Murdering Holiness
360 pages, 6 x 9
21 b&w photos
Release Date:01 Jan 2009
Release Date:01 Nov 2007

Murdering Holiness

The Trials of Franz Creffield and George Mitchell

SERIES: Law and Society
UBC Press

Murdering Holiness explores the story of the "HolyRoller" sect led by Franz Creffield in the early years of thetwentieth century. In the opening chapters, the authors introduce us tothe community of Corvallis, Oregon, where Creffield, a charismatic,self-styled messiah, taught his followers to forsake their families andworldly possessions and to seek salvation through him. As his teachingsbecame more extreme, the local community reacted: Creffield was tarredand feathered and his followers were incarcerated in the state asylum.Creffield himself was later imprisoned for adultery, but shortly afterhis release he revived the sect. This proved too much for some of theadherents' families, and in May 1906 George Mitchell, the brotherof two women in the sect, pursued Creffield to Seattle and shot himdead.

The authors take us into the courtroom for the trial that madeheadlines across North America, as Mitchell was acquitted of murder.Though the formal plea was insanity, the defence built its case on the"unwritten law" that justified killing to protect or avengefamily honour. Based on court records and archival sources, this casestudy includes a detailed examination of the trial, the media’sresponse to it, and the dramatic aftermath, and sheds light on the riseof ardent religion in the Pacific Northwest, the justice system inSeattle, and the role of the press in influencing public opinion.

Jim Phillips is director of the Centre of Criminologyand a professor in the Faculty of Law and Department of History at theUniversity of Toronto. Rosemary Gartner is a professorat the Centre of Criminology and the Department of Sociology at theUniversity of Toronto.


Cast of Principal Characters

1. Introduction

2. The Creffield Sect in Corvallis, 1903

3. Driving Out the Sect: The Triumph of the White Caps, 1903-4

4. "Sensualist Practices Prescribed and Ordained as Coming fromHeaven": Sex and the Creffield Sect

5. Disciplining the Sect: Invoking Insanity Law, 1904

6. Revival and Revenge, January to May 1906

7. Seattle Prepares for Trial, May and June 1906

8. Justifiable Homicide and the Unwritten Law: Seattle Debates theMitchell Case

9. The Trial of George Mitchell, Part 1: Jury Selection and the Casefor the Prosecution

10. The Trial of George Mitchell,

Part 2: The Unwritten Law

11. "And the Evil That Men Do Lives After Them": The Deathof George Mitchell

12. The Law, Maud Creffield, and Esther Mitchell


Appendix: The Creffield Sect Membership




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