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 18, 1906: Mrs. Starr’s Life Threatened
Seattle Daily Times 7/18/1906 p9
Mrs. Starr’s Life Threatened
Letter Sent to Married Sister of George Mitchell, Who Rejoiced When He Was Shot Down in Seattle Depot.
Late Events Have Completely Wrecked Her Nervous System and Her Manner Is Now That of One in Deadly Fear.
The Times Special Service
PORTLAND, Ore., Wednesday, July 18.-- Another chapter has developed in the sensational Creffield-Mitchell case, and now Mrs. Burgess E. Starr bids for the leading role. It has just come to light that Mrs. Starr, who announced herself as pleased at the death of George Mitchell is the recipient of a letter from an unknown party or parties in which her life is threatened. Immediately upon receipt of the letter Mrs. Starr turned the letter over to Attorney Manning for action, but the district attorney took no action and the letter will be given to Chief of Police Gritzmacher today.
THREATS TO KILL
The letter was short, but decidedly to the point. It was addressed Mrs. B. E. Starr” and signed indistinctly “G. C. G.” (sic) Its general tenor was that the author, and others, was determined, in view of Mrs. Starr’s declared pleasure at the death of Mitchell, to kill her. when asked concerning the phrasing of the letter Mt. Starr was very hazy. He only remembered that it was couched in no uncertain terms and said particularly:
I, or if I can’t some member will get you.”
The husband of the woman addressed was surprised and entirely in the dark as to who the author might be or what his motives were. The postmark was Station B, which is located in Albina, but other than that there was absolutely no clue on the envelope or letter sheet by which the writer might be detected. The handwriting was smooth and legible and an attempt had been made to make the signature as indistinct as possible.
TO BE GIVEN TO POLICE
“I gave the letter to Fred Mitchell,” said Starr when requested to deliver the threatening letter for publication. “I had intended long before to give it into the hands of the police, and shall do so as soon as I can see Fred. The letter was in good language and, although it uses no improper language and is not all illiterate, it leaves no doubt of the author’s meaning. I cannot understand why it was sent or who could have written it.”
Mrs. Starr appears deeply affected by the receipt of the threatening epistle. She trembled when speaking of it, and her whole manner was that of a person in deadly fear of her life. The late events seem also to have completely wrecked her nervous system.
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/18/1906 p3
Mrs. Starr Receives Threatening Letter
Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 7/19/1906 p4
Fears For Her Life
Mrs. Burgess E. Starr, Sister of Late George Mitchell Receives Threatening Letter.
Angered because Mrs. Burgess E. Starr expressed pleasure because her brother, George Mitchell, had been killed by their sister, Esther Mitchell, some person has sent Mrs. Starr a letter threatening her life. she is in terror lest the threat be executed, it is said. The letter has been shown by Starr to nobody except District Attorney Manning and his deputies, and no request has been made of the police for protection.
The letter was dropped into a box at Albina. It bears the postmark Station B. It was written last Friday and was received by Mrs. Starr that night and carried to the District Attorney next day. Fred Mitchell is said to have it in his possession.
The letter for the most part is legible, but the initials forming the signature were cramped and are not easily deciphered. A deputy in Mr. Manning’s office stated this morning that he read them as “G. C. F.” (sic)
In introduction the letter reads in effect that because Mrs. Starr expressed pleasure when she heard of the murder of her brother she is to be killed. The writer says that if she thinks so much of Creffield she may join him in hell.
“I will get you is some other member does not,” is one of the assertions in the missive.
Seattle Star 7/18/1906 p1
Threaten His Sister’s Life
Friends Of George Mitchell Send A Letter To Mrs. Starr, Demanding Change In Her Attitude Over The Murder.
PORTLAND, July 18.--Mrs. Burgess E. Starr, sister of George Mitchell, has received an anonymous letter threatening her life if she persists in maintaining her attitude of approval of the killing of her brother. The letter stated that a club had been formed to meet out punishment to her and other Holy Rollers of her type. District Attorney Manning intends to make a thorough investigation.
Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/18/1906 p1
May Take Esther Mitchell South
Attorneys Point to Law of 1905 for Removal of Non-Resident Insane
Rid State Of Expense
Savings of $5,000 May Be Effected By Proceedings on Insanity Charge
Attorneys of Seattle who have become interested in the Mitchell case have been raising the question as to the necessity of putting King County to the expense of having another, possibly two more, trials of the prisoners from Oregon, Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield, on the charge of murder. That there is a method by which King County and the state of Washington may, at very little cost, rid itself of an expense bill approximating $5,000 in the trials of two prisoners, one of whom resides in Corvallis and the other in Portland or Newberg, Or., is believed by some, who seek the solution in the 138th chapter of the Statutes of Washington, 1905. This act refers to the transportation to their homes of non-resident insane persons, and reads:
Whenever any person shall be found by the superior court in any county to be insane, and such person has no legal residence within this state, such person shall be sent, at the expense of the state, to the place where such person belongs in every case where such place of residence can be ascertained. And it shall be the duty of the superior court at the time of the inquest to ascertain the place where such person belongs, when the same can be conveniently done. The sheriff of the county shall convey such person to the place where he belongs.
TRIAL EXPENSES HEAVY
The trial of George Mitchell, it is estimated, cost King County about $2,500. for the trial of Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield, it is stated, in all probability there would be as many Oregon witnesses required. The women have the right to be tried separately, if one of them should so elect, thus practically doubling expenses.
The defense of the women, in spite of their own assertions, would, is believed, be insanity. If they are really insane, the fact can legally be ascertained by an insanity commission, which may be named at any time.
If there should be a commission appointed and it should find the women insane, the law entitles them to be taken to their Oregon homes. On the other hand, if the commissioners, composed of experts on alienism, should find the prisoners sane, the testimony of its members would be admissible at the murder trial.
It was stated at the prosecuting attorney’s office that the informations against Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield were ready for filing yesterday afternoon. They were not placed on record, but will probably be submitted to the county clerk this morning.
SYMPATHY IN OREGON
In Oregon much sympathy is expressed for those unwillingly connected with “holy rollerism,” and particularly for O. V. Hurt, Mrs. Creffield’s father. On this subject the Morning Oregonian, of Portland, says editorially:
Any dissatisfied and unhappy citizen who thinks that he has a rough time in his daily life, and that the world doesn’t treat him well, should pause long enough to consider the case of Mr. O. V. Hurt, of Corvallis. It is not necessary to enter into details as to the recent history of the Hurt family, for everyone knows it; and everyone feels that few men have deserved more and got less from the hands of fortune and providence, than Mr. Hurt. Yet he has complained not at all, but has met each new vicissitude with remarkable fortitude and rare devotion to his high conception of his duty. The members of his family have thought little of Mr. Hurt, but they have received much from him--far more than many another husband and father in like circumstances could or would have given. Now he is going to see that his misguided daughter, who abandoned and reviled him, has proper legal defense in her trial at Seattle. It is a fine thing for him to do--just as his entire conduct throughout his terrible trouble, or series of troubles, has been something really beautiful and noble.
Seattle Star 7/18/1906 p1
Esther Mitchell to Have Defense
Portland Attorney And Local Firm Will Look After Her Interests--Morris & Shipley For Mrs. Creffield.
Esther Mitchell, when she is brought to trial, will be defended. She announced this morning that the services of Alfred Clarke, of Portland, Ore., and the law firm of Baxter & Wilson, of this city, had been secured to defend her. Mrs. Creffield has not yet been provided with defense, but Messrs. Morris and Shipley announced this morning that throughout the preliminary proceedings they would represent her.
Mr. Morris, received another letter from O. V. Hurt this morning, also a telegram, in which the old gentleman states that he will abide implicitly by the advice which Morris and Shipley will give him from time to time, prior to the coming trial.
Mr. Morris visited with the two women this morning to consult them regarding their defense. Mrs. Creffield was astonished to see the man who had defended the boy whom she hated, and greeted the attorney by asking him if he was not really disgusted with her. Mr. Morris stated that he did not feel that way, but had come to extend his sympathy.
“I believe that the two women are hopelessly insane,” remarked the lawyer, “although it would not do to tell them. Whether they will be taken back to Portland, I do not know.”