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 23, 1906: Frater Favors a Commission of Alienists


Seattle Daily Times 7/23/1906 p10

Frater Favors a Commission of Alienists

Suggests That Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield Be Examined as to Mental Condition Before Trial.

Women Arraigned For First Degree Murder

Both Defendants go Through Trying Formality Without Least Sign of Embarrassment or Show of Emotion.


Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield may possible never be tried for the murder of the brother of the brother of the former and the man who killed the husband of the latter, George Mitchell. Both women were arraigned this morning and after the legal formalities had been finished, Superior Judge Frater made an announcement from the bench which indicates that he is in favor of a commission being called to examine into the mental condition of the women, and of committing them to the insane asylum if they are decided to be insane.


Judge Frater mentioned the fact that at the trial of George Mitchell evidence had been introduced showing that the women had been insane and on that account they had been ordered confined, one in the state asylum for the insane in Oregon and the other at the institution maintained by the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society of Portland.


“I have no official knowledge of what the defense is to be in this case,” said Judge Frater, “but my understanding is that it will be insanity, and if this is so I believe that it will result in a considerable saving to King County both in time and money to have the mental condition of these defendants determined by a commission appointed by the court.”


In this respect Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh and Judge Frater disagree. The matter of calling a commission has been discussed by Mr. Mackintosh and his chief assistant, John F. Miller, with the result that it is believed that it will cost as much to examine the women on their sanity alone as it will to try them on the criminal charge, and if the commission should decide that they were not insane it would be necessary to try them before a jury and practically the same number of witnesses would be called in the second case as in the first.


Judge Frater, after he had adjourned court, said that he had not decided whether he would order a sanity commission on his own responsibility or not. So far as the lawyers for the two women are concerned, no steps will be taken in this respect until after the arrival in Seattle of O. V. Hurt, father of Mrs. Creffield, who is expected Wednesday.




Neither Esther Mitchell or Mrs. Creffield exhibited the least emotion when brought into court this morning. Both were self-possessed and heard Mr. Mackintosh read the formal charge against them with far less show of interest than was evidenced by the four or five hardened looking men who sat inside the criminal rail to face formal charges of robbery, assault and burglary.


It was the first time the two women had seen each other since being locked up in the county jail and Mrs. Creffield, who had come into the courtroom first, smiled at Esther Mitchell as soon as the latter took her seat. The girl smiled back, but they were so far apart as to prohibit any exchange of confidences.


Esther Mitchell, looking scarcely the 18 years which she lays claim to was dressed in a dark blue skirt, white shirt waist and a white straw sailor hat. On her breast was pinned a small red rose, and there was absolutely nothing in her appearance to indicate that she had spent the past few weeks in a small cell in the county jail, or that she had aught of trouble on her mind.




Both women were called at the same time and both came forward without hesitation. Esther Mitchell was represented by Attorney Baxter. Attorney Silas Shipley, who defended George Mitchell, represented Mrs. Creffield. He stated to the court, however, that he was acting during the formality of arraignment only and that he did so at the request of her father, O. V. Hurt, who would be in Seattle in a day or so for the purpose of employing counsel.


During the reading of the informations Esther Mitchell, standing with her hand resting on the back of a chair, bit nervously at her lip, but Mrs. Creffield was as immobile as a statue. Asked if she was ready to plead, the latter said “yes, not guilty,” the response coming almost before Judge Frater had finished his interrogation.


Attorney Shipley stated that the plea would stand with the right to withdraw and file a demurrer. This right was granted.


Esther Mitchell, through her attorney asked for time to plead and was given until a week from tomorrow. The women were then sent to their seats and after a few minutes were led away to the jail.



Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/23/1906

Esther Mitchell Asks More Time

Mrs. Creffield Also Arraigned on Murder Charge and Gets Until July 31.


[Telegram Coast Special.]


SEATTLE, Wash., July 23.-- Esther Mitchell was arraigned before Judge A. W. Frater, in the Superior Court here this morning, charged with the murder of her brother, George, in the Union Depot, July 12. On advise of her counsel, C. L. Baxter, she asked that the time of pleading be postponed one week.


Mrs. Maud Creffield was arraigned on the same charge, accused of instigating Esther to do the shooting, and pleading not guilty. Silas M. Shipley, who aided in securing the acquittal of George Mitchell, on a murder charge a few days before the boy was killed, appeared for Mrs. Creffield. The women were calm when they appeared in court, as if such events were every-day occurrences. They had, however, dressed for the occasion in new gowns, purchased with funds supplied from their witness fees at the former trial, and from the residue of Esther’s wages at the Oregon Woolen Mills, which were forwarded to her recently.


Counsel for Esther Mitchell stated this morning that they were considering another move in Esther’s case, and therefore had not yet decided to plead. What that further move was they though it would be inopportune to state at this time. It is believed here it must be either of two things, and insanity commission or an early pleading in order that the girl may be protected by her age from the gallows.


It is possible that Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield will never be brought to trial on a criminal (rest of article is cut off, but it looks like it was similar to Seattle Daily Times 7/23/1906 p10)



Seattle Star 7/23/1906 p1

Mitchell’s Slayers are Arraigned

Esther Asks For A Week’s Time Before Entering A Plea--Mrs. Creffield Pleads Not Guilty.


“Not guilty,” replied Mrs. Maud Creffield when charged in court this morning with Esther Mitchell with the murder of George Mitchell on July 12.


Esther Mitchell asked for a week in which to plead. She was represented by Baxter & Wilson, a Portland firm.


Attorney S. M. Shipley, who with Will Morris, defended George Mitchell, at the solicitation of O. V. Hurt, or Corvallis, spoke for Mrs. Creffield and asked the court for permission to change the plea of not guilty any time within a week, which was granted.


There was little interest shown in the case. There were few persons in the courtroom.


At no time during the hearing did either appear excited. The only time Mrs. Creffield shoed any feeling was when Esther entered the court room. They were brought up from the jail separately and were not allowed to speak to each other, but from the eager glances cast across the room by Mrs. Creffield it could be easily discerned that the two women are the closest of friends.


Judge Frater recommended that an insanity commission be appointed to examine the women, and thus if they are found unbalanced save the expense of what may be a long and expensive trial. He said that if they are insane they should be sent to the Oregon asylum.





Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/23/1906 p8

Women Arraigned for Murder

Mrs. Creffield Pleads Not Guilty and Esther Mitchell is Given Week to Decide.

Court Suggests Their Sanity Be Determined.

Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh Declares He Will Not Consider Judge Frater’s Plan for Saving the State Expense of Trial.


Corvallis Gazette 7/27/1906 p3

Not Guilty

So Says Maud Hurt-Creffield to Charge of Murder.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal)


Seattle, July 23:-- Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Hurt Creffield were arraigned in the superior court this morning before Judge Frater on information charging them jointly with murder in the first degree for killing George Mitchell. Mrs. Creffield pleaded not guilty. she was represented by S. M. Shipley of the firm of Morris & Shipley, who freed her husband’s slayer. Esther Mitchell was represented by Baxter & Wilson, a firm of young attorneys. She was given a week in which to plead.


After Mrs. Creffield had entered a plea of not guilty Judge Frater stated from the bench:

There was considerable evidence introduced in the trial of George Mitchell to show that Mrs. Creffield had been confined in an insane asylum and that Esther Mitchell had become insane and was confined in the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society in Portland. Taking this evidence into consideration I think that it would be advisable if an insanity commission was appointed to report to this court whether or not these women were sane or insane when George Mitchell was killed. If the commission should report that they were insane I should send them both to the insane asylum and thus save the county and the taxpayers the expense of a trial. I offer this as a suggestion to the prosecuting attorney.”


Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh did not make any comment in court upon the judge’s suggestion, but declared as he left the courtroom that he would not consider the judge’s suggestion. “You can say for me,” said Mackintosh, “that these women will be put on trial for murder in the first degree. If they were insane, then it is for a jury to decide. I do not propose to waste any time with a medical commission.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/23/1906 p14

Esther Mitchell Sent Dollar Back

Refused to Accept Money of Girl Friend--No Thought of Future.


With a polite note Esther Mitchell, slayer of her own brother, returned the check for $1 which was sent to her by Viola Burr, of Portland. In the letter Esther stated that she could not accept money from one who might need it more than she and for that reason she returned it with thanks.


In her little cell of the jail office this strange young woman spends her time. A few magazines piled on a chair, a cot, over which are spread some blankets, and a few dresses hung on the wall, comprises the furnishings of her cell.


When a reporter for the Post-Intelligencer was allowed to see her she was busily engaged in polishing a pair of shoes.


“I have to do something to pass away the time,” said she, “Although I do not suffer in any way. Yes, jail life is a little irksome. Do I look forward to the future? No, I don’t. I live from day to day and let the future take care of itself.”


She smiled and laughed and chatted and showed no realization of her position. Her eyes were clear and she has apparently become stouter since her arrest.


“Are you ever troubled by the memory of the shooting?” she was asked.


“Not a bit,” she replied, “but I don’t care to discuss that subject.”


“Are you still a believer in Holy Rollerism?”


“Holy Rollerism? What is that? I don’t know anything about it. The doctrine of Mr. Creffield? Is that what it is called? You apparently know more about it than I do. I have my faith, yes, but that also is something I do not care to talk about.”


“Do you believe that Creffield was a holy man and was sent by God?”


“I never said I did.”


“But do you believe it?”


To this question she refused to answer.


“Will your defense be insanity?”


“It may be, I don’t know.”


She talks freely on any subject except her case, but states that she does not care to make any statements now. She expressed a desire to wait till the case comes to trial and then talk freely.


In the big cell where the women are confined, Mrs. Maud Creffield spends her time.


“There has been so much already said about my case that I don’t care to discuss it any more she said. “Of course it is tiresome being in here and the future looks dark, but we have to make the best of it.”


She has apparently suffered more from confinement than the girl she advised to commit murder.


“If you want any information about the case, go to someone else,” she said, and returned to her cot.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/23/1906 p3

Holy Rollerism is Discussed

Rev. W. F. Small Declares It Is Extreme expression of the Fanatical Spirit

Compares It To Dowie’s Teachings

Says Willful Ignorance Is in No Small Degree Responsible for Such Outbreaks as Those Which Characterized Creffield’s Sect.


“Holy Rollerism” was the subject of Rev. W. F. Small of the First Universalist church yesterday. The pastor declared that Holy Rollerism was the extreme expression of the fanatical spirit, but declared that in most respects it is no worse than Dowieism. He likewise declared that willful ignorance is in no small degree responsible for such outbreaks. Rev. Mr. Small said in part:

Mrs. Creffield says Holy Rollerism is dead. Maybe, but its recent expressions have brought into great prominence two issues--religious liberty and lawlessness. George Mitchell shot Creffield. Many say he did right; if so, then Esther Mitchell did right in shooting her brother. For if it is right for one to exalt his desire for vengeance above the integrity of the state it is right for another.


“Holy Rollerism is an extreme expression of the fanatical spirit. But in most respects it is no worse than Dowieism, with its infernal denunciations of Freemasonry and of medicine and surgery as born in hell, or of Stanfordism, or even of some expressions of revivalism. all of these have in one way or another debauched their devotees. Some say such a fanaticism as Holy Rollerism is the result of too much religious freedom. Others say it proceeds from the notion of special revelations. This latter seems to be a true partial explanation of the condition. Woeful ignorance is in no small degree responsible for such outbreaks. Strange remedies for their cure are suggested. To destroy the notion of special revelation it is urged that the doctrine of the Bible as the complete and final revelation from God be preached. That will not do, because it is not true.


“Some say pass laws curtailing religious freedom. Curtail whose religious freedom? Complete religious freedom is a fundamental guarantee of our Constitution, and any attempt to abridge that freedom would be a very delicate task, almost impossible. Of all absurdities the most patent is that religious liberty is a dangerous doctrine. It is not any more so than any other privilege. As well term moral freedom dangerous because of the bestiality of men who abuse that privilege.


“Religious liberty is a boon, and a right without the exercise of which we cannot hope to be wise or sane people. Each man’s religious nature is his and he must exercise his own powers of apprehension of truth along the lines of his own individuality. We cannot accept any statement as true merely because some person or some church has declared it to be true.


“As matter of fact the struggle for religious liberty is but one phase of the movement for intellectual freedom. The struggle is by no means over, and the victory for soul-liberty is by no means won, looking at the whole world. In our land the right to find God is every souls. The exercise of that freedom sometimes leads to even vicious excess. But there is no ground for despair. The cure ultimately for fanaticism, with its blighting effects on some lives, is a positive knowledge of the laws and principles of the government of God--herein is the absolute assurance of sanity and rational progress in religion.”



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/23/1906 p3

Laws Are Needed, Says Pastor

Rev. J. Elmo Robinson Declares Fanaticism Must Be Fought by Legal Statutes

Religious Liberty Not For Wreckers Of Homes.

Sound-Minded People Need No New Revelations, He Says--Tendency of Special Revelations Not Toward Christianity or Morality.


Rev. F. Elmo Robinson, pastor of the Rodney Avenue Christian church, last night preached upon “The Eradication of Such Religious Fanaticism as That of The Holy Rollers.” Mr. Robinson said in part:

Vice seldom appears in its real garb at first. It is a monster so frightful a mien that to be hated needs but to be seen. Therefore it not infrequently appears in the guise of religion. What is still worse is that in these latter days it often appears under the name of Christianity. The great founder of the Christian religion has warned up against these false prophets. “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?” Again our Lord says ‘Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’


“We need stringent laws to protect our homes from the ravages of these wolves in sheep’s clothing. But laws can only regulate the outward manifestations of immorality and crime. To eradicate these degrading ‘isms’ we uproot the plant that produces the foul fruit.”


Mr. Robinson spoke of the ways in which God manifests himself to the seeker after Him. “He reveals himself,” said the speaker, “first in His works. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.’ As eloquently and as universally as the voice of nature speaks concerning the Creator yet observation and a knowledge of the world’s history teaches us that that revelation is not complete. It does not fully meet the needs of man. God sent forth His son as the revealer of our Father in heaven, saying of him on the mount of transfiguration ‘This is my beloved son, hear him.’


“Our Savior himself said to one of his disciples: ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.’ Again we read: ‘God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son.’ Jesus Christ fully revealed God to his disciples. He is gone, but we have in the New Testament an inspired account of that complete plan of salvation of which God is the author. ‘All scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.




“I have spoken of the manner in which God has revealed himself to the world and pointed out the completeness of that revelation and we might see the utter uselessness of any special additional manifestation. It is out of this theory of special revelations that all of this fanaticism grows. It is dangerous, this idea held even by many good people that God speaks to us today independent of his holy word. This theory exhibits distrust of God since the holy scriptures are purported to thoroughly furnish the man of God unto all good works. In the case of the rich man and Lazarus the master shows us that God refused to permit a special revelation to the brethren of the rich man, saying through Abraham; “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them, and if they hear not Moses (the column is cut off)


“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.’ These gross forms of fanaticism being almost invariably the fruit of this theory of new and special revelations I appeal to you to adhere closely to the Bible. The Bible and the Bible alone produce Christians, not Mormons nor Holy Rollers. It is the guardian of our homes, the purifier of society, and the strength of any nation that is guided by its teachings. Queen Victoria pointing to a copy of the Bible once said: ‘There is the secret of England’s greatness.’


“Its standard is perfection. It leads us God ward. Let us accept it as the full and final revelation of God’s will.”

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