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 19, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail


Maud Hurt CreffieldSeattle Star 7/19/1906 p1

Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail

Says Her Heart Is Breaking When She Thinks Of The Sorrow That Has Come To Her Aged Parents.


For a brief half hour immediately after noon today, Mrs. Maud Creffield charge with the murder in the first degree sat in the corridor of the county jail and drank in the fresh air and feasted her eyes on what she could see of the doings of the outer world.


For this brief period she wanted to try to forget the events of the past few weeks and months and think of the time when she was in happier circumstances. She has talked so much about these events that they have become loathsome to her.


“There is one thing the reporters don’t ask me about,” she said. “Everybody seems to think that I am a hardened criminal without the least bit of feeling and sympathy. I don’t shed tears the way other people do, but my heart is almost breaking.”


And as she said the words, tears came to her eyes, and she averted he head.


“Won’t you please tell the people that no woman ever felt for her bereaved old parents more than I do. Tell them that I would gladly give my life if I could return them half the comfort that has been stolen from them.”



Seattle Daily TimesSeattle Daily Times 7/19/1906 p6

Cheap “Economy” Talk


Those busybodies who are endeavoring to work up a case of insanity against Esther Mitchell, the slayer of her brother, and against Maud Creffield, accessory before the fact--under the plea that, if insane, the can be sent out of the State to Oregon and the county save an expense of fully $5,000 in trying the charge of murder, may just as well pull in their horns.


Seattle is not dodging her responsibility.


These people came from Oregon, it is true. But they committed a crime in Seattle--and violated the laws of this State.


Washington is not only ready, but anxious to stand the necessary expenses of the trial for the simple reason that Seattle and the State of Washington do not propose to permit this to be a dumping ground for the criminal elements of other States.


When men or women commit wanton violations of the law of the State of Washington, the State of Washington will do its best to punish such criminals to the full limit of the law.


The question of the saving of a few dollars in costs is not to be considered for a moment.


People who know the two women concerned do not believe they are insane. They have certainly been guilty of no act since being committed to prison that would lead one to believe they are insane--except to aver that they were ready to suffer for the crime committed--and that is such strange honesty for murderers to display that it may seem a little queer to many persons.


Lets stop this “cheap talk” about insanity and about saving a few dollars in court expenses. It’s law and order we want, and we cannot have these without a strict enforcement of the penalty for their violation.





Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/19/1906 p2

Holy Rollerism is Dead Forever

Widow of Joshua Creffield Says Its Creed Has Lost Its Followers.

Leader Had Eliminated Objectionable Features

At Time He Was Killed Apostle Intended to Settle in Seattle and Live Quiet Life, Having Completely Revised His Teachings.


Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/19/1906 p5

Says Roller Creed is Dead Forever

Old Practices Abandoned Before Husband’s Death Claims Mrs. Creffield.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal)


”I believe the religion is dead forever” is the declaration of Mrs. Maud Creffield, widow of the dead leader of Holy Rollers, given at the county jail to a reporter for the Post-Intelligencer yesterday. Mrs. Creffield forever asserts that she and her husband had, at the time his life was taken by George Mitchell, already made alterations in their religious beliefs, and had discontinued the practices which has rendered their faith obnoxious to the communities in which they had been established.


It has been their intention, she states, to make Seattle their home and to lead new and totally different lives.




“Our religion is a faith,” she said, “because we believed as we do it is no cause for saying we are insane. Why not say all religious people are insane? I don’t believe I should discuss Holy Rollerism at all. This much I will say: I have changed my belief since the time my dead husband was leading us in Oregon. We had both changed and we believed differently at the time of his death than before. There are several things regarding which our belief has changed. I might say that we eliminated all the things the public generally condemned and had reorganized our creed.


“We had resolved to make a new home in Seattle, away from the scenes that had become obnoxious to us both, and it was with the intention of establishing ourselves and getting along in the world that we were remaining in Seattle when my husband was killed.




“Yes, it was our intention to continue in our faith there, but it would have been a revised faith and one against which there could not have been a breath of suspicion. Membership would have been taken in as our plans developed and we would have been happy, for we had determined upon new lives.


“It would not be right for me to say what features of our practices were eliminated after the reunion in Seattle this spring. When we were doing what we did in Oregon we thought it right, and this being the case, and having changed when we found further light and viewed our practices as wrong, it is not for the public to know what the inner workings of our religion was.


“Holy Rollerism is not spreading and there is little danger of it doing so. In fact, it has not been practiced by us for more than two years. Other than we two women there are none in Seattle. The report that four are living in Everett is untrue, and for that matter, other than those who have remained faithful in Oregon there are no Holy Rollers, and I believe the religion is dead forever.”



Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/19/1906 p1

Roller Religion Dead Forever

Mrs. Creffield Says She sees Now Practices Were Wrong.

Intended to Reform

With Murderess Esther Will Plead Not Guilty When Arraigned Monday.

Will Elect to Be Tried Separately; Counsel Secured.


[Telegram Coast Special.]


SEATTLE, Wash., July 19-- “Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield will be arraigned Monday morning if Judge Frater is here then,” said Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh today. The court has announced his intention of being in Seattle on that date.


Baxter & Wilson, who were retained by Alfred E Clarke of Portland, will represent Esther Mitchell. It is probable that at this preliminary, Will H. Morris, who defended Esther Mitchell’s victim, will appear. Mr. Morris says he has been asked by O. V. Hurt of Corvallis, to secure counsel for Mrs. Creffield.


“It is out of our great respect and sympathy for Mr. Hurt,’ said Attorney Morris, “that we are willing to do this much. We will not appear at the trial, but if no counsel has been engaged for the preliminary proceedings we will plead for her.”


The women will elect to be tried separately, and will plead not guilty.


“I believe the religion is dead forever,” said Mrs. Creffield. “We had intended to continue our faith here, but it would have been a revised faith, and one against which there could not have been a breath of suspicion. What we did in Oregon we thought right at the time. We have found further light since, and view our practices three years ago as wrong. It is not for the public to know what the inner workings of our religion were. Holy Rollerism is not spreading, and there is little danger of it doing so.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/19/1906 p2

Holy Roller Family is Leaving Corvallis

Mrs. Hartley and Daughter Sophia Will Abandon Their Home of Many Years.


(Special Dispatch to the Journal)


Corvallis, Or., July 19.--With mysterious secrecy as to their plans for the future, Mrs. Hartley and daughter Sophia, formerly members of Creffield’s Holy Roller band, are preparing to abandon their home in this town. They are selling their household good and it is believed intended to start for Washington.


Perry Mitchell arrived in Corvallis yesterday and spent the night here, the guest of Mr. O. V. Hurt, father of Mrs. Creffield, the woman who instigated the murder of George Mitchell by his sister Esther, who is now held in Seattle to answer for the crime.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/19/1906 p2

Will Defend Women

Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell Will Have Attorneys in Trial.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal)


Seattle, Wash., July 19.-- Alfred Clark of Portland and the law firm of Baxter & Wilson of this city have been employed to defend Esther Mitchell on the charge of murder for slaying her brother George in revenge for his killing of Joshua Creffield, leader of the Holy Rollers. Mrs. Creffield, who is held jointly with the Mitchell girl for the crime, will probably be defended by Morris & Shipley, the attorneys who were successful in acquitting George Mitchell when he was tried for killing their prospective client’s husband, Creffield.


It has been announced by the firm of Morris & Shipley that they will represent Mrs. Creffield throughout the preliminary proceedings, and is believed that in case their client is bound over they will undertake her defense in the trial to follow.



Corvallis Times 7/19/1906

Portland Attorney to Defend Esther Mitchell


Alfred E. Clarke, of Portland, has been engaged to assist in the defense of Esther Mitchell for the murder of her brother George, at Seattle. Attorney Clarke has nothing to do with the defense of Mrs. Creffield, who confesses that she instigated Miss Mitchell to commit the act. It is understood that none of Miss Mitchell’s relatives have secured the services of the Portland lawyer, but that some man living here, who is interested in the case, notified Attorney Clarke his fee would be taken care of it he would conduct the defense. In compliance with this commission, Mr. Clarke went to Seattle Monday and had a conference with Miss Mitchell.



Stanford WhiteSeattle Post Intelligencer 7/19/1906 p10

Information Filed in Mitchell Case

Both Women Charged With First Degree Murder by Prosecuting Attorney.

Prisoners Have Counsel.

Baxter & Wilson to Represent Esther Mitchell-Morris to Aid Mrs. Creffield.


Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John F. Miller is not in favor of having an insanity commission examine into the mental condition of Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield, though he does regret that King county should be put to the expense of prosecuting for alleged crimes which had their incipiency in Oregon. Mr. Miller assisted in the preparation of the information against the women, and these were filed yesterday afternoon.


Just when the prisoners will be arraigned has not been decided; but when they are, they will be represented by counsel. For Esther Mitchell, C. L. Baxter and John R. Wilson, of Baxter & Wilson, a local firm, have been retained; Alfred E. Clarke, of Portland, appearing for Oregon friends of the girl. Will H. Morris, of Morris, Southard and Shipley, is acting temporarily for Mrs. Creffield, at the request of the woman’s father, O. V. Hurt, of Corvallis.


“It is entirely out of our regard for Mr. Hurt,” said Attorney Will H. Morris, last evening, “that we have been induced to secure counsel for his daughter. If we cannot get aid in time for the arraignment, or other preliminary proceedings, we may appear, but on no account shall we appear when the matter comes to trial. We shall, however, assist counsel as far as we can, acting as friends in the matter. I have seen both Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield, and each expressed herself as pleased that we should take this part in the case.


Speaking of the possibility of removal of the women to Oregon, as insane patients, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John F. Miller said yesterday:




“This phase of the case has been considered by Mr. Mackintosh, Judge Frater and myself. I do not see what would be gained by having an insanity commission. It would cost a lot of money anyway to get evidence from Oregon such as is necessary to prove insanity, and the county might thus spend $1,000 only to have the commission report, what I think is undoubtedly true, that the women are sane. The only good that would thus be done would be that the record would be admitted at the trial to be considered along with other evidence. A series of scientific observations as to the prisoners’ mental condition is being conducted.



Harry Thaw Killing Stanford WhiteSeattle Post Intelligencer 7/19/1906 p6

The Insane of Criminal Impulse


The suggestion to have Esther Mitchell and Maud Creffield examined by a commission to have their sanity determined in advance of a trial is sound. If these women are insane, they should be deported to their homes in Oregon and turned over to the authorities of that state for safe keeping. If they are sane, they should be given a speedy trial and their guilt or innocence determined, if it is legally possible, without the issue of insanity being left to the determination of a jury of laymen having no knowledge of the subject.


If the law does not permit of the question of insanity being determined definitely and finally, in advance of a trial for murder or other crime, it is high time that the law be changed. It is not such an issue as should be left to a lay jury; nor is it altogether a satisfactory method to have it determined by a post-mortem examination; although the latter process has some obvious advantages.


The recent killings in this city and the killing of White by Thaw in New York suggest the advisability of certain changes in the criminal laws. If a man murders another while insane, the safety of society requires that he be incarcerated, so that he may have no further opportunity to commit such offenses. This would operate to the safety of society in more ways than one; for if an insane asylum for life loomed up before every victim of emotional and homicidal insanity, it is a safe guess emotions would be restrained and the homicidal impulse would be considerably modified, if not held completely in check.


In New York, apparently, there is some provision of this character, for the dispatches announce that Thaw’s sanity is to be determined by a commission of alienists, and that if he should prove to be mentally unsound, he will be sent to the asylum for the criminal insane and the proceedings against him will be dropped. This would be an eminently proper disposition to make of his case if the man is in fact insane.


The public injury does not come from the fact that an insane person escapes the consequences of a crime committed by him; but from the prevailing popular (Rest of article is cut off)

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