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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.

September 19, 1906: Are They Sane of Insane?


Seattle Star 9/19/1906 p6

Are They Sane of Insane?

Commission Appointed to Decide on Mental Condition of Mrse. Creffield and Esther Mitchell Will Report Tomorrow.


The commission appointed to determine the sanity of Mrs. Maud Creffield and Esther Mitchell met before Judge Frater this morning and informed the court that the commission had finished its examination.


The court ordered that the commission turn in its report tomorrow morning at the opening.


The report of the commission will determine whether the two women will spend the rest of their lives in the Oregon insane asylum, or stand trial for murder in the first degree for the killing of George Mitchell on the afternoon of Friday, July 12 (sic).


Judge Frater informed the commission that a transcript of the testimony would be unnecessary.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 9/19/1906 p5

Mitchell Creffield Hearing is Ended

Commission Hears Last of Testimony and Will Report in Few Days. Prisoners Give Evidence. Hope for Death and Recite the Details of the Killing of George Mitchell.


The commission named by Judge Frater of the superior court to investigate the charge of insanity made against Mrs. Maud Creffield and Esther Mitchell, held for murder, concluded its labors yesterday afternoon and within the next few days will report its findings. This morning a meeting will be held with Judge Frater present and at that time the matter of the necessity of filing the transcript of the proceedings with the court will be decided. If this is found to be necessary the report will not be made for some days, but if it is not required it will be given out sooner than this.


The proceedings now in the hands of the reporter will require some eight or ten days to transcribe.


Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell were examined separately yesterday and information and statements were secured from them which heretofore it has been impossible to get.


During the day the women were only allowed to see each other for a few minutes. This was during the morning before the hearing began when Mrs. Creffield was brought into the presence of the commission and had to retire for a few moments on account of a slight faintness. She was soon in condition to be interviewed however, and told her story in detail. In the afternoon she was again placed on the stand and her examination was finally concluded.


Mrs. Creffield went into the details of her life after her separation from Creffield and stated that she was forced by her parents to secure a divorce from him although she did not desire to do so. Later after the release of the man from the penitentiary she told how she was called to him and how she felt his presence with her continually. Then she recited the details of their second marriage.




 She recited the facts bearing on the prediction made by Creffield that he would be killed and said that on the evening previous to his death he had stated that he was soon to be taken from this earth. Mrs. Creffield declared she had no reason for thinking this would occur and that it must have been a demonstration of the supernatural powers which conveyed the idea to his mind.


Shortly after the shooting of her husband she said she was called by God to avenge the death and at once began her plans for the action. Again it came to her, she said, that Esther Mitchell was the chosen one and as the same command came to the younger woman at the same time it was so decided.


When asked regarding her feelings as to the possible consequences of the crime, the witness declared she willing to suffer for it and more, That she is anxious to die.


“I know my Heavenly Father approves of the act,” she said, “and know that if I had not obeyed the command to aid in the killing of Mitchell I would have suffered during the rest of my life. If I had it to do over again I would do just as I did. If God told me to kill others I would do so.”


Mrs. Creffield denied the statements made by her at the police station after the shooting and said that she had not told the truth at that time, because she did not want people to make light of her religious belief. Later, she said, she had come to the conclusion that it was time to tell her real motives.


The woman stated that she has oftentimes wanted to take her life, and would do so if God so willed. She said she had no grievance against Mitchell, but that God had willed her to kill the man.




She said she has been very happy and satisfied wince the deed was done, and that before that time she was in just the opposite state of mind. The witness said Creffield was to have been instrumental in bringing about the restoration of the church and that she was acting in that capacity at this time. If her life were taken she said she would still work for the cause in the spirit.


Dr. Turner, of the commission, questioned the woman closely on the crime and made many references to the possibilities that might result from it, but Mrs. Creffield spoke of the affair and of the consequences of murder without a sign of emotion. She showed a thorough study of the Bible and at no time was she unable to give a reason for her actions by quoting scripture.


When Esther Mitchell was called to the stand in the afternoon, she was cool and collected as usual, but there was a slight tinge on her cheek that was not noticeable in the older woman. She recited many of the answers to questions asked her just as id Mrs. Creffield. Her recital of the circumstances surrounding the shooting of her brother, and the reasons for giving the misstatements at the police station were almost identically the same as those made by Mrs. Creffield.


In speaking of the possible consequences of the deed, the girl said:

I wanted to see my brother punished for shooting Mr. Creffield. I realized he was my brother and admit the feeling was unusual under ordinary circumstances, but he did a great wrong and should have been punished. When I was told by God it was my duty to kill him, I was glad. It was not hard to do for I was given strength. At first I felt burdened, before I did it, but I soon realized it was God’s will and He would care for me. If I had not done it, I would have suffered. I had never shot a pistol before, but was not afraid.




“One of my reasons for giving the statement I did at the police station, was to invite mob violence. I wanted to suffer for the cause and am ready now and anxious to do so. Under the same circumstances I would do the deed again, and if I was told by God to kill someone else, I would do it without hesitation. I would kill myself if God told me to and have thought many times of doing so. Since killing my brother, I have not had this desire.”


Later during the examination Esther Mitchell said Creffield was to have been instrumental in bringing about the restoration of the world and that in thwarting this action, her brother did a deed that there could be no punishment, but death.


“When I killed George,” she continued, “Mrs. Creffield and I planned every movement beforehand, but we did not consider any way to escape afterwards. We did not want to get away. I am not insane and never have been.”


At the close of the session, Dr. Turner, speaking for the commission, explained the action of the board in holding many private sessions when it was necessary, and the attorneys agreed that this was just as it should have been. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Miller made a final statement to the effect that he had been misunderstood by Will H. Morris, and that he had never declared his belief in the insanity of the women. The commission will meet with Judge Frater at 9:30 o’clock this morning, to arrange for the submission of the opinion they will arrive at.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 9/19/1906 p8

Ship Murderess to Oregon

If Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield are Declared Insane, Seattle Authorities Will Send Them Outside of the State.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal)


Seattle, Sept. 19.--The insanity commission that inquired into the alleged sanity of Esther Mitchell and Maud Hurt Creffield will report to Superior Judge Frater at 9:30 o’clock tomorrow morning. This was the agreement made between the court and the commission this morning. If the women are found to be insane they will both be transported to Oregon. What will be done with them when they reach Oregon the local authorities do not care, but they positively will not be cared for in the insane asylums of this state.


An act passed by the last legislature which gave the courts the authority to transport insane persons who are recent arrivals in the state to the place from whence they came. If the women are found to be sane, Esther Mitchell will be put on trial September 24, and Mrs. Creffield on October 22.




The taking of testimony in the insanity inquisition was closed yesterday afternoon. The last witness examined was Esther Mitchell. She declared that God had ordained Creffield for the restoration of the world, and that when her brother George had killed the man ordained for this mission it was God’s will that he should be killed. She, like Mrs. Creffield, declared that God had made known to her his decree, that she should take her brother’s life. Every step preliminary to the homicide, she asserted, had been gone over carefully by her and Mrs. Creffield.


“I made the statement I made in police headquarters, knowing it was false in the hope that I would be lynched. I was tired of living, and knew that if I killed, I would get some rest anyway. I am willing to die for the religion. I have never suffered as much as the others, and I want to.




“I am not insane. I knew what I was doing, and I do not want to be sent to any asylum. I am perfectly willing to hang. Many times I have thought of killing myself, but I know that God had saved me for a great work. I did not know what the great work was until I received the divine message that it was the killing of my brother. I am satisfied and glad I did it.”


In many instances the explanation given by the girl of motives for actions tallied verbatim with those given by Mrs. Creffield.



Seattle Daily Times 9/20/1906 p1

Declares Slayers of Mitchell Insane

Rumored That Medical Commission Has Arrived at Decision and Will File Their Report Soon. Women May Escape Trial for Murder. Murderess and Mrs. Maud Hurt Creffield Said to Have Been Found to Have Been Mentally Unsound for Years.


Esther Mitchell and Maud Hurt Creffield will be declared insane in the report that will be filed by the medical commission appointed by Judge Frater to inquire into the mental condition of the two women, if persistent rumors can be accepted for truth. At a meeting of the three members of the commission, held last night, it is said that all three of the physicians were of the opinion that the evidence showed both women to have been mentally unsound for several years.


Late this afternoon the members of the commission were squabbling over the form that the insanity had taken and the causes of it. The commission is badly divided on this branch of the report. It is extremely doubtful if the members will be able to agree before morning.


The report of the commission will mean the transportation of the women to Oregon. They will be taken there and turned over to the authorities to be placed in an asylum in that state if Oregon officials see fit. The fact that they have lived in Washington but a few months makes this possible.


The prosecution of the two women will be dropped and the death of George Mitchell at his sister’s hand will go unavenged.


The commission that has probably freed the women from the necessity of undergoing a trial is composed of Drs. Kenneth Turner, R. M. Eames and J. H. Snively.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 9/20/1906 p7

Insanity Board May Report Today

Full Transcript of Proceedings Not Required by Court.


If it is possible for the commission named to inquire into the mental condition of Mrs. Maud Creffield and Esther Mitchell to reach a decision in the matter, the report may be made to the court today. This was the statement made by Dr. Kenneth Turner yesterday, after a conference with Judge Frater regarding the necessity of filing with the report a full transcript of the board’s proceedings.


Judge Frater held that the transcript was not necessary, but that if any of the attorneys desired a copy of the proceedings they might secure it from the stenographer. The board was informed that the services of the stenographer are at its disposal during their future sessions to be held until a decision is reached, and that it is necessary for only such portions of the proceedings to be transcribed as are required.


Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh declared yesterday that if the women are found to be insane, he believes Judge Frater will order them sent to the Oregon asylum. This may be done under the law, he says, as the women have no residence in this state.

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

(541) 563-3112


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Theresa (T-) McCracken