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.

April 6, 1909: Esther Mitchell Leaves Asylum


Sarah & OV HurtMorning Oregonian (Portland) 4/6/1909 p1

Esther Mitchell Leaves Asylum

‘Holy Roller’ Convert Set Free. Taken to Home at Waldport. Hot Her Brother After Latter Had Slain Creffield. Sister Took Own Life. Girl Released From Steilacoom Institution on Approval of Superintendent Calhoun and King County Prosecuting Attorney.”


SEATTLE, Wash., April 5.--(Special.)--Esther Mitchell, central figure in the murder of “Joshua” Creffield, and the killing of her brother, George Mitchell, who had shot the “Holy Roller” leader, has been paroled from the Steilacoom Asylum. She was taken to Oregon by O. V. Hurt, who suffered more than any other man from the Creffield teachings, and whose daughter married the Holy Roller agitator.


Superintendent A. P. Calhoun, of the Steilacoom Asylum, granted the parole for Miss Mitchell, with the approval, he said, of the Prosecuting Attorney of King County and Superior Court Judge A. W. Frater.




One of the stipulations in the parole is that Miss Mitchell shall be returned to the Steilacoom Asylum if she shows any symptoms of a return of her malady. However, the Hurts took her to their home at Waldport, Oregon, and it is doubted by state officials whether Miss Mitchell could be compelled to return from that state.


“Apparently the girl has recovered” said Superintendent Calhoun today. “For some time she has appeared rational, and we could find no symptoms of any danger of the return of her affliction.”




(The usual history)



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 4/7/1909 p6

Mitchell Girl Escaped

Paroled After She Had Fled From Asylum. Went for Walk Week Ago Sunday With Mrs. Hurt, and Has Not Been Seen Since.


SEATTLE. Wash. April 6.--(Special.)-- That Esther Mitchell escaped from the Steilacoom asylum and that she was paroled after she had escaped is the latest development today in the case of the girl which attracted attention in connection with the Holy Roller movement which came to such an inglorious end in this city three years ago. Further, there is no one even among her relatives who will say where she is.


The story of her escape came out today when it was seen that the parole was dated long after she was supposed to have left the asylum. Dr. Calhoun, of the asylum, stated that the Mitchell girl was out walking with Mrs. Hurt a week ago Sunday and failed to show up for dinner. A futile search was made for her. A parole was contemplated for the girl and had been promised.


Dr. Calhoun therefore followed up her escape by issuing a parole after consulting with the Prosecuting Attorney of King County. It is believed that Esther Mitchell is now in Oregon at the home of her relatives.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 4/8/1909 p11 Steilacoom Asylum

Esther Mitchell Did Not Break Parole


(Special Dispatch to The Journal.)


Tacoma, Wash., April 8.--The story sent from this city to a Portland morning paper that Esther Mitchell, who shot Holy Roller Creffield, and who has been admitted to parole from the Steilacoom asylum escaped from the asylum before parole had been granted, is denied in toto by Superintendent Calhoun. The story was made of whole cloth.



1910 Nabisco advertisementWeekly Gazette-Times (Corvallis) 8/20/1909 p7

Esther Mitchell Found In A Hut

Girl Is Now Held By Provincial Police at Nanaimo Drugged in Chinamen’s Den. Central Figure in Seattle’s Holy Roller Craze Located by British Columbia Authorities at Departure Bay In Horribly Emaciated Condition.


Some time ago, when it was reported that Esther Mitchell had escaped from the Western Washington Hospital for the Insane at Fort Steilacoom, it was supposed that she had sought shelter with relatives near Waldport in Lincoln County. Though it was then given out that the Washington authorities were quietly seeking to locate her in order to bring her back to the asylum no effort seems to have been made in this direction and a special from Victoria B. C. says that she is now in the hands of the Provincial Police at Nanaimo, having been found, horribly emaciated and heavy with opium in a Chinaman’s shack at Departure Bay. She is held for vagrancy and will probably got to a rescue home.


In Seattle during July 1907 (sic), her brother shot Joshua Creffield, a Holy Roller priest, who he charged with ruining the girl. Esther, meeting the avenging brother at the Union Depot, shot him dead, allegedly being inspired thereto by Creffield’s wife. She escaped punishment on the ground of temporary insanity and has since fallen lower and lower, consorting wholly with the Chinese of late, and living only to satisfy her craving for the poppy.


Whether this report is true or not is not certain as it is impossible to communicate at once with her relatives over on the coast to find out if she is still there.



Weekly Gazette-Times (Corvallis) 8/27/1909 p6

Mitchell Girl at Waldport


City Press Tory in Regard to Holy Roller Was False Was Not in Chinese Den. Went to Seattle Fair, but Returned to Waldport in Due Time and Has Been there Both before and Since----The Facts.”


The lurid story floating around in the city press to the effect that Esther Mitchell, of Holy Roller fame, had been found in a Chinese den in some Washington coast town, was evidently a deliberate fabrication. It develops that with the exception of time spent on a trip to Seattle to make a report to officials and to see the fair, Esther Mitchell has been at the home of O. V. Hurt at Waldport and is there at this time. The Gazette-Times has no report from Mr. Hurt personally, but has this assurance from various Corvallis campers in the vicinity of Waldport, and this morning corroboration comes from C. R. Evans, water bailiff at the coast resort. Mr. Evans said he had not seen the story referred to, but was confident that it was wholly incorrect as he is familiar with the news of the neighborhood and knows that since her arrival at the Hurt home several months ago, there has been nothing sensational or unpleasant connected with the name of Esther Mitchell. It is possible that some scribbler saw the girl on her trip and because of the wide notoriety attained by her during the Holy Roller crusade and the final killing of her sweetheart and brother saw in her an appearance the basis for a great story. The city press certainly had the Mitchell girl pictured in wonderful colors as a hanger-on in Chinese dens.

FBI Anti Piracy SealThe unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment