justifiable because of the manner in which I committed the deed. As for myself, I will not enter a pleas of insanity because I think that would be false and I am not insane in the least, as anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with me can testify. I knew what I was doing--I committed the deed intentionally. That is all there is to it.”
Corvallis Gazette 7/17/1906 p3
Chas. s. Seeley was in Corvallis, Friday, and made final proof on his homestead in Alsea. His witnesses were Willis Vidito, Thomas Vidito, Thos. J. Carns and Virgil Vidito.