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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.

Seattle Post Intelligencer

July 13, 1906: Denies She Hated Murdered Brother


Seattle Post Intelligencer Front PageSeattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p1

Denies She Hated Murdered Brother

Esther Mitchell, Nevertheless, Says She Believed He Deserved Punishment


“I do not hate George. I did not wish to have him hanged, but I do believe that he ought to have received some punishment for the killing of Crefeld.”


In these words Esther Mitchell, after hearing of the acquittal of her brother by the jury, summed up he opinion of the trial and its results.


The statement was made to her father and her brother Fred, when they visited her at the house on the corner of Sixth avenue and Pike Street last Wednesday.


At that time she conducted herself in a normal manner and seemed so sane that her father decided not to act on the advice of George’s attorney, Silas M. Shipley, who had counseled Mr. Mitchell to take his daughter away.


“Not withstanding a rumor to the contrary,” said Mr. Shipley, “nothing happened during the time that intervened between George Mitchell’s trial and his death that would lead up to suppose that his life was in jeopardy.


“I advised Esther Mitchell’s father to take her away--to separate her from her female companions as I feared that her Roller sect would again expose her to their baneful influence.


“When her father told me that he did not fear her, as he believed in her sanity, I reiterated my opinion that Mrs. Crefeld, Esther Mitchell and their companions should be separated. I went so far as to advise him to take her away by force if necessary and told him that no interference on the part Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Miller need be feared.


“I made this statement with the approval of Mr. Miller and went to so far as to suggest the employment of men to put Esther Mitchell aboard a train with him.


“This advise was given only for Esther Mitchell’s benefit and not because we had any reason, or the shadow of one to fear her subsequent actions.


“On Wednesday Mrs. Crefeld and Esther received their fees as witnesses in the trial of George. Those fees amounted to about $14 for each. Whether the money was used for the purchase of the revolver with which George was shot, I do not know.”



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p4

Widow Blamed for the Tragedy

Fred Mitchell Describes the Shooting of His Brother George


In the statement of Fred and Perry Mitchell, the two brothers of the young man murdered by his sister, Mrs. Crefeld, widow of the Holy Roller leader who was killed by George Mitchell, is blamed for the tragedy.


The two brothers were brought to the police station a few minutes after the arrest of Esther. Perry, the younger, was almost in convulsions, but Fred was more collected, although he frequently burst into angry denouncement of Mrs. Crefeld.


“Mrs. Crefeld is to blame for the entire trouble,” said Fred Mitchell, in making the statement for himself and his brother Perry, “and only for her Esther would have been satisfied and reunited with George.


“I called at the lodging house on Sixth Avenue and Pike Street, where Esther and Mrs. Crefeld were stopping, yesterday afternoon to ask Esther to meet George before we left the city, but she refused to see him. She talked to me about the killing of Crefeld and said that George had done wrong, but did not intimate anything of her intentions or make any threats. I hardly talked to Mrs. Crefeld, although I could see that she had my sister entirely under her control. My father was with me at the time and told Esther he was going home that afternoon. He also pleaded with her to meet George, but our efforts to bring about the meeting were in vain.




“This afternoon, about 2 o’clock, I went to see her again and told her that George and Perry were going to Portland on the 4 o’clock train, and again asked her to meet George, but she told me she did not want to see him. I intended to go to Portland with my two brothers, but as I could see that they were attempting to deceive me regarding their movements I did not tell them I intended leaving the city.


“I walked to the depot with George and Perry, and just as we were about to enter I saw Esther standing near one of the pillars at the entrance. I thought she had relented and came to the depot to bid George goodbye. I went over to her and called the other two boys. She shook hands with George and we stood for possibly a minute talking. Esther said she would walk around to the train with us. I walked with Esther and George and Perry walked just ahead.


“We were walking down the south corridor of the main waiting room when I asked Esther if I should take the coat which she was carrying on her arm. As she handed me the coat I turned to look back and almost the same instant there was the flash and report of the gun. I grabbed her hand as she was apparently about to shoot again and she sank to the floor with her arms around my neck.




“Esther is not to blame. Don’t treat her too hard, for she did not know what she was doing. I believe the act was done at the instigation of Mrs. Crefeld, who has her completely in her power as ‘Joshua’ held his victims. I can’t believe that my sister was in her right mind and committed this awful crime. Her mind has been broken down by the influence which Crefeld held over her and this followed by the killing of him, and the constant companionship of Mrs. Crefeld since she came to Seattle must have caused the loss of her reason.


“Neither Esther or Mrs. Crefeld has said anything to us regarding their plans for the future, and no one had the slightest intimation that Esther would ever attempt to harm George, although we looked for some such attempt from Mrs. Crefeld.


“I have been unable to figure out where Esther had the gun concealed, except that I noticed she had her right hand under the jacket she was wearing a part of the time after I met her and before the shot was fired. I can not understand how she came in possession of the revolver, or how she paid for it as I do not believe she had any money.”


At first both of the brothers denied any knowledge of plans to organize another colony of Holy Rollers, but later stated to the police that another colony now existed in British Columbia. This, however, had previously been reported to Chief Wappenstein by the father of George Mitchell. At the time Mr. Mitchell made this statement to the chief it was taken up with British Columbia authorities.




Fred Mitchell stated it as his opinion the Esther and Mrs. Crefeld intended to join the colony, although he said he had been unable to secure a statement from his sister.


Perry Mitchell was unable to add anything to the statement of his brother, agreeing on everything given out by Fred in connection with the case.


At the conclusion of their statement to the newspapers the two brothers called for Capt. Sullivan and asked that Frank Hurt be placed under arrest. They stated that Hurt was living in south Seattle, and declared in heated terms that he was implicated in the killing of Creffield’s slayer.





Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/14/1906 p4

Mitchell Bade Jailers Good-Bye


Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 7/13/1906 p1

Mitchell a Model Prisoner

Left the County Court House a Few Minutes Before His Death


“Good-bye, boys; you’ve been might good to me--and I want to thank you for it. Good-bye.”


It was with these words that George Mitchell said farewell to the jailers at the county court house twenty minutes before he was shot dead by his own sister.


For an hour yesterday Mitchell sat in the office of the jail, chatting with Deputy Sheriffs Smith and Larson.


Mitchell spent yesterday with Louis Sandell, a friend who lives on Mercer Island. About 3 o’clock he came to the jail to get his razor and knife, which had been taken from him during confinement.


He sat down and talked with Larson and Smith for about an hour, telling them that he intended to go to Portland on the afternoon train, but beyond this he said little of his plans.


“He did not mention his sister at all,” said Smith last night. “In fact, I think I never heard him say anything about her. He talked on general matters, and was particular to thank us for what we did for him.


“Mitchell was a very unusual prisoner. He was quiet and kind, and in the short time he was here we had come to like him very much. In fact, there have been few here whom we cared for so much as that boy. He was sorry to say good-bye, though I suppose glad he could go.”


“Well, she threatened to do it,” said Sheriff Smith, today. “She said if she had been present when George Mitchell shot Creffield and that is she had had a fun, she would have killed him. I do not remember to whom she made this statement, but it is a well known fact that she practically said she would kill her brother under provocation. She was evidently so infatuated with Creffield, so crazed by her brother’s deed that the chance to kill him was sought and she took it.

Oregon State Penn



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p5

Attorney Miller Goes to Morgue


When the news of the killing of George Mitchell was conveyed to the prosecuting attorney’s office; Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John F. Miller, who was one of the state’s council in the recent murder trial of the former, hurried to the morgue.


“My God,” he exclaimed, “have all the people gone crazy?”


He walked into the room where the boy lay, gave one hurried glance at the man he had recently prosecuted, and again gave utterance to the foregoing exclamation referred to and left the place.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p5

State’s Attorney Makes Statement

John F. Miller Discusses the Murder of George Mitchell


Esther Mitchell rang up Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Miller last Tuesday after the verdict of the jury in the trial of her brother had become known, and protested most warmly against the notoriety which she said had was being heaped upon her by the papers, one of which, she declared had erroneously announced her disappearance.


“She spoke quite calmly,” said Mr. Miller, “and except for her expressed objection to the notoriety made no remark which could in any way lead one to expect that such a tragic occurrence was so soon to claim her as one of its principals.


“She seemed perfectly sane at that time. She also stated that her father had requested her to accompany him to the East. I advised her most strongly to do as her father bade, but she raised objections on the ground that her home held no pleasure for her.


“I repeated my advice again and again, but though she spoke without any appearance of impatience, she reiterated he assertion that her home was not pleasant, and quietly declined to live among her friends.”


Mr. Miller held no further conversation with the young woman at that time, and has since then only met her for a short time, when she was under arrest for the murder of her brother.


At the last meeting, which took place yesterday at police headquarters when she was being visited by Dr. Loughary, brain specialist, Mr. Miller said:

How do you do, Esther? Do you know me?”


“How do you do, Mr. Miller?” she answered quite coolly. “Oh, yes; I know you.”


“Such a thing as this occurrence is as new to us as it is to you newspaper men,” continued the assistant prosecutor. “We never expected it, and nothing whatever to my knowledge has occurred since the trial that portended in the slightest degree this frightful act.”



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p6

George Mitchell Killed By Sister

Goes To Union Depot To Bid Brothers Goodbye And Shoots Him Through The Head.

Planned It With Mrs. Maud Crefeld.

Taken Into Custody The Woman Makes A Complete Confession To Chief Of Police.

Mrs. Crefeld Is Under Arrest Too.

Widow Of Late Holy Roller Corroborates Mitchell Girl’s Story By Her Statement.


“And the evil that men do lives after them.”


Franz Edmund Crefeld, erstwhile leader of the Holy Rollers, is in his grave; his slayer--declared by a jury of his peers to have been justified in taking the law into his own hands, lies dead on a marble slab at the city morgue, and a sister, white faced and stoical, victim of the man responsible for this strange cult, is in a cell at the county jail charged with the murder of her own brother.


The culminating tragedy occurred at the union depot at 4:25 o’clock yesterday afternoon just as George Mitchell was about to take his departure from this city. His two brothers, Fred and Perry, who had been his constant stay from the time he shot and killed Crefeld were with him. Esther Mitchell had followed them there for the apparent purpose of bidding them goodbye. She had a few brief words with Fred and Perry and at their suggestion, that she speak to George, stepped forward. As the latter half turned to greet his sister a revolver in her hands was suddenly pressed close to his left ear, there was a muffled report and George Mitchell, slayer of Franz Edmund Crefeld, without a word fell dead at the feet of the sister whose avenger he had been.




As the stricken brother dropped dead, before his head struck against the tiled floor, the weapon was released from the girl’s nerveless fingers, Perry Mitchell caught her in his arms and cried out pitifully: “Oh, Esther, how could you do it?”


Then a blue-coated officer rushed to the scene, the girl was placed under arrest, the coroner was called for the body of the dead man and the second chapter of a tragedy which has not yet seen its end was closed.


The main waiting room of the Union Depot was crowded as the four, the two brothers George and Perry in front, and the sister and brother Fred in the rear, walked down the corridor. She had greeted the other two brothers affectionately. It was Fred who said, “Aren’t you going to bid George goodbye?” without making any reply, she stepped briskly forward and took him by the hand. There was not a word spoken. On her arms was a light coat which had been shielding the weapon. Quick as a flash it was thrown off and then the shot rang out and the body of George Mitchell sank to the floor.


Hardly had the echo died away before Patrolman John T. Mason, of the city police force, who was in the waiting room at the time, rushed to the scene of the shooting and place the girl under arrest. she submitted quietly and without the slightest remonstrance, and when asked why she had done it mad the simple reply: “I was commanded to do it.” Then, while Deputy Sheriff Sam Huth was covering the remains of the dead man with a blanket the patrol wagon was summoned and she was taken away to police headquarters, where, after an examination, she was turned over to Sheriff Lou C. Smith and taken to the county jail.




At police headquarters Esther Mitchell was at once taken into the private office of Chief of Police Wappenstein, who briefly interrogated her as to the motive of the crime.


Her first remark was: “I killed him because he killed Joshua. We were commanded to do it.”


As she made the answer she looked steadfastly into the eyes of the chief, and there was absolutely no sign of remorse. She was garbed as for an outing. On her head was a new sailor hat set squarely over a head of brown wavy hair. Around her throat was a white satin ribbon tied in a neat four-in-hand, with the ends streaming down over a white shirt waist, which set off a shapely bust to perfection. The skirt was of dark material and neat, serviceable shoes were on her feet. As she came into the police station through the crowds which had begun to gather she was composed and unconcerned. There was not a tear in her eye, and if she experienced any emotion it was not revealed in her face. Asked for an interview, she replied that she had no statement to make to the newspapers, but would tell all to the officials. The two brothers, Fred and Perry, were sobbing in each other’s arms when taken into custody following the arrest of their sister, Esther.


As soon as the girl was taken before the chief and questioned as to her motives, she replied that she and Mrs. Creffield were commanded to do the killing. She was not sorry, she had simply done her duty, as she had received the command from divine inspiration.




Without waiting for a more detailed statement Chief Wappenstein at once pressed a button and summoned detectives who were given hurried orders to locate and bring in the widow of the Holy Roller leader. While the officers were on the way Mrs. Crefeld notified headquarters where she could be found, and was soon in the custody of the police.


Under interrogation she was as frank as Esther Mitchell, and said that one of them had to kill George Mitchell. Esther was delegated to do the deed as it was thought she would have the better chance.


A short time after the enactment of the tragedy all those who had been officially connected with the trial of George Mitchell were at the police station. After the girl had made her statement to Chief Wappenstein, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John F. Miller was admitted, and the first question he put was: “How are you, Esther?”


The answer came back, “Pretty well, Mr. Miller.”


“Whey did you do this?”


“Because it was my duty to do so.”


Mr. Miller then talked with the girl awaiting the arrival of a specialist on mental diseases who had been summoned and who talked with Miss Mitchell for some time. The result of this investigation the authorities refuse to divulge.


After further inquiry by all the officials, the girl was given into custody of Sheriff Lou Smith and was taken away to the county jail.





Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p1

Judge W. H. Upton Offers Assistance


Seattle Daily Times /13/1906 p2

Walla Walla Man Glad Mitchell Died


The following telegram was received at the county jail last evening by Deputy Sheriff Tom Smith:

Received, Seattle, Wa.

“221 Po Paid.

“Walla Walla, Wn., July 12, 1906.

“Miss Esther Mitchell, County Jail, Seattle, Wn.

“Accept thanks, congratulations and assistance if need. Talk to your lawyer only.     Wm. H. UPTON”


The sender of the message, William H. Upton, is ex-judge of the superior court at Walla Walla.


The message was read to Miss Mitchell by the jailers, but she made no comment upon the dispatch. Neither she nor Mrs. Creffield had ever heard of Judge Upton and neither had much idea of what prompted the suggestion. An Associated Press dispatch from Walla Walla says:

Former Judge W. H. Upton, of the superior court of Walla Walla County, when interviewed regarding the Esther Mitchell case and his message to her said: “It is unfortunate when a man unquestionably deliberately violates the laws of the state and kills a human being in disregard of those laws that he is triumphantly acquitted by a jury.


“Such action on the part of a jury tends to bring all law into contempt and to substitute the passion and prejudice of the hour for the law, which ought to be our protection as well as the punishment for our misdeeds. The report that Miss Mitchell has taken the law into her own hands by killing her brother is only what we may expect, if courts and juries refuse to enforce the laws of the land. Mitchell in killing Creffield was unquestionably guilty of premeditated murder, whatever justification he may offer for the act. As the law of the courts refuses to recognize that fact his sister, Esther Mitchell, became the law of nature to execute nature’s law. Let us forget the dead and pity the living.”


The correspondent of The Times was instructed to see Judge Upton today, but he telegraphed that Upton was ill last night and is confined to his home today. Upton refused to see a newspaper man.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p6

Too Easy to Get Pistols


Seattle has been shamefully disgraced before the eyes of the country by three murders within a very few weeks of each other. Each murder was committed with a pistol.


It is a difficult matter to regulate, it is true, but it should not be impossible to make it more difficult than it now is for anyone to purchase deadly weapons.


A person determined to commit murder doubtless will find the means of accomplishing the crime, but if it is made difficult for such persons to procure revolvers that class of crime should become less.


One thing needed is a mandatory ordinance with heavy penalty, providing that no dealer in firearms shall sell any weapon to any person without ascertaining that person’s name and address, which shall at once be reported to the chief of police; and that all persons purchasing firearms shall also procure a license from the city to have them their possession. No person desiring to make proper use of firearms can take serious exceptions to some such precautionary provision. It is practically impossible to procure deadly poisons at a druggist’s without a reputable physician’s prescription, or other authorization, and a pistol is as deadly as any poison. The form and prescription of such an ordinance may be left to the city’s law officers, but a new ordinance is needed at once.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p1

Hurt Hopes Esther Will Be Punished

The Father of Mrs. Crefeld Swoons When Told of Mitchell’s Murder.


Special to the Post-Intelligencer.


CORVALLIS, Or., July 12.--The news of the shooting of George Mitchell by his sister Esther was received here with consternation.


The city had been in a joyous mood ever since the announcement of the acquittal of Mitchell on the charge of murder of the so-called apostle Creffield.


O. V. Hurt, father of Mrs. Crefeld, and one of the principal witnesses in the trial of Mitchell, was informed of the affair late this evening.


When told that Esther Mitchell had killed her brother, Hurt fell in a swoon and only came to after several minutes.


“My God, what could the girl have been thinking of to do such a terrible thing?” said the unfortunate man when he recovered enough to talk.


After he had calmed down sufficiently to talk on the subject, Hurt stated that he believed that the killing of Mitchell was premeditated by Esther and that it had been planned by her and Mrs. Crefeld, both of whom are still imbued with the idea that the dead prophet will eventually come back to earth, and the grief stricken father expressed a hope that the girl would be punished for her crime.


George Mitchell is looked upon as hero here, and his murder at the hands of his sister is universally condemned.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p4

Maud Crefeld Was Given Revolver

Police Matron Found One on Her Before Woman Was Released.


Police Matron Kelly now has in her possession two revolvers which were taken from Maud Crefeld and Esther Mitchell after their arrest in the Crefeld murder case. One of the revolvers was given to Maud Crefeld by someone during the time she was under arrest, stated Mrs. Kelly. “I found her with the weapon in her possession,” she said, “as the woman was near the door. Taking it from her I demanded to know what she intended to do with it. She merely smiled and refused to answer.


“Neither of the girls cared to discuss the killing of Crefeld during the time they were in my charge, but Maud stated to me once that there would be more shooting. I replied that there had already been too much, but she answered that there was more to come.


“After the women were discharged by the court and released from custody, they wished to secure the return of the revolvers. To this I would no assent. Esther told me they wished to pawn the revolvers and get some money. I told her that if she wanted money I would lend it to them. She smiled again and said she was not entirely broke. All she wanted was the guns.


“’If you don’t give them to me I’ll only have to go down and buy another,’ said she. But I refused. I tried to get her to see and speak with her brother, but she steadily refused to have anything to say to him. About an hour before the shooting the three brothers came up here to say good-bye to me. George did not come in. He waited across the street until the two boys came out and the three went away together.


“During the time the two women were under my care they were quiet and lady-like. They obeyed without a murmur and never complained. I never saw any sign of insanity in either of them, and I have had a great deal of experience with insane people. The only thing which made me doubt Mrs. Crefeld’s sanity at times was the strange light in her eyes.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p4

Sisters Conversed Daily Over Phone

Esther Mitchell Remarked That She Would Need Money Only Few Days


During her stay in Seattle, from the beginning of the trial until July 6, Mrs. B. E. Starr, sister of Esther and George Mitchell, roomed at the Stevens Hotel. From information received there, it was learned that Mrs. Starr and Esther Mitchell held conversations over the telephone daily, Mrs. Starr’s telephone bill for one day often aggregating 35 cents. She was in the habit of calling up Esther Mitchell, or Esther would call her up, as often as seven and eight times a day.


The conversation was chiefly on the trial, but neither committed herself as to what she though would be the outcome. Mrs. Starr left for Pendelton, July 6, with her husband, and previous to their departure Esther Mitchell spoke to her over the phone, asking for a loan of some money.


“About how much?” asked Mrs. Starr.


“Oh, not a great deal,” replied Esther Mitchell; “just enough to tide me over for a few days, and then I’ll not need any.”


Her sister asked for an explanation of her remark, but she refused and made light of it. During the conversation Mrs. Starr spoke of leaving her husband in order to take up residence with Esther and Mrs. Crefeld, but was strongly advised against this step by Esther.


“Stay with your husband,” said Esther; “he is good to you, and as long as he is you will have nothing to regret.”


George and Perry Mitchell intended to leave the city Wednesday evening, at the same time as their father, F. M. Mitchell, did, but later changed their minds.


While talking with a reporter for the Post-Intelligencer Wednesday evening about 8 o’clock, Mr. Mitchell, father of the Mitchell family, was approached by Perry and George Mitchell.


“I don’t think we will leave for Portland this evening,” said George. “Perry and I have decided to remain until tomorrow afternoon.”


That evening Mr. Mitchell left for Mount Vernon, Ill, his home, being accompanied by Perry and George to the depot.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p4

Sister Said She Would Have Killed

Sheriff Smith States That Esther Mitchell Made such a Threat


“Well, she threatened to do it,” said Sheriff Lou C. Smith yesterday, when the news reached him of Mitchell’s murder at the hand of his sister.


“Esther Mitchell said that had she been present when Mitchell shot Crefeld, and if she had had a gun she would have killed him,” said the sheriff. “I do not remember to whom she made this statement, but it is a well-known fact that she has practically said she would kill her brother under provocation.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p4

Crowds Try to Get Look at Murderess

Stand in Hot Sun to Secure Glimpse of Principals in Tragedy


From the time the news of Mitchell’s shooting became noised about the city people came from all directions and hundreds hung around the jail and morgue. Yesler Way, from First Avenue to a block above police headquarters, was black with the curious throng that stood in the hot sun craning their necks and eagerly watching for a sight of the murderess, or others interested in the crime. People of all classes were in the crowds, so great a hold has the recent Mitchell murder case taken upon the public mind.


When Esther Mitchell was taken from Chief Wappenstein’s private office, where she had been questioned, to the hack which was waiting, the excitement was tense. The sight of the slender girl with dresses barely reaching to her shoe tops, supported by a big policeman and attended by the matron, caused a jam which the officers with difficulty forced back to make a passage for the waiting carriage.


At the morgue the same scene was repeated. Hundreds of curious crowded the doors and sought permission to view the body of the murdered man.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906

Both Sleep Soundly at the County Jail


At 1 o’clock this morning Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Crefeld were sound asleep at the county jail. They have been separated and are not permitted to communicate with each other.


Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p5

Chester Thompson is Not Informed

Death of George Mitchell Kept From Slayer of Judge Emory


Chester Thompson, the slayer of Judge G. Meade Emory, is being kept in ignorance of the murder of George Mitchell. his father and brothers visit him in his cell, and with the knowledge that the news might excite him, they refrain from telling him the story that has aroused the city.


Will H. Thompson, father of Chester, and the boy’s two brothers, Maurice and Oscar, were together at the court house yesterday afternoon when the news reached them of Mitchell’s death. They were on their was to visit Chester in his cell in the basement.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p5

“Holy Rollerism” Cause of Tragedy


The killing of George Mitchell by his sister Esther, so closely following the former’s acquittal of a charge of murder for shooting Franz Edmund Crefeld, May 7, last is the result of the religious delusion taught by Crefeld, or “Joshua,” as his followers called him, to a strange sect known as the Holy Rollers. The organization had its birth and reached the culmination of its fanatical practices in and near Corvallis, Oregon.


Though she had known Creffield when the latter was a Salvation Army worker in Portland, Esther Mitchell’s intimacy with his religious teachings, and her submission to his influence, dates from the starting of the sect at Corvallis between three and four years ago.


At first Crefeld’s services were attended by men as well as women. As the rigor of the self effacement demanded by Crefeld’s doctrines increased, the men gradually dropped out.


Then came the strange succession of practices, details of some of which may not be told in public print. As a result, most of the adherents of the faith were sent to the asylum. Crefeld himself, on the evidence of Mrs. Burgess E. Starr, was given the extreme sentence allowed for the crime committed under the Oregon Law.


While the man was at Salem his influence seemed to wane, and many of his former followers returned to their accustomed habits of life. Maud Hurt, who had married him, was divorced, and Esther Mitchell, after being taken to her father’s home in Illinois, was returned to Oregon.


Crefeld’s term of imprisonment ended last spring. At first he went to Los Angeles, but finally he made the effort to reassemble his old followers in secret near Waldport, on the sea coast of Oregon. Here the angry relatives of those who had again come under the “Holy Roller’s” influence followed him and began the chase which ended in the killing of Crefeld on First Avenue, Seattle, by Mitchell.


Esther Mitchell and Maud Hurt, who had again married Crefeld, gave but little testimony at the trial. They still were followers of their dead master’s teachings.


Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/13/1906 p11



MITCHELL--In this city, July 12, 1906, George Mitchell, aged 23 years. Announcement of funeral hereafter. remains at the private receiving rooms of Bonney-Watson Co.

Holy Rollers

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Holy Rollers is a story that has everything a good read should have: sex, religious fervor, mass insanity, the downfall of prominent families, murder and sensational court trials.

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Newspaper Articles about Creffield & the Holy Rollers

1897-1899:Local Lore, News Of Corvallis and Vicinity Told in Brief B. C. (Before Creffield)

1900:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1901:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1902:Holy Rollers' Lives Creffield

January 18, 1903: Fred Mitchell Attempts Suicide

June 10, 1903: Salvation Army Major Deserts and Joins the Holy Rollers

October 31, 1903: Zealot Worshipers Burn Furniture, Dogs & Other Things

November 2, 1903: Fanatics In Court

November 3, 1903: Had Promise of Tar and Feathers

November 4, 1903: Flight of The Apostles

November 5, 1903: Once-Esteemed Family No Longer Has the Sympathy of the Community

November 6, 1903: Rollers Take On New Life

November 7, 1903: Is Creffield Back?

November 11, 1903: “Apostle” Creffield Still Under Cover

November 24, 1903: Girl of Sixteen Almost Insane

November 25, 1903: In Pursuit of Creffield

November 27, 1903: The Lord May Starve Them

November 28, 1903: Holy Rollers Receive Unwilling Baptism

December 7, 1903: Demented Woman Suffers

December 8, 1903: Hurt Seen In Portland

December 11, 1903:Holy Rollers Roll Into Eugene Church

December 21, 1903:Holy Roller Victim Worse

December 22, 1903: Linn County Holy Rollers

December 23, 1903: Is Crazy Now

December 29, 1903: Holy Rollers’ Not Liked at the Dalles

December 30, 1903: Owner of Property Refuses to Permit Séances

January 6, 1904: Holy Rollers Tarred and Feathered

January 9, 1904: Their Welcome Departure

January 12, 1904: Editorial Comment: “Put yourselves in our place!”

January 13, 1904: Where Brooks Went

January 19, 1904: Our Brainy Contemporaries

January 25: Holy Rollers’ in Hobo Camp Life

February 1, 1904: Camp In Linn County Is Broken Up By Officers

February 6, 1904: How They Tell The Holy Roller Story In Far Off Scotland

February 11, 1904: Medium Mystify Corvallis People

March 1, 1904: The “Holy Rollers” Offend Humanity

March 16, 1904: Holy Rollers to Be Arrested on Serious Charge

March 17, 1904: Where is the Apostle?

March 21, 1904: Reward For Creffield's Capture

March 23, 1904: Fugitive Creffield

March 28, 1904: Reward is Offered

April 1, 1904: “Holy Roller” Chief Very Badly Wanted

April 18, 1904: Holy Roller High Priest Is Seen

April 29, 1904: Urania Seeley is Arrested

May 2, 1904: Frank & Mollie Hurt are Committed to the Asylum

May 4, 1904: Maud Hurt-Creffield & Sophia Hartley are Committed

May 7, 1904: Attie Bray &Rose Seeley are Committed

June 11, 1904: Attie Bray Escapes

June 17, 1904: Mae Hurt is Committed

June 29, 1904: Sarah Hurt is Committed

July 22, 1904: Holy Roller on Death Row

July 29, 1904: Creffield Found Half Dead Under Hurt’s House

July, 30 1904: Armed Guards Protect Creffield

July, 31 1904: Corvallis Could Not Raise a Mob

August 1, 1904: Creffield says, "I am Elijah"

August 2, 1904: Creffield Does Not Dislike Prison

August 4, 1904: Creffield Says He Is Entirely Purified

August 5, 1904: He Does Nothing Unless Directed by God

August 6, 1904: Creffield Believes in Satan and Eternal Punishment

August 9, 1904: No Flowers For Creffield

August 13, 1904; The Holy Rollers And The Man Who Made Them

August 16, 1904; Creffield Reward Will Be Returned

August 19, 1904: Followers in Asylum Stick To Faith

August 23, 1904: Creffield Will Fight His Own Case

August 28, 1904: Creffield Destroys His Revelations

September 16, 1904: Creffield is Guilty

September 21, 1904: Holy Rollers go in and Out of the Asylum

March 22, 1905: Prison Life Of Joshua Creffield>

April 8, 1905: Life In Corvallis Returns to Normal

December 12, 1905: Frank & Mollie Hurt Have a Baby Girl

April 24, 1906: Creffield Establishes a Camp Near Waldport

April 30, 1906: Donna Starr Leaves Children to go to Her Spiritual Love, Joshua Creffield

May 1, 1906: Creffield Takes Credit for The San Francisco Earthquake

May 3, 1906: Creffield In Fear Of His Life

May 7, 1906: Holy Roller Shot Down Like A Dog

May 8, 1906: Medal to Be Given Mitchell in Recognition of His Killing

May 9, 1906: Oregon Prosecutor Would Aid Mitchell

May 10, 1906: Shows No Emotion At Husband’s Grave

May 11, 1906: Bail Is All Ready

May 12, 1906: Mitchell Denied Bail

May 13, 1906: Creffield is Due To Rise Today

May 14, 1906: Creffield’s Widow Watches At Grave

May 15, 1906: Corvallis Starts Fund for Defense of Mitchell

May 16, 1906: Holy Rollers Starving Near Heceta Head

May 17, 1906: Public Sentiment Favors Mitchell

May 18, 1906: Creffield Railed in Vermont

May 19, 1906: Mitchell to Enter Plea of Not Guilty

May 27, 1906: Joshua Says Not to Worry

June 1, 1906: Morris Claims Mitchell Rid World of a Fiend

June 16, 1906: Prosecution and Defense are Making Last Preparations

June 19, 1906: Many Witnesses For Mitchell

June 24, 1906: Trial Will Cost Taxpayers Ten Thousand Dollars

June 25, 1906: George Mitchell on Trial For His Life

June 26, 1906: Mitchell Jury is Selected With Care

June 27, 1906: Mitchell Trial Held Up By Squabble

June 28, 1906:  Jury is Secured to Try Mitchell

June 29, 1906: Trial is Now on in Earnest

June 30, 1906: Mrs. Creffield's Testimony

July 1, 1906: Creffield’s Ghost Controls His Flock

July 2, 1906:  Esther Mitchell on Stand Refuses To Aid Brother

July 3, 1906: Hurt Tells of Debauched Wife and Debased Sisters

July 4, 1906: Creffield’s Unsavory Record Presented to the Jury

July 5, 1906: Expected Admissibility of Evidence Will Arouse Controversy

July 6, 1906: Others Testify They Wished to Kill Creffield

July 7, 1906: Insanity Expert on the Witness Stand

July 8, 1906: Plan To Revive Holy Rollerism

July 9, 1906: Killing of Judge Emory May Effect Mitchell

July 10, 1906: Mitchell Case Goes To Jury

July 11, 1906: Not Guilty

July 12, 1906: General Rejoicing at Mitchell’s Acquittal

July 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Kills Her Brother!

July 14, 1906: Mitchell Boys Are Done With Esther

July 15, 1906: Hurt Will Come to Aid of His Daughter

July 16: 1906: Will Mortgage His Home for Daughter

July 17, 1906: Let’s Think When We Talk

July 18, 1906: Mrs. Starr’s Life Threatened

July 19, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail

July 20, 1906: George Mitchell’s Attorney Offers Aid to Murderesses

July 21, 1906: Mitchell Boys to Stand by Esther

July 22, 1906: Hurt Thinks Both Women Are Insane

July 23, 1906: Frater Favors a Commission of Alienists

July 24, 1906: Mackintosh Will Oppose Calling Commission

July 26, 1906: Is Reconciled to Holy Roller Wife

July 27, 1906: Holy Rollers Seek Home in Wyoming

July 28, 1906: Mitchell Juror is Insane

July 30, 1906: Esther Will Deny Committing Murder In The 1st Degree

July 31 1906: Esther Mitchell Says Not Guilty

August 1, 1906: Relatives to Help Esther Mitchell

August 4, 1906: Creffield Greatly Hurt True Religion

August 6, 1906: Mitchell Boys in Drunken Row

August 8, 1906: St. Louis Woman Coming to Convert “Rollers”

August 12, 1906: Esther Mitchell Close to Death from Typhoid

August 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Not Seriously Ill

September 1, 1906: Four Charged with First Degree Now in County Jail

September 10 1906: To Examine Minds of Slayers

September 12, 1906: Hurt Thinks His Daughter Insane

September 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Objects to Help

September 14, 1906: Women Not Agitated

September 15, 1906: Mrs. Creffield’s Trial Set for Next Month

September 17, 1906: Mrs. Creffield on Stand

September 18, 1906:  Maud Creffield Anxious to Hang

September 19, 1906: Are They Sane of Insane?

September 21, 1906: Both Women May Go Scott Free

September 22, 1906: Where is This Thing to End!

September 23, 1906: Murders Must Be Tried

September 24, 1906: Must Not Deport

September 25, 1906: Judge Frater is in Very Small Business

September 28, 1906: Insanity Board Not Paid

October 1, 1906: Holy Roller Woman Dies While in Trance

November 9, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Said to Be in Very Nervous State

November 17, 1906: Maud Creffield Dies in the County Jail

November 18, 1906: Death May End a Hypnotic Spell

November 19, 1906: Reviews Findings in Examination of Brain

November 20, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Killed Herself with Poison!

November 21, 1906: Poison Is Found In The Stomach Of Mrs. Creffield

November 22, 1906: Esther Says Maud Did Not Kill Herself

December 4, 1906: Washing Dirty Linen

December 17, 1906: Sad Christmas For Holy Roller

February 21, 1907: Esther Mitchell Goes to Asylum

April 30, 1907: Esther Mitchell Still Believe in Creffield & His Return

April 6, 1909: Esther Mitchell Leaves Asylum

April 9, 1914: Esther Mitchell Marries James Berry

August 3, 1914: Esther Mitchell is Dead By Own Hand

1953 Stewart Holbrook's Murder Without Tears

1951 Startling Detective Magazine: Nemesis of the Nudist High Priest

A List of All the Articles


Sample Chapters from Holy Rollers:
Murder and Madness in Oregon's Love Cult


The Cast of Characters
Photos and Bios of the Holy Rollers


Holy Rollers' Asylum Commitment Papers


Info for Book Groups

Book Reviews


1903 to 1907 Newspaper Articles About the Holy Rollers

1906 Editorial Calling for Gun Control
After Multiple Murders Involving the Holy Rollers

Stewart Holbrook Holy Rollers Article

Advertisements from 1893 to 1913


Oregon Insane Asylum
Where the Holy Rollers Were Committed

Creffield, Brainwashing & Thought Reform

Early Cases of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

1906 Autopsies Of Holy Rollers
Forensics Before CSI

Holy Roller Bizarre Divorce Decree
Hartley describes trying to kill his wife's lover


Comedians on Edmund Creffield

The Shadow Testament
A Play About The Holy Rollers

How the Fire Fell
A Movie About The Holy Rollers


Life in Corvallis in the early 1900s

Life in Waldport, OR in early 1900s

Heaven's Gate

Facts & Stats about 1906
And How The Holy Rollers Measured Up

Oregon State Penitentiary
Where Creffield Was Incarcerated


Info about Cults

Could you ever be lured into joining a cult?

Share your thoughts about, and experiences with, cults


Creffield's Preachings

Creffield Vs. Crefeld

The Salvation Army Opening Fire in 1886

Holy Roller Theology

Reverend Knapp's Bible Songs of Salvation & Victory
Songs Sung by the Holy Rollers


About the Authors

Theresa (T-) McCracken

Robert B. Blodgett

In addition to writing, McCracken is a cartoonist.

To see some of her 'toons, go to the Home of McHumor Cartoons mchumor.com

McCracken's Blog

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Snail Mail
Theresa (T-) McCracken
890 North Bayview Loop
Waldport, Oregon 97394

(541) 563-3112


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Theresa (T-) McCracken