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.

August 1, 1906: Relatives to Help Esther Mitchell


Esther Mitchell
Brighid Thomas as Esther Mitchell

Seattle Post Intelligencer 8/1/1906 p16

Relatives to Help Esther Mitchell

She Is Assured of Family’s Support in Trial for Brother’s Murder.


Assured of the support of her father and brothers, and unmoved from the serenity which has characterized all her actions since the shooting of her brother George, Esther Mitchell yesterday entered a formal plea of not guilty before Superior Judge A. E. Griffin.


Directly after the plea Attorney A. E. Clark, of Portland, who is representing Miss Mitchell in collaboration with Baxter & Wilson, of this city, asked for a separate trial.


Insanity, induced by religious fanaticism, will be the line of defense according to the statement of Esther Mitchell’s attorneys. The witnesses will include the girl’s father, two brothers, and her married sisters, Mrs. Starr and Mrs. Vanderkelen, of Portland.


The attorneys state that the testimony of all of Esther Mitchell’s immediate relatives will be of a friendly nature. The two brothers, Perry and Fred Mitchell, have become reconciled to their sister, say Baxter & Wilson, and a letter received from the girl’s father yesterday expresses his desire to care for Esther if she can be freed from criminal sentence on the murder charge.




A crowd of men, with a sprinkling of women, filled Judge Griffin’s court room yesterday morning. It had been originally intended to have the girl plead before Judge A. W. Frater, but he was delayed and the hearing was adjourned to Judge Griffin’s court.


Several minor cases came up first and were soon disposed of. When the clerk read “No. 3695, Esther Mitchell,” the crowd edged forward to see the girl, who rose calm and smiling to face the bar of justice.


To the question of her guilt, Miss Mitchell replied, “not guilty,” in a clear, firm voice. The request for separate trial was granted and the hearing was over.




During the wait of nearly an hour before the hearing Miss Mitchell sat in court apparently unmoved by the stares of the crowd. She conversed with her attorney, A. E. Clark, and seemed heartened by his assurances of her brothers’ and father’s support.


Those who see the girl daily state that her attitude is always the same, serene and seemingly indifferent as to the possible consequences of her act.


A letter from Esther Mitchell’s father, who is in Mt. Vernon, Ill., to Baxter & Wilson, was received yesterday. Mr. Mitchell writes to offer his daughter an asylum for treatment if she can be freed on proof of insanity. “There is no question at all about Esther’s insanity,” he writes, “it would be cruel either to hang her or to send her to the penitentiary for life. The asylum is the proper place for her.”


Perry and Fred Mitchell are in Portland. Fred is working as a deck hand on one of the river steamers, and Perry is employed in a Standard Oil warehouse.


Should the court appoint an insanity commission of three doctors to examine Esther Mitchell, her attorneys state they are willing to have such course taken. They say they are confident that the girl will be adjudged insane.


The Mitchell case will probably come up early in the fall term of court.

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