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.

February 21, 1907: Esther Mitchell Goes to Asylum


Steilacoom AsylumSeattle Post Intelligencer 2/21/1907 p4

Esther Mitchell Goes to Asylum


Judge Frater Acts Promptly on Arrival of the Remittitur. Order to Steilacoom. Supreme Court Ruling Makes Way for Disposition of Case.”


Judge A. W. Frater, of the superior court, yesterday received the remittitur of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Esther Mitchell insanity case, and committed her to the state insane hospital at Steilacoom, thus disposing of the celebrated case that has been dragging its weary course in the courts since last August.


The decision of the Supreme Court, January 14, on the application by the prosecuting attorney for a writ of prohibition, reached Judge Frater yesterday in the remittitur, reading as follows:

This cause having heretofore been presented to the court upon the petition of the relator (illegible) for a writ of prohibition to prevent the superior court of King County and from Hon. A. W. Frater, one of the judges, from signing an order adjudging one Maud Crefeld and one Esther Mitchell to be insane, and directing their deportation to Oregon, and upon the argument of counsel and the court having filed and opinion, it is now hereby ordered that a writ issue prohibiting the respondent from making an order deporting Esther Mitchell, but in other respects the writ is denied.”




Judge Frater, having the power to sign a commitment to an insane hospital inside the state, under the terms of the decision, took action at once. Esther Mitchell, as a result, will spend her immediate future at Steilacoom. Recovery of her mental faculties in future would result in her final discharge.


This disposes of the murder charge against Esther Mitchell for hilling her brother, George Mitchell, after his acquittal for the murder of Franz Edmund Crefeld, leader of the “Holy Roller” sect. Mrs. Crefeld, who was accused with her, and who was found likewise insane by the commission that examined the two women, would, under the Supreme Court ruling, likewise have been committed to the insane hospital, but for her sudden death from poison, which she had taken in prison.


Esther Mitchell is only 18 years old. From the moment she identified herself with the “Holy Roller” sect, and its “prophet,” Crefeld, trouble began for her. From the little town of Corvallis, Or, the members of the band came to Seattle, and in May, 1906, the leader, Crefeld, was killed by George Mitchell, brother of Esther, in what he claimed was the defense of his sisters honor.


(the usual history)


The commitment for deportation toe Oregon was made out, but before it could be signed, the prosecuting attorney of King County asked the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition, preventing Judge Frater from signing an order adjudging Esther Mitchell insane and deporting her to Oregon.


While the case was pending in the Supreme Court, Mrs. Creffield died suddenly in the county jail, having, as shown by the autopsy, taken poison.




The conclusions of the insanity commission were filed September 21, 1906, and after setting forth the manner of conducting the examination, read as follows: (see Seattle Daily Times Fri 9/21/1906 p1)




The commission took up the family and personal history, present illness and condition of the accused, and made physical examination, and an individual study of the mental condition of the subject, before, at the time of, and since the commission of the crime charged.


The detailed report shows Esther to be 18, a resident of Washington since May 1906, and a tailor by occupation. She has homicidal, suicidal and incendiary tendencies. The first attack, says the commission, appeared several years ago, has continued from its incipiency, and is increasing; she has permanent delusions of self-exhaltation, and is dangerous to herself and to others. The cause of her mental condition is given as the inheritance of structural defects of the nervous system. Her retention in an institution for treatment, and a change of environments, were recommended by the commission.




Shortly before noon, Mrs. Riley, police matron, called at the county jail and took Esther Mitchell in charge for the trip to Steilacoom hospital. The prisoner bade good-by to the jail attendants and left her cell, where Mrs. Creffield died, with apparent grief, She was pale and weak from a recent attack of grip, and expressed the hope that her health would improve at Steilacoom among new surroundings, where she could get a glimpse of the outside world occasionally. She has been a model prisoner at the jail and the attendants unite in speaking of her uncomplaining attitude toward the restrictions and discipline of jail.



Esther MitchellCorvallis Gazette 2/22/1907

Asylum at Last

For Girl Criminal--Esther Mitchell at Steilacoom.


Seattle, Feb 20.--Esther Mitchell, who since last July has been confined in the county jail charged with the murder of her brother, George Mitchell, left for the state asylum for the insane at Steilacoom this noon. The commitment was signed by Superior Judge Frater this forenoon immediately upon receipt of a remitter from the Supreme Court conveying a formal notification that Judge Frater’s act in calling a lunacy commission to investigate the mental condition of the girl was legal.


As soon as the commitment was signed and delivered to Deputy County Clerk Stickles a certified copy was made and given to the Chief Deputy Sheriff Ed Drew. A few minutes later Esther Mitchell was informed of the disposition of her case and at once began preparations to leave her cell in the woman’s ward of the jail. Mrs. Kelly, police matron, was summoned to accompany the girl to the asylum.


Esther Mitchell received the news to go to the asylum as stoically as she received everything that has had to do with her since she shot her brother. Before leaving the cell, she bade the women who had been her companions good-bye and was in turn made the recipient of many congratulations.


Ever since she has been in jail, Esther Mitchell has been an object of sympathy on the part of the women who have been in her company. She has never been intimate with any of them, but her demeanor has been kindly and all of those who came in contact with her learned to sympathize with the pale, silent girl, who seemingly was wrapped up in some mysterious influence, and bore none of the characteristics of her fellow prisoners-women from the slums of the city, devoid of any but the very basic indications of her sex.


After leaving the ward the girl bid very cordial farewell to jailers Fred Hill and Emil Larson asking them to tell the night jailers goodbye for her and accompanied by Police Matron Kelley, left the building for the dock where she will take the boat for Tacoma, from whence she will make the trip to the asylum.



Corvallis Gazette 2/22/1907 p3

--J. K. Berry and family moved Tuesday into the Frank Woods cottage.



Corvallis Gazette 3/1/1907 p1

Feb. 22nd, 1857--Feb. 22nd, 1907


The home of Mr. and Mrs. B. F. Seeley was the scene of a happy reunion in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage.


Four generations were represented at the banquet, that was served early in the afternoon. A little child of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Oberer was the youngest guest. Several beautiful and appropriate presents were given the “honored ones.”


Those present were Mr. and Mrs. B. F. Seeley, Mrs. Betty Williams of Washington Co.; Miss Marie Allen of Alsea; G. A. Seeley, wife and children of Corvallis; E. G. Williams and wife of Portland; T. S. Creson, wife and children of Corvallis; Mrs. F. J. Oberer and children of Falls City; J. C. Woods and wife of Corvallis; Mrs. W. Hadley and Mrs. W. Davis of Portland; Mr. and Mrs. W. M. Crees of Corvallis. The last named couple are old “tried, and found true friends, of Mr. and Mrs. Seeley.


In the evening the young people of the family rendered an excellent program of songs and recitations, that proved to be one of the most enjoyable features of the occasion, and one that appealed most strongly to the hearts of Mr. and Mrs. Seeley.


On Tuesday evening Mr. and Mrs. Crees informally entertained Mr. and Mrs. Seeley and their children. Light refreshments were served and “the hours sped all to quickly” in social intercourse.


Mr. and Mrs. Seeley were married in Iowa, Feb. 22, 1857. The next year they moved to Wisconsin. Mr. Seeley enlisted in Company M. Third Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry, and served almost four years. While in service, he was wounded and is still suffering from the injury that has almost incapacitated him from manual labor.


They moved to Kansas from Wisconsin, and thence to Oregon about 1888. They resided fro some years in Alsea.


It is a pleasure to greet this couple, who while wearing the crown of many winters, are living a life of youth and Summer time, and who have endeared themselves to their friends by their kindness, cheeriness and sterling worth.


We wish for them a happy reunion on their diamond anniversary.



Corvallis Gazette 3/1/1907 p3

Lewis Hartley and wife have gone to Portland and expect to bring Sophia Hartley home with them. Miss Hartley has been in Portland for medical treatment and her many friends will be rejoiced to learn of her recovery.



Corvallis Gazette 3/8/1907 p3

--Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Hartley arrived from Portland, Wednesday. Their daughter, Miss Sophia, is recovering as rapidly as can be expected from her operation for appendicitis, performed a few weeks ago.



Corvallis Gazette 3/23/1907 p3

--Miss Sophia Hartley returned home, Monday evening, from Portland, where she has been for some time in the hospital. She is fully restored to health.



Corvallis Gazette 2/4/1907 p3


O. V. Hurt, the well known salesman at Kline’s, expected to leave yesterday for the coast, in search of a location where he can take his family for the summer. as soon as he finds such a place he will return and take Mrs. Hurt and the little daughter to the new home. Such a change is made necessary by the steady failure of Mrs. Hurt’s health, and if the change proves beneficial it is uncertain when the family will return to Corvallis, if at all. Under the circumstances Mr. Hurt’s pals are at present unsettled. His place at Kline’s will be filled by Clifford Gould.



Corvallis Gazette 4/2/1907 p3

--O. V. Hurt left yesterday for the Coast. He expects to return in a few days for Mrs. Hurt who is to be taken to some place yet to be selected for the benefit of her health.



Corvallis Gazette 4/9/1907 p4

--Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Hartley departed Saturday for the Bohemia mines.



Corvallis Gazette 4/12/1907 p3

--O. V. Hurt returned Tuesday from the coast where he went in search of a location for the summer. Over at Waldport, or more exactly, two miles from that place, on the coast, he found an ideal ranch of a few acres, with a nine room house and other good buildings, so acres of meadow land a first class garden lot. Here Mr. Hurt’s search came to an end, and tomorrow he departs with his family for that place, accompanied by Miss Sophia Hartley. It is hoped the change may prove beneficial to Mrs. Hurt , whose health has of late been very poor.


--Mrs. Elizabeth Starr moved this week into the house one door south of her son, Clarence Starr’s home.



Benton County Republican 4/11/1907 p3

O. V. Hurt returned home Tuesday from Waldport, where he has taken a 160 acre farm. He has since been packing up ready to move his family to this new home.


Corvallis Gazette 4/15/1907 p3

J. K. Berry returned Tuesday from a business trip to the coast.

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