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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.

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.”

 

DISPOSES OF THE CASE

 

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.

 

FINDINGS OF COMMISSION

 

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)

 

DISEASE IS INCREASING

 

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.

 

IS TAKEN FROM JAIL

 

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.

Holy Rollers

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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

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Comedians on Edmund Creffield

The Shadow Testament
A Play About The Holy Rollers

How the Fire Fell
A Movie About The Holy Rollers

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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

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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

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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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