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 19, 1906: Are They Sane of Insane?
Seattle Star 9/19/1906 p6
Are They Sane of Insane?
Commission Appointed to Decide on Mental Condition of Mrse. Creffield and Esther Mitchell Will Report Tomorrow.
The commission appointed to determine the sanity of Mrs. Maud Creffield and Esther Mitchell met before Judge Frater this morning and informed the court that the commission had finished its examination.
The court ordered that the commission turn in its report tomorrow morning at the opening.
The report of the commission will determine whether the two women will spend the rest of their lives in the Oregon insane asylum, or stand trial for murder in the first degree for the killing of George Mitchell on the afternoon of Friday, July 12 (sic).
Judge Frater informed the commission that a transcript of the testimony would be unnecessary.
Seattle Post Intelligencer 9/19/1906 p5
Mitchell Creffield Hearing is Ended
Commission Hears Last of Testimony and Will Report in Few Days. Prisoners Give Evidence. Hope for Death and Recite the Details of the Killing of George Mitchell.
The commission named by Judge Frater of the superior court to investigate the charge of insanity made against Mrs. Maud Creffield and Esther Mitchell, held for murder, concluded its labors yesterday afternoon and within the next few days will report its findings. This morning a meeting will be held with Judge Frater present and at that time the matter of the necessity of filing the transcript of the proceedings with the court will be decided. If this is found to be necessary the report will not be made for some days, but if it is not required it will be given out sooner than this.
The proceedings now in the hands of the reporter will require some eight or ten days to transcribe.
Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell were examined separately yesterday and information and statements were secured from them which heretofore it has been impossible to get.
During the day the women were only allowed to see each other for a few minutes. This was during the morning before the hearing began when Mrs. Creffield was brought into the presence of the commission and had to retire for a few moments on account of a slight faintness. She was soon in condition to be interviewed however, and told her story in detail. In the afternoon she was again placed on the stand and her examination was finally concluded.
Mrs. Creffield went into the details of her life after her separation from Creffield and stated that she was forced by her parents to secure a divorce from him although she did not desire to do so. Later after the release of the man from the penitentiary she told how she was called to him and how she felt his presence with her continually. Then she recited the details of their second marriage.
PREDICTED HIS DEATH
She recited the facts bearing on the prediction made by Creffield that he would be killed and said that on the evening previous to his death he had stated that he was soon to be taken from this earth. Mrs. Creffield declared she had no reason for thinking this would occur and that it must have been a demonstration of the supernatural powers which conveyed the idea to his mind.
Shortly after the shooting of her husband she said she was called by God to avenge the death and at once began her plans for the action. Again it came to her, she said, that Esther Mitchell was the chosen one and as the same command came to the younger woman at the same time it was so decided.
When asked regarding her feelings as to the possible consequences of the crime, the witness declared she willing to suffer for it and more, That she is anxious to die.
“I know my Heavenly Father approves of the act,” she said, “and know that if I had not obeyed the command to aid in the killing of Mitchell I would have suffered during the rest of my life. If I had it to do over again I would do just as I did. If God told me to kill others I would do so.”
Mrs. Creffield denied the statements made by her at the police station after the shooting and said that she had not told the truth at that time, because she did not want people to make light of her religious belief. Later, she said, she had come to the conclusion that it was time to tell her real motives.
The woman stated that she has oftentimes wanted to take her life, and would do so if God so willed. She said she had no grievance against Mitchell, but that God had willed her to kill the man.
HAPPY AND CONTENTED
She said she has been very happy and satisfied wince the deed was done, and that before that time she was in just the opposite state of mind. The witness said Creffield was to have been instrumental in bringing about the restoration of the church and that she was acting in that capacity at this time. If her life were taken she said she would still work for the cause in the spirit.
Dr. Turner, of the commission, questioned the woman closely on the crime and made many references to the possibilities that might result from it, but Mrs. Creffield spoke of the affair and of the consequences of murder without a sign of emotion. She showed a thorough study of the Bible and at no time was she unable to give a reason for her actions by quoting scripture.
When Esther Mitchell was called to the stand in the afternoon, she was cool and collected as usual, but there was a slight tinge on her cheek that was not noticeable in the older woman. She recited many of the answers to questions asked her just as id Mrs. Creffield. Her recital of the circumstances surrounding the shooting of her brother, and the reasons for giving the misstatements at the police station were almost identically the same as those made by Mrs. Creffield.
In speaking of the possible consequences of the deed, the girl said:
I wanted to see my brother punished for shooting Mr. Creffield. I realized he was my brother and admit the feeling was unusual under ordinary circumstances, but he did a great wrong and should have been punished. When I was told by God it was my duty to kill him, I was glad. It was not hard to do for I was given strength. At first I felt burdened, before I did it, but I soon realized it was God’s will and He would care for me. If I had not done it, I would have suffered. I had never shot a pistol before, but was not afraid.
WANTED TO SUFFER
“One of my reasons for giving the statement I did at the police station, was to invite mob violence. I wanted to suffer for the cause and am ready now and anxious to do so. Under the same circumstances I would do the deed again, and if I was told by God to kill someone else, I would do it without hesitation. I would kill myself if God told me to and have thought many times of doing so. Since killing my brother, I have not had this desire.”
Later during the examination Esther Mitchell said Creffield was to have been instrumental in bringing about the restoration of the world and that in thwarting this action, her brother did a deed that there could be no punishment, but death.
“When I killed George,” she continued, “Mrs. Creffield and I planned every movement beforehand, but we did not consider any way to escape afterwards. We did not want to get away. I am not insane and never have been.”
At the close of the session, Dr. Turner, speaking for the commission, explained the action of the board in holding many private sessions when it was necessary, and the attorneys agreed that this was just as it should have been. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Miller made a final statement to the effect that he had been misunderstood by Will H. Morris, and that he had never declared his belief in the insanity of the women. The commission will meet with Judge Frater at 9:30 o’clock this morning, to arrange for the submission of the opinion they will arrive at.
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 9/19/1906 p8
Ship Murderess to Oregon
If Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield are Declared Insane, Seattle Authorities Will Send Them Outside of the State.
(Special Dispatch to The Journal)
Seattle, Sept. 19.--The insanity commission that inquired into the alleged sanity of Esther Mitchell and Maud Hurt Creffield will report to Superior Judge Frater at 9:30 o’clock tomorrow morning. This was the agreement made between the court and the commission this morning. If the women are found to be insane they will both be transported to Oregon. What will be done with them when they reach Oregon the local authorities do not care, but they positively will not be cared for in the insane asylums of this state.
An act passed by the last legislature which gave the courts the authority to transport insane persons who are recent arrivals in the state to the place from whence they came. If the women are found to be sane, Esther Mitchell will be put on trial September 24, and Mrs. Creffield on October 22.
GLAD OF MURDER
The taking of testimony in the insanity inquisition was closed yesterday afternoon. The last witness examined was Esther Mitchell. She declared that God had ordained Creffield for the restoration of the world, and that when her brother George had killed the man ordained for this mission it was God’s will that he should be killed. She, like Mrs. Creffield, declared that God had made known to her his decree, that she should take her brother’s life. Every step preliminary to the homicide, she asserted, had been gone over carefully by her and Mrs. Creffield.
“I made the statement I made in police headquarters, knowing it was false in the hope that I would be lynched. I was tired of living, and knew that if I killed, I would get some rest anyway. I am willing to die for the religion. I have never suffered as much as the others, and I want to.
SAYS SHE IS NOT INSANE
“I am not insane. I knew what I was doing, and I do not want to be sent to any asylum. I am perfectly willing to hang. Many times I have thought of killing myself, but I know that God had saved me for a great work. I did not know what the great work was until I received the divine message that it was the killing of my brother. I am satisfied and glad I did it.”
In many instances the explanation given by the girl of motives for actions tallied verbatim with those given by Mrs. Creffield.
Seattle Daily Times 9/20/1906 p1
Declares Slayers of Mitchell Insane
Rumored That Medical Commission Has Arrived at Decision and Will File Their Report Soon. Women May Escape Trial for Murder. Murderess and Mrs. Maud Hurt Creffield Said to Have Been Found to Have Been Mentally Unsound for Years.
Esther Mitchell and Maud Hurt Creffield will be declared insane in the report that will be filed by the medical commission appointed by Judge Frater to inquire into the mental condition of the two women, if persistent rumors can be accepted for truth. At a meeting of the three members of the commission, held last night, it is said that all three of the physicians were of the opinion that the evidence showed both women to have been mentally unsound for several years.
Late this afternoon the members of the commission were squabbling over the form that the insanity had taken and the causes of it. The commission is badly divided on this branch of the report. It is extremely doubtful if the members will be able to agree before morning.
The report of the commission will mean the transportation of the women to Oregon. They will be taken there and turned over to the authorities to be placed in an asylum in that state if Oregon officials see fit. The fact that they have lived in Washington but a few months makes this possible.
The prosecution of the two women will be dropped and the death of George Mitchell at his sister’s hand will go unavenged.
The commission that has probably freed the women from the necessity of undergoing a trial is composed of Drs. Kenneth Turner, R. M. Eames and J. H. Snively.
Seattle Post Intelligencer 9/20/1906 p7
Insanity Board May Report Today
Full Transcript of Proceedings Not Required by Court.
If it is possible for the commission named to inquire into the mental condition of Mrs. Maud Creffield and Esther Mitchell to reach a decision in the matter, the report may be made to the court today. This was the statement made by Dr. Kenneth Turner yesterday, after a conference with Judge Frater regarding the necessity of filing with the report a full transcript of the board’s proceedings.
Judge Frater held that the transcript was not necessary, but that if any of the attorneys desired a copy of the proceedings they might secure it from the stenographer. The board was informed that the services of the stenographer are at its disposal during their future sessions to be held until a decision is reached, and that it is necessary for only such portions of the proceedings to be transcribed as are required.
Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh declared yesterday that if the women are found to be insane, he believes Judge Frater will order them sent to the Oregon asylum. This may be done under the law, he says, as the women have no residence in this state.