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.
November 17, 1906: Maud Creffield Dies in the County Jail
Seattle Post Intelligencer 11/17/1906 p1
Maud Creffield Dies in the County Jail
The Third Of The Principals In The Holy Roller Tragedy Meets A Sudden Death
Coroner Says It Is Heart Failure.
No Intimation Given That She Was Ill-The First Warning Was A Call For Help.
Had Been Playing Cards Shortly Before
Had Been In Unusual Health--Receive A Call From A Cousin During The Day.
Mrs. Maud Creffield died shortly after 11 o’clock last night in her cell in the county jail. She is the third of the principals in the Holy Roller tragedy to meet sudden death. But a short time before her death she had played a game of cards with the other women who are confined in that ward in the jail. Neither Sheriff Lou C. Smith or any of his deputies had received any intimation that the woman was ill and their first knowledge that she was stricken, or that anything was wrong in that part of the jail, was when women prisoners in the main dormitory of the women’s department called for help.
That signal had been given just after a piercing scream was heard from the direction of Mrs. Creffield’s cell and Esther Mitchell, who fired the shot that killed her brother, George Mitchell, for which both she and Mrs. Creffield were held in custody called to the women for assistance. Although Sheriff Smith and his deputies and jailers at first suspected that the woman had taken poison, they came to the conclusion after they made a thorough search of her cell that she had died from natural causes.
Deputy Coroner Shirley F. Wiltsie says that the symptoms were those of heart disease, and not those of one who had taken poison. It is his belief that the woman died from heart disease and until an autopsy is performed today by Coroner Carroll, the exact cause of Mrs. Creffield’s death will not be known. The body was removed to the Bonney-Watson undertaking establishment.
WERE IN USUAL SPIRITS
Yesterday afternoon Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell appeared to be in their usual spirits. Although a week ago Mrs. Creffield complained of a slight illness she had been in her usual health during the past few days. Mrs. Levins, her cousin, who lives on Pike Street, was a caller yesterday afternoon and talked with the two women a short time.
Last night before 10 o’clock, Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield were in the main sleeping apartment of the women prisoners in the county jail. Mrs. Creffield engaged in a game of cards with other prisoners. She did not seem to be ill.
At 10 o’clock last night Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield left the other women and went to their own cell. They slept together in the tank just south of the main room of the women’s department. The cell is the one that has been occupied by every convicted murderer that has been confined in the King county jail.
Before going to bed Mrs. Creffield went to the toilet room and took a cold foot bath.
Annie Rooney passed Mrs. Creffield’s cell a short time later and saw Esther Mitchell. Their arms were about each other, as the women say was usual with them. There was a good night said. That was the last word any one except Esther Mitchell heard from Mrs. Creffield.
The two women had been in bed about a half hour when, shortly before 11 o’clock, Mrs. Creffield was heard to scream.
THOUGHT SHE HAD FAINTED
Immediately Esther Mitchell called to the other women prisoners.
Several women rushed into the cell while others hammered on the door and attracted the attention of the two night jailers, Joe Hill and A. McKinnon. They were playing a game of cribbage in the jail office. When they reached the cell in which the two accused murderesses were confined, Mrs. Creffield was standing on the floor of her cell. She was clutching wildly at her left side and moaning. The jailers and the women rubbed her hands and did what little they knew to restore her to consciousness. Dr. Wiltsie was called, but when he arrived at the jail the woman was dead.
Mrs. Creffield’s eyes opened once after she was first stricken, and she was asked if she wanted a drink of water. She nodded her head in assent, was given the drink and then again lapsed into unconsciousness.
After Deputy Coroner Wiltsie had pronounced the woman dead, the body was taken out into the jailer’s office and Esther Mitchell was allowed to accompany the corpse there. The younger woman hid both her head and that of the dead woman under the sheet and covered the face of her companion with kisses.
Questions were asked her at intervals by her jailers, and others who were in the office. She responded to all inquiries and her grief was not of the kind that admits of tears. Her eyes were dilated and she appeared to be suffering under some great strain.
“She was all right when we went to bed,” said Esther Mitchell. “She was in my arms when she first felt pain. She fainted, screamed and fainted. Then I called the other women. No. She did not take poison. She didn’t have any, and she wouldn’t have taken it if she had poison.
“Send a message to Mr. Hurt, please. Let me stay with the body.”
THE SINGLE MOURNER
When the dead wagon arrived and the corpse was taken from the single mourner, the girl did not make a scene. Sheriff Smith touched the kneeling figure beside the corpse.
“She will have to go now, Esther,” said the sheriff.
The girl arose, then seated herself on a chair and with her eyes fixed on the body watched the undertakers place it in the basket, cover it with a sheet and carry it to the waiting wagon. The iron cell doors were locked and the girl was returned to her cell. Still she kept up her composure. She did not shed a tear even when left alone.
Sheriff Smith and Chief Deputy Ed Drew were notified soon after Mrs. Creffield was stricken, and they arrived at the jail a few minutes after she died. The sheriff ordered a thorough search of the cell. He aided it personally, and every article in the cell occupied by the women was examined. No vessel that might have held poison was overlooked, but no trace of anything of the kind, nor any evidence that Mrs. Creffield had tried to end her own life was found. The women had their own cooking utensils and prepared their own food. There were a few bottles of medicine, but nothing of a poisonous nature.
“I am positive that the woman did not commit suicide,” said the sheriff, after the search had been concluded. “There is nothing to indicate that suicide had been committed. There is no trace of poison anywhere.
“Mrs. Creffield acted as one suddenly stricken with heart disease, and that I think is the cause of death. Of course, the facts will not be known until after the autopsy, but I am positive that the doctor’s will find that the woman did not take poison.”
THE FIRST WARNING
“The first either myself or McKinnon knew of the fact that she was sick,” said Jailer Joe J. Hill, “was when some of the women in the cell called to us. McKinnon and myself were seated in the jailer’s office playing a game of cards. The women had been amusing themselves with card games in their quarters earlier in the evening, and Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell had gone to bed.
“When we reached the cell in which the women had been confined Mrs. Creffield appeared to have fainted. We laid her on the bed and rubbed her hands and ankles to restore circulation, but she grew worse. Once she opened her eyes, but she closed them again. I think it was about twenty minutes after she was first stricken that she passed away. It is my opinion that she died a natural death. I do not think that she committed suicide. There have been stories printed that the woman was stricken some time ago with nervous prostration, but that is not so. she had been fairly well right along. About a week ago she complained about not feeling just right, but she was not sick at that time. It was merely a slight illness and passed away in a short time.
Seattle Post Intelligencer 11/17/1906 p1
Believes Death Came Naturally
Attorney Will H. Morris Says Mrs. Creffield Did Not Commit Suicide.
Mr. Will H. Morris, who has been connected as attorney with the defense in the Creffield and Mitchell cases, when informed early this morning of Mrs. Creffield’s death said:
I do not think that she has taken her own life. I have been closely associated with her and her defense since George Mitchell was killed by his sister, Esther. I believe the autopsy will show that her death was the result of natural causes. She was a woman who believed implicitly in her religious faith and would not intentionally violate that faith in any respect. Fro numerous conversations that I have had with her since her incarceration I am firmly of the belief that she would not consider it right to take her own life, and in making this statement I do not forget the fact that she was jointly charged with Esther Mitchell with the crime of murder in taking the life of the one who took her husband’s life.
BLOW TO FATHER
“But it is generally conceded by all fair-minded persons who knew the facts connected with the mentality of there two girls that they were not in a condition mentally to make them responsible in law for their acts.
“Mrs. Creffield’s death will be a sad blow to her father, Mr. O. V. Hurt, of Corvallis, Or, than whom there is no greater-hearted man living. The suffering he has had to endure through all this trouble, is what I would first consider.
“If Esther Mitchell, instead of Mrs. Creffield, had died, it would probably have resulted in the dismissal of the case against Mrs. Creffield
NO EFFECT ON MITCHELL CASE
“As it is, Mrs. Creffield’s death will have no legal effect upon the prosecution of Esther Mitchell, although it may have its moral influence.
“Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield were examined some weeks ago by an insanity commission appointed by Judge Frater and this body made a finding and report that each of the girls was insane, both during the examination and at the time George Mitchell was killed.
“From this report the state appealed and on the 26th of October these cases were argued before the Supreme Court at Olympia. The Supreme Court requested the attorneys for the state and defense to file additional briefs on the question of constitutionality of the law under which the insanity proceedings in the superior court were determined. Up to the present time the Supreme Court has not, to my knowledge, rendered its decision in these cases. So, the whole matter is indefinite.
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Seattle Daily Times 11/17/1906 p2
Maud Creffield Dies in County Jail
Woman Charged With Esther Mitchell for the Murder of Latter’s Brother Succumbs to Heart Disease.
Third Death Due To Holy Roller Craze.
Coroner and Sheriff Confident That Demise of Prisoner Was Not Due to Her Having Taken Poison.
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 11/17/1906 p12
Maud Creffield Dies in Jail
Prisoner Charged With Murder of George Mitchell Passes Away Suddenly
Autopsy Being Held By Coroner Today.
Woman was Apparently Well When Stricken by Heart Disease--Spent Evening Playing Cards--Dies Five Minutes After Seizure.
(Special Dispatch to The Journal)
Maud Hurt Creffield, a prisoner in the county jail, charged jointly with Esther Mitchell with murder in the first degree because of the killing by the latter of her brother, George Mitchell, last July, died shortly after 11 o’clock last night, presumably from heart disease. As soon as the jailers, made cognizant that something was wrong by the women who were sleeping just off the cell occupied by Mrs. Creffield and the Mitchell girl, could do so, they summoned a physician, but before he arrived the paroxysm of pain in which the woman was writhing had given way to death.
As soon as the physician, Deputy Coroner Shirley Wiltsie, reached the jail and pronounced the woman dead, the body was taken from the cell into the jail office and later to the Bonney-Watson morgue. Through it all, Esther Mitchell, who appears to had had a more than usual fondness for the Creffield woman, bore up bravely, although she suffered greatly from grief. As the body lay shrouded in the jail office, the girl screened her head beneath the winding sheet and kissed the dead face repeatedly.
When the corpse was removed, Esther Mitchell was led back to her cell and left alone with her voiceless, tearless grief.
It was shortly before 10 o’clock last evening that Esther Mitchell and the Creffield woman left the women’s ward where they had been playing cards with the other inmates, and retired to their cell. A few minutes afterward one of the inmates passed the cell and saw the two women locked in each other’s arms.
About 11 o’clock the women in the ward were aroused by a scream coming from the cell occupied by Maud Creffield and Esther Mitchell, and Jailers Joe Hill and A. McKinnon were notified that something was wrong. Hastening to the cell, the men found the Creffield woman standing erect, her face distorted with pain and clutching at her heart. The jailers assisted by the Mitchell girl and the other women chafed the arms and hands of the sufferer.
Only once did Maud Creffield indicate that she had power to reason or realize what was going on, and that was when, in answer to a question as to whether or not she writhed a drink of water, she nodded her head in affirmation. Immediately after taking the drink she became unconscious, death ensuing a few minutes later.
Sheriff Smith and Chief Deputy Ed. Drew were summoned, and upon their arrival made a thorough search of the quarters occupied by the dead woman in the belief that by some possibility she had obtained poison. Nothing was found to indicate such to be the case, however; there was neither bottle nor paper which might have contained fluid or powder. Two days ago Mrs. Levins, a cousin of the dead woman, called to see her, and a day or so before that her mother and father had visited her at the jail.
HEART IN GOOD CONDITION
Mrs. Creffield may have died from any of three causes--poison in the stomach, neuralgia of the heart, or uraemia. “Neither can be determined,” said Coroner Carroll this afternoon, “until a careful analysis of the contents of the stomach and a chemical examination of the urine are made.
Dr. Carroll, assisted by his chief deputy, Dr. S. F. Wiltsie, Dr. W. N. Powers, Dr. Crookall, Dr. Snyder and other surgeons, performed an autopsy on the body at the Bonny-Watson Company morgue this morning. After it had finished Dr. Carroll said that the heart, the lungs, the liver, the kidneys and the bowels, showed a normal and healthy condition.
A casual examination of the contents of the stomach indicated no poison, but the presence of a poisoned substance cannot be determined until the stomach is chemically analyzed. That organ was placed in a bottle and immediately turned over to a chemist. Dr. Carroll did not hope to get a report on the analysis before tomorrow or Monday.
It was decided also to examine the urine chemically to determine if there was an uraemic condition of the bladder. If it is found that uraemia existed, Dr. Carroll says it would indicate uraemia was the cause of death for the disease often causes sudden death without the least warning.
WILL ANALYZE STOMACH
If death was caused by neuralgia of the heart, he said, the heart itself would not show it for no traces are left. Many persons die from neuralgia of the heart when they have never complained of pains in that organ and no outward indication in the least is given of trouble in the heart.
Dr. Carroll would not say that he thought there was a chance of showing poison in the stomach, but he decided to analyze that organ carefully in order that every part of the body might be thoroughly examined. Sheriff Smith was an interested spectator at the autopsy.
It has not been decided whether the body of Mrs. Creffield will be buried in Seattle or shipped to Corvallis, the home of her father, O. V. Hurt. Hurt was telegraphed to, but the condition of the telegraph lines have so far made it impossible to reach him.
Frank Hurt, a brother of the dead woman, who lives in Seattle, said no arrangements would be made for the funeral until his father is heard from. He was unable to say whether there was a likelihood of burying his sister in Seattle beside the body of her husband, Joshua Creffield, who was killed by George Mitchell.
At the request of members of the dead woman’s family, no visitors will be allowed at the morgue to see Mrs. Creffield’s body. When Joshua Creffield’s and George Mitchell’s bodies were at the morgue hundreds of persons thronged to the morgue with no other reason than a morbid curiosity to look upon the dead bodies. In Mrs. Creffield’s case, the with of the relatives to exclude everyone will be granted.
STRANGE CULT FATALITIES
This is the third death to result from the reign of Holy Rollerism under the leadership of Franz Edmund Creffield, husband of the dead woman. The first was that of the leader himself, who was shot down on Second Avenue in this city the morning of May 7 last by George Mitchell. The latter was shot by his sister while awaiting the departure of a train for Oregon two days after his acquittal of the charge of murder growing out of the first shooting.
The two women were to have been tried separately, and the death of Mrs. Creffield will in no way affect the case against Esther Mitchell. Both women had been declared insane by a commission appointed by Superior Judge Frater, and the decision of the Supreme Court of the state is awaited to determine whether or not the verdict of this commission shall stand, it having been opposed by Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh. The death of the Creffield woman will save the county several thousand dollars, as it would have cost considerable to have tried her case if the Supreme Court overrules the findings of the insanity commission.
Seattle Star 11/17/1906 p1
Third Fatality in Holy Roller Drama
Maud Creffield Expires suddenly in Her Cell at the County Jail--Heart Disease Said to be Cause of Death, Although Autopsy Reveals This Organ in Good Condition.
(In a box)
LOOKS LIKE SUICIDE
A chemical analysis of Mrs. Creffield’s stomach has been ordered by the coroner. The expected symptoms of heart disease did note materialize in the autopsy over the woman’s body this morning. On the contrary, the heart seemed to be in particularly good condition. This finding by the coroner makes the theory of suicide a very strong one, although a minute examination may prove death to have been due to neuralgia of the heart.
The third fatality in the remarkable drama of murder and death (illegible) claimed its first two victims, Joshua Creffield and Geo. Mitchell (illegible) within the grim enclosure of the county jail last night when Mrs. Maud Creffield, at whose (illegible) Esther Mitchell shot and killed her brother, fell dead into the arms of the girl who, through this had become a murderess.
It was the tragic climax to a case which through its strange phases has attracted the interest of the newspaper reading public of the United States, and in which there terrible nemesis of vengeance bent upon the annihilation of every actor in the drama.
Mrs. Creffield’s death in itself was thrilling (illegible) in its suddenness. The first indication received by the jailers and inmates of anything wrong in the Creffield cell was when they were roused from their sleep by a terrible scream. The officers of the prison rushed to the woman’s cell and met a strange sight.
Gasping convulsively and with every muscle in her body twitching, the stricken woman lay in the arms of Esther Mitchell, who was herself so frightened she could hardly gasp out more than that Mrs. Creffield was ill. For fifteen minutes the jailers worked desperately over the unconscious woman, but in vain.
CORONER SAYS HEART FAILURE
The deputy coroner arrived half an hour later, and a hasty examination was made. The verdict was death from heart failure.
Sheriff Smith and Deputy Sheriff (illegible) arrived shortly after the coming of the coroner. Suspecting that poison might have caused the tragedy, a careful search of the well was made. No evidence of a drug could, however, be found.
The remarkable feature of the tragedy is that at no time during the day did Mrs. Creffield show sign of illness. She was in her usual calm and collected frame of mind, and she and Esther Mitchell amused themselves at cards until within an hour of retiring.
ESTHER MITCHELL SHOCKED
Esther Mitchell was terribly upset by Mrs. Creffield’s death. Her grief, however, was tearless. She answered the questions of the guards without the slightest confusion.
“She was all right when we went to bed she told the sheriff. “She was in my arms when she felt the first pain. She screamed and then fainted. I called the other women who called the jailers. No, she did not take poison. She didn’t have any, and wouldn’t have taken it is she did. Send a message to Mr. Hurt, please. Let me stay with the body.
When the body was removed to the jailer’s office, the single mourner went with it. She knelt down beside it, and from time to time covered the face with kisses. When the dead wagon arrived, shortly after 11:30 o’clock, Sheriff Smith touched the kneeling figure and said:
“She will have to go now, Esther.”
KISSES DEAD BODY
The girl rose, and seating herself in a chair, watched the undertakers apathetically (illegible) as they removed the body from the room, and she remained silent until she heard the ponderous door clank, the keys jingle, and the receding footsteps grow faint. Then she gave a choking sob and covered her face with her hands.
The tragedy caused great confusion in the women’s ward of the jail. For months the eighteen inmates were intimate friends of the dead woman, and their intimacy had grown into love.
Annie Rooney, best known convict in the county jail refused to be comforted.
Deputy Coroner Wiltsie (illegible) and Dr. Powers assisted Coroner Carroll in making the autopsy this morning. Sheriff L. Smith and a number of city physicians were present.
Frank Hurt, brother of Mrs. Creffield, was at Bonney-Watson’s during the autopsy, but evinced no desire to be present at the official examination. He seemed deeply grieved over his sister’s death.
O. V. Hurt, father of Mrs. Creffield, who was wired last night at Corvallis, Ore., has not been heard from.
REFUSES TO SEE ANYONE
Esther Mitchell’s stony apathy of grief changed this afternoon into a paroxysm of tears. The girl realizes now more than ever before that she is alone in her fight for her life, and that the loss of Mrs. Creffield’s presence will mean much to her in her attempt to escape the death penalty.
The girl is now confined in the small cell directly off the office of the jailer at the county jail where she was placed after Mrs. Creffield’s body was taken to the undertaking establishment. She no absolutely refuses to see anyone.
Seattle Post Intelligencer 11/17/1906 p1
Tragic Record of the Holy Rollers
Practices Resulted in Insanity, Imprisonment and Death.
Creffield’s Subtle Power.
His Wife’s Family and the Mitchell’s His Best Known Victims.
It was early in the morning of the seventh of May last, that Seattle was first brought directly in contact with the so-called religious fanatics whose practices years before had shocked and nauseated the people of the little village of Corvallis and of all Oregon. The first act in the Holy Roller tragedy in Seattle was enacted on that May morning when, on First avenue, George Mitchell, barely out of his teens, deliberately snuffed out the life of Franz Edmund Creffield, the self-styled “Joshua,” of the sect, and the sponsor for all the disgrace and degeneracy of its practices.
Rightly or wrongly, George Mitchell believed when he fired that shot into the brain of Creffield that he was protecting the honor of his sister--that 18-year-old girl who now lies in the county jail, where she had been place during her trial for the cold blooded murder of this same protecting brother.
Beside Creffield, when he fell dead on the sidewalk, was the woman who last night passed away. Over his prostrate body she wept passionately “He cannot die. He can never die. No one can kill him.”
TOOK THE MATTER COOLY
Mitchell took the matter coolly, giving himself up to the officers without a show of resistance. His first act after reaching the police station was to send a telegram to O. V. Hurt, father of Mrs. Creffield, saying:
Have got my man. Am in jail here. George.”
The details of the trial of Mitchell for the murder are fresh in the minds of Seattle people. It was a sensational trial. Knowing the unreasoning devotion of the Holy Rollers to their dead leader and feeling their responsibility, the attorneys for Mitchell’s defense would take turns watching the Creffield and Mitchell women lest they might attempt something violent in the courtroom.
Soon after the murder the Mitchell girl arrived from her Oregon home. To the officers here she expressed no sympathy for her brother in his predicament, no gratitude for what he had done in her defense. Instead she had nothing but praise and sorrow for the dead Creffield, and with indignation denounced her brother for bringing her honor into question.
HAD STORMY CAREER
Creffield, as is generally known, had a most stormy career in Oregon, being only a few months before his arrival here, an inmate of the Oregon penitentiary, where he had been confined two years on a criminal charge in connection with Mrs. B. E. Starr, a sister of Esther Mitchell. When he first arrived in Corvallis early in the spring of 1903 and announced himself the reincarnation of Joshua and through a spiritual message the direct personal representative of God, he was generally considered only a harmless fanatic. a significant tap on the forehead accompanied the comments of the citizens on Creffield. all this time, however, Creffield was building up his strange sect. Though apparently without subtle of magnetic influence--a rough, uncouth creature--Creffield in some way seemed to draw to him the weaker ones of the community. It soon developed that Creffield’s religion as indicated in his public meetings and that which he displayed in his private gatherings at the homes of members of his flock, were widely different.
Maud Hurt, her mother and some other members of her family were among the first adherents, or victims, of Creffield, and their home was made the headquarters of the sect. It was there that meetings were held nightly and orgies carried on which gave the sect the name Holy Rollers, brought upon its members the loathing and contempt of the community, and finally came to the attention of the authorities.
CREFFIELD ALWAYS PRESIDED
At these meetings Creffield always presided. With his exhortations and harangues he would work his weaker-minded followers into a maudlin frenzy of “religious” fervor. In their half-mad state they would roll, shrieking, about the floor.
One night in November of that year Corvallis was startled by a bright light outside the Hurt residence. It was a large bonfire, fed with the furniture of the Hurt Home. The act had been ordered by Creffield as a sacrificial manifestation, divinely inspired. A few days later dogs and cats made up the fuel of another sacrificial fire.
The strain could not be borne. Soon there were rumors of weakening minds, together with the destruction of other property at the command of the leader. The citizens became aware of what was going on inside the order. Their wrath was aroused; their action swift. One night Creffield left town with a companion, both adorned with tar and feathers.
BROUGHT HIM BACK
Even this did not chill the ardor of some of his followers. The Hurt family, most of whose members save O. V. Hurt, the father, were frenzied members of the sect, brought Creffield back. A few days later he married Miss Maud Hurt, the woman who died last night, still firm in her devotion to her husband.
Again driven out of Corvallis, he went to the house of Mrs. Starr in Portland. There, Starr became aware of Creffield’s character and swore out a complaint against him on a criminal charge.
Creffield disappeared, and before he was found by the officers, Mrs. Creffield went insane and was confined in the Oregon state asylum. A few weeks later, in July, Creffield was discovered under their house, half starved and almost naked, by a member of the Hurt family. It was discovered that he had been there for weeks and that up to the time of her going insane, Mrs. Creffield had known of his presence and ministered to his wants.
SENT TO PENITENTIARY
He was then tried on the charge preferred by Starr and sent to the penitentiary for two years. This, he declared, he considered his death, from which he would arise in heightened glory.
After his release last December, he came to Seattle. While he was in prison his wife divorced him, but they were remarried here last April, Justice George officiating.
Creffield proposed reorganizing his broken sect and gathered some members of the Hurt family and others at Ocean View, Or., with the idea of taking on land and forming a new colony. He was driven out and moved north, making a circuitous route in order to avoid Corvallis. After her remarriage to Creffield, his wife exhibited all the blind devotion that characterized their early days in the Corvallis home.
GEORGE MITCHELL’S BELIEF
It was George Mitchell’s knowledge that Creffield was attempting the reorganization of his band and his belief that his sister Esther would be made a victim of Creffield’s foul practices that prompted him to the deed that made him a murderer and ultimately led to his death at the hands of the same sister.
The theory of the defense at the trial was insanity, and Attorneys Morris and Shipley stated their belief in the insanity of all Holy Rollers here. Mitchell’s acquittal resulted.
GEORGE MITCHELL IS SHOT
Hardly had George Mitchell been released from the custody of the law than he too was lying dead on a marble slab at the morgue. He had been shot down by his sister Esther just a moment after he had bade her good-bye at the union station. Later developments proved that the affair had been carefully planned. Information given by Fred and Perry Mitchell, brothers of the murdered man and his slayer, was to the effect that immediately after the arrest of George, Esther and Mrs. Creffield began to systematically plan the procedure that would be followed out in case the law failed to mete out what they considered to be justice--the conviction and subsequent death by hanging of the slayer of the Holy Roller leader.
Quietly they worked without so much as a word or sign to indicate what plan of vengeance was at work. The original plan, according to Mrs. Creffield herself, was that she do the deed. With this plan in mind she purchased a revolver at one of the stores of the city. Long discussions took place between the two women during the course of the trial, and as it progressed they appeared to become more and more certain that Mitchell would be freed. Then the definite plans for the shooting of Creffield’s murderer were worked out with care and precision. It was about this time, when the day drew near when the second killing must be done, that the elder woman’s nerve failed her or in reality she feared that she was being watched and would find it impossible to carry out the work successfully, as she afterwards stated. However that may be, it was finally decided that the sister was to do the deed. All sorts of plans were considered, but finally one was determined upon, which for its very fiendishness was almost unparalleled in criminal history.
WOMEN PLAN THE DEED
As the women had surmised, George Mitchell was declared not guilty by a jury of his peers in the superior court of this county. The information was in the possession of the women almost as soon as it was out of the mouth of the foreman of the jury. But despite the terrible work of vengeance which had been planned, not so much as a gleam of an eye or a single tremor of a muscle was given to indicate what the future held forth for the man who had risked his life to save his sister’s name. Neither of the women spoke to or saw the brother after the trial, and after a consultation it was decided that he should return to Portland with his two brothers. all sorts of inducements were held out to Esther to accompany them and begin life on a new plan, but this she steadfastly refused to do, declaring that she desired to remain with Mrs. Creffield. The plans for the departure went on and the hour for the train drew near.
HOW THE DEED WAS CONSUMMATED
The brothers were gathered in the lobby of the station. George had received no word from his sister up to this time and expected none.
Just then Perry saw his sister standing back of one of the lunch stands. Although surprised to see here there, he thought nothing more of the circumstance than that the girl had so far given in as to decide to see her brothers before they left the city/ He asked if she did not want to say good-by to George. She said she did. George advanced, the girl shook hands with him, and the four started for the gateway leading to the tracks. Esther was carrying a cloak on her arm. Perry, who was walking with her and behind George and Fred, asked to be allowed to take it. She allowed him to lift it from her arm, and as he did so she raised the hand before covered, pressed a revolver to the ear of George Mitchell and fired. He sank to the floor. The gun had been concealed under the coat, and the girl may not have decided to do the deed just at that time or in that manner. With the removal of the coat the weapon must have been disclosed and her plot discovered. As George fell to the floor the girl sank into the arms of her brother Perry. Then an officer hurried to the scene and placed her under arrest.
WOMEN ARE ARRESTED
The news of the second killing laid at the door of Holy Rollerism spread through the city in a remarkably short space of time and soon the new story was in the mouths of everyone. Crowds gathered about the police station and mob violence was feared. Esther was taken into the private office of Chief of Police Wappenstein and questioned as to the killing of her brother. She made a clear and concise statement of the affair. The only defense she set up was that she considered it her duty. When the chief had learned the story he at once called detectives and sent them in search of Mrs. Creffield, but this was unnecessary for within a short time the elder woman telephoned to the station telling the officers where she could be found and she was arrested. She made statements exactly the same as those given by Esther, and so nearly alike were the two stories of the plans of days before and the final carrying our of these plans that there remained no question but that the two prisoners had considered their arrest following the crime, and had prepared their statements carefully and rehearsed them often. After all information possible had been secured from the women they were sent to the county jail in care of Sheriff Lou Smith. Within the walls of the county court house they have remained until last night when Mrs. Creffield was taken to the morgue.
Much blame was attached to Mrs. Creffield for the action of Esther Mitchell in killing her brother, and there are many who believe that she had a peculiar influence over the young girl and was able to almost force her to do her bidding. Statements made by brothers of the girl and relatives carry out this idea.
THEIR PRISON LIFE
Following the killing of George Mitchell and the subsequent arrest of the two women there followed the long days and nights in the dark cells of the county jail. Neither of the women was allowed to see or speak to the other for weeks. Despite this fact they remained in the same bright frame of mind, saying nothing concerning their cases, but ready and glad to receive and converse with any visitor who might care to call on them. They were watched closely for some sign that might give a clue to their sanity or insanity, but not a word or sign could be discovered that would throw any light whatever on the two strange women who so called religious belief had led to the murder of a husband and later a brother. Day after day past and no change was visible with the exception that the two grew paler as the confinement worked on them. Then came a time when Esther grew slightly ill. The prosecuting attorney’s office declared there was no reason why the women could not be allowed to see each other, and they were given cells together in the women’s ward. Unlike most women who had been so close, they made no demonstration over this favor, although they stated that they were very glad to be allowed each other’s company again. Thus they lived for several more weeks. Trials were set and no change came, no anxiety was shown and the only statement that could be had from them was that they did not care how, when or where the hearing took place--they had done right and feared nothing.
INSANITY COMMISSION ACTS
About this time it became rumored about that the attorneys for the defendants would ask for the appointment of a commission to examine into the sanity of the women, and that if they were found to be insane, the court would be asked to deliver them into the hands of the Oregon authorities. This could be done according to the law in such cases, which says the criminal insane may be sent back to the state wherein they held legal residences. This rumor proved to be based on facts, for later just such a plea was made, and Judge Frater named a commission, consisting of Drs. Kenneth Turner, J. H. Snively and R. M. Eames. They took up the work, and for several days heard testimony bearing on the matter.
Everyone connected with the case, from its beginning, that is was possible to secure, was brought before the commission, and sessions were held behind closed doors for the purpose of securing testimony that could not be secured otherwise from unwilling witnesses. The hearing began September 14, and on September 20 Dr. Turner appeared in open court and read the findings of the commission which was that the women were suffering from a mental disease known as paranoia, and characterized them as types of insane persons dangerous to be at liberty. An objection was at once made to the findings by Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh on the grounds that the commission did not carry out its work according to law. Judge Frater stated that he would withhold signing the order for the deportation of the women until such time as the state’s attorney could take the matter before the Supreme Court and secure a writ of prohibition.
STILL IN THE SUPREME COURT
This action was taken by the attorney and a temporary writ secured. The matter came up for hearing in the Supreme Court October 28, and no final decision has been reached. The latest complication has resulted in the inability of either the attorney for the state or the defense to find a precedent established by any other Supreme Court bearing on the right of a state to deport the criminal insane. In this position the case now rests, and the court is waiting for the attorneys to submit briefs on the question in hand.
Corvallis Times 11/20/1906 p1
Wife Of Holy Roller Leader, Dies In Her Cell Of Heart Disease.
Girl Who Slew Her Brother Holds Lifeless Form For Half And Hour In Her Arms, But Shows No Grief--Other News.
Seattle, Nov. 16.--Mrs. Maud Creffield, held in the King county jail as an accomplice in the murder of George Mitchell, in the Union station, July 12, died suddenly in her cell at 11:15 tonight. Although it was suspected at first that the woman committed suicide, a search of the jail by Sheriff Smith and deputies failed to discover any evidence that she had poison in the compartment she occupied.
Esther Mitchell, who shot her brother, was in the same bed with Mrs. Creffield when the latter was stricken. Esther shed no tears when she realized that the woman who had been her accomplice in the murder of her brother, was dead. For half an hour she clung to the lifeless form and kissed the cold lips, but was not consumed with grief and answered in a clear voice all questions asked of her.
Deputy Coroner S. F. Wiltsie believes the woman died from heart failure.
Mrs. Creffield was found insane by a commission of three doctors and Judge Frater had ordered her deportation to the state of Oregon which had been her home.
The county attorney had taken an appeal to the Supreme Court, after which, if he had won, he intended to try her for the murder of George Mitchell.
Portland, Nov 18.-- Sunday Oregonian: O. V. Hurt, gather of Mrs. Maud Hurt Creffield, who died in prison at Seattle arrived in Portland last night from the family home in Corvallis and will leave for Seattle this morning to attend the final disposition of his daughter’s body. He is accompanied by his daughter, Miss Mae Hurt.
Mr. Hurt was first informed of the death of Mrs. Creffield early yesterday morning by a telegram from the sheriff of King county, Washington, conveying the simple announcement of her death.
That Mrs. Creffield held the thought that she might soon die, however, is shown by the fact that on last Sunday she asked of her father and mother, who were then visiting her in the Seattle jail, that if anything should happen to her she should be buried beside her husband. In accordance with this wish the body will be buried in Seattle.
Mr. Hurt said last night: “My wife and I visited Maud last week, spending all of Saturday and Sunday with her. At that time she seemed despondent and depressed, due, I think, to the delay in the settlement of her deportation case before the Supreme Court. We all had expected it settled long before now, and it is certain that it would have been decided within a few days. I do not think, however, she entertained any thought of suicide, although she did ask her mother that if anything did happen to her that she be buried beside Creffield
“I think she died from grief and a broken heart. When Creffield was killed Maud felt that all her life had been taken from her and she thought so until her death. She told us repeatedly she had nothing more to live for.
“Maud failed in health considerably while confined in jail--in fact she dropped from 207 to 125 pounds in weight.
“I believe that if the courts had rendered their decision before her death and that she had been removed to the asylum, where she would have had some degree of liberty and something to occupy her attention and keep her from brooding, she would be alive today.
“In accordance with her wishes, we will bury her in Seattle, and the Interment will probably be on Monday. “
Seattle, Wash., Nov. 17.-- If the Supreme Court of this state decides that Esther Mitchell cannot be deported to Oregon as an insane person, and she is sent to trial for the murder of her brother, George, the slayer of Joshua Creffield, the Holy Roller leader, Mrs. Maud Hurt Creffield’s death about midnight last night will remove any hesitancy Miss Mitchell’s attorneys had about shouldering the responsibility upon Mrs. Creffield.
They county attorney now expects that Mrs. Creffield will be made responsible for the tragedy, Miss Mitchell’s attorney insisting that she was entirely under the influence of Joshua and later, of his wife.
An autopsy was performed on Mrs. Creffield today and her organs found to be in good condition. Analysis of her stomach will not be completed for a day or two and the possibility of poisoning will not be settled for that length of time. But a verdict of natural death seems probable.
Dr. Eames, one of the three physicians who examined Mrs. Creffield for her sanity, declared tonight that the autopsy showing the woman’s organs in a normal condition did not indicate anything. He said that there are daily reports of deaths from heart disease where a subsequent examination of that organ showed it to be in a normal condition. He says the brain does not show in death the softening indicated in life.
Mr. Eames entirely discredits the report of the autopsy and insists that Mrs. Creffield was insane.
Corvallis Gazette 11/20/1906 p1
Death of Mrs. Creffield
At Seattle Friday Night--Checkered Career Ended.
Mrs. Maud Hurt-Creffield, whose name is familiar in every city, town and hamlet on the coast and in fact throughout the United States, is dead. After an eventful career such as is experienced by but very few, death claimed her Friday night in the jail at Seattle, where she was awaiting trial for complicity in the murder of George Mitchell, her husband’s slayer.
The news reached Mrs. Creffield’s father, O. V. Hurt, in this city about 8 a.m. Saturday. Mr. Hurt was almost overcome with grief, for he has been a faithful and loving father and has left nothing undone that could be done to aid his misguided child. Showing the telegram to a friend Mr. Hurt said, “This is what I have been expecting for a long time.”
With his daughter, Miss Mae, he left Saturday noon for Seattle to look after the remains of Mrs. Creffield. In regard to the last chapter in the life of Mrs. Creffield the Oregonian said Saturday: (See above article, Corvallis Times 11/20/1906 p1)