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.
September 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Objects to Help
Seattle Post Intelligencer 9/13/1906 p1
Esther Mitchell Objects to Help
Examination of Slayers of Geo. Mitchell on Insanity Charge Begun. Case Continue Today. Witnesses Tell of Behavior of the Women Before the Tragedy.
“I don’t want any of you to do anything for me. I don’t care whether they hang me or not, and I don’t want the impression to go to the world that I am insane. I did a good deed, and I want the world to know it.”
With these words Esther Mitchell being examined with Mrs. Maud Creffield in Judge Frater’s department of the superior court on a charge of insanity, dismissed her brothers, Fred and Perry, who had sought an interview with her during the examination of witnesses late in the afternoon. There was no anger in the remark, and though the brothers were in tears the young girl stood unconcerned and half smiling up at them as she made the statement. Then she turned away and joined Mrs. Creffield in her seat. W. T. Gardner, superintendent of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society home at Portland, who has been called as a witness and who had charge of the girl for a number of months, was present at the time the statements were made.
The hearing of the two prisoners, charged with the murder of George Mitchell, but now being examined as to their sanity, began in the superior court yesterday morning. Drs. Kenneth Turner, J. H. Snively and R. M. Ames are conducting the examination before Judge Frater. Prior to the opening of the examination a conference was held in the court’s private chambers between the attorneys and the physicians relative to the fitness of the physician’s to act, it being argued by the state’s attorneys that they might be prejudiced in the matter. Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh, with his deputy, John F. Miller, are in attendance for the state, and Mr. Baxter, of the firm of Baxter & Wilson, and Attorney Holzheimer, of this city, with Attorney Clark, of Portland, for the prosecution, but up to this time they have taken no active part in the examination, although they are allowed the right to do so if they desire.
HEARING IS CONTINUED
The hearing will continue today, and it is not expected that a return of the findings of the commission will be made until tomorrow. Last night, Mr. Holzheimer sent a telegram to Corvallis requesting that Mrs. O. v. Hurt, the mother of Mrs. Creffield, be brought to the city at once, if it is possible, and if not for the family physician to be sent here to act as a witness. The attorneys for the two women are very anxious that Mrs. Hurt be present.
Among the witnesses examined yesterday morning and afternoon perhaps those who attracted the most interest were James Berry and Frank Hurt, the brother of Mrs. Creffield. Berry refused to speak until taken in private, and then he gave the reason for the refusal that at the time, Mrs. Creffield, then Maud, associated herself with the “Holy Rollers,” and for a time after that he was engaged to be married to her. He told of her actions before and after the religion had secured a firm hold on her, and of his giving her up when she finally became associated with Creffield. He declared she was always very devout, but that she never acted peculiar until becoming a radical member of the Holy Roller church. He declared that for some time before she became a member of the organization she had suffered considerably from nervous troubles.
Telling of her actions after she joined the band, the witness said she had often been known to fast for three days at a time and did anything that came into her mind, saying that she had received a message from the Lord to do so. On one occasion, he says, she ran into a crowded dining room and knelt down in the middle of the floor, praying for the salvation of those present. Berry admitted that for a time he himself was interested in the Holy Roller church, but that he left when the teachings became so radical under Creffield. He expressed the firm belief that both of the women are insane and have been since they entered the Holy Roller church.
Considerable time was spent with frank Hurt by the physicians in trying to discover the official positions and standing of Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell in the church, but though he declared that he had been a member up to the time of the killing of Creffield he appeared to know little of the workings of the organization.
FRANK HURT ON STAND
Hurt said that while he believed in the practices carried on by the members of the church at the time he was one of them, he denounced their actions now. He made no statement as to his opinion regarding the sanity of the women, and it was almost impossible to get any direct statement from him.
The first witness called was O. V. Hurt, the father of Mrs. Creffield. He told, in answer to questions put to him, of the actions of his daughter before entering the Holy Roller church. According to his story, the girl was healthy and normal as a child, but that when she was 22 years old she was sent to the asylum for the insane at Salem, Or., for six months. He declared that her condition was brought about at that time by the teachings of the “Holy Roller” church. Prior to this, he said, she was always of a religious turn of mind and generally took up with every new creed that presented itself. While in the asylum her condition was such that it was necessary to keep her in a straight jacket and oftentimes tied in her bed or chair. At that time the girl’s mother was also confined in the same institution, and while the latter was formally discharged the daughter never was, but was allowed to return to her home on probation. He expressed his opinion that both of the women are insane and have been for some years, and that his daughter was never cured at the time she left the asylum.
SUPERINTENDENT GARDNER TESTIFIES
Superintendent Gardner, of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society home at Portland, as well as Mary J. Graham, the matron of the institution, were examined regarding the actions of Esther Mitchell when she was confined there some three years ago for a period of six months. Both of their stories were practically the same and were to the effect that, in their opinion, the girl was insane when she was taken into the home. They declared she refused to mingle with anyone, that some days she refused to work and would spend the time in prayer; that oftentimes during the night she would get up from her bed and pray on the floor or would go to the matron or one of the children and say that she had a message from the Lord to do something; that she was always melancholy and showed plainly a religious mania. A letter was introduced in evidence which went to show the condition of the girl’s mind at the time and the hold the religious teachings had upon her. In the letter the girl speaks of her brothers, of “Joshua,” as Creffield was called, and of “all the saints.”
Only a short preliminary examination was given the women and the questions put to them were principally upon their ages, schooling and state of health. Both of the prisoners appeared in the court room neatly dressed and for a time during the preliminary conference smiled and talked with those who approached them. they were guarded by two deputies. During the examination they were stolid and spoke in low tones.
NEW WITNESS COMING
During the intermission between the afternoon and evening session a telegram was received from Mrs. Hurt, at Corvallis, stating that she will leave at once for this city and will probably arrive here this afternoon.
Only two witnesses were examined at the session of the commission last night--Perry Mitchell, brother of Esther, and Police Matron Kelly, who had charge of the women after their arrest following the murder of George Mitchell.
Mitchell stated that he believes Esther was insane at the time she shot her brother, and that in his opinion she had been insane since first coming under the influence of Creffield. He said that during the time that the girl had been in the East with her father, in 1903, she had gradually gotten over her religious frenzy, but that upon returning to this state again and falling in with the Holy Rollers she again took up her old ways.
He declared that she was taken to the Boys’ and Girls’ Home at Portland, because her relatives feared that if she was not removed from the influence of her former associates she would have to be sent to the state asylum. He told of the condition of the girl before she met with the Creffield followers, and said at that time she was normal and altogether different from the person she afterwards became.
MEETINGS WERE SECRET
In speaking of the meetings held by the Holy Rollers, he stated that after they had been conducted for some time outsiders were refused admittance, and he held that this was due to a great extent to the fact that the followers felt that they were being persecuted and looked with suspicion on everyone, especially the members of their own families.
As to former traces of peculiarities in his family the young man said his father had been a religious and political crank for years and had a quick temper. Following these statements, Mitchell gave a recital of the occurrences at the Union depot, when his brother met his death.
EXAMINATION ENDS TODAY
Matron Kelly was then examined by the commission in regard to the personal habits and bearing of the women after their (illegible). Neither (illegible) (illegible) (illegible) (illegible) from statements formerly given by other witnesses, was learned from her.
The session of the board today will be called at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Fred Mitchell will be the first witness called and he will be followed by Mrs. Hurt as soon as she arrives. No other witnesses with the possible exception of the Hurt family physician, will be examined unless new ones are found before the time set for the next session. The commission hopes to conclude its work today, but in order to do this it may be found necessary to hold a second night session.
Attorneys for the defense declare that if the commission finds the women insane they will be returned to Oregon, where they hold citizenship, as this is the law in such cases. According to testimony introduced yesterday Mrs. Creffield was not formally discharged from the asylum at Salem and she can be returned there in the opinion of the attorneys. The most interesting part of the proceedings will probably be tonight, when the final examination of the women will be made. This, the members of the commission say, will be thorough and exhaustive.