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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.

November 4,1903: Flight of The Apostles


Corvallis Times 11/4/1903 p3

Flight of The Apostles

They Scented Danger and Hurriedly Deserted Their Band of Local Rollers.


Edmund Creffield
Joe Haege as Edmund Creffield

The newest development in the Holly Roller situation is the flight of the two apostles, Creffield and Brooks. Their going was hurried and with more or less secrecy. A fear for their personal safety is supposed to have been the incentive to depart. The possibility that they received a message from on High for them to go hence is suggested by sinners, but a favorite theory is that warning was given the men by officers and by their friends had much to do with their flying start and final farewell.


Both men were impressed with the fact that callous Corvallisites were laying for them. When Deputy Henderson led them out of jail after they had established their sanity before the county board, he warned both of the existence of a strong public sentiment against them, and advises them to escape while there was yet time. They laughed at the idea and said that the Lord would take care of his own. In fact, Creffield flared up and told Deputy Henderson not to talk any more to him. This happened Friday night, and both the apostles after leaving the jail returned to the Hurt house.




At noon Saturday, Mr. Hurt accompanied by his son appeared at the sheriff’s office and asked for protection. He said if the county authorities would not protect him, he would appeal to the governor. Sheriff Burnett replied that he would use every endeavor to afford ample protection. He added that if Creffield and Brooks would leave the house, that there would be no further need of fear, or requirement for protection.


Sheriff Burnett spent most of the night in the Hurt house. He went over after supper, knocked at the door, and was admitted without question or cavil. There was a big crowd outside, but there was not at any time a hostile demonstration. It was Saturday night, and the spirit of Halloween was abroad, but nothing happened inside or outside the place. By midnight the crowd had disappeared and sometime after that the sheriff left the place.

The flight of the apostles occurred late the next afternoon. General report is to the effect that they were anxious to get away early in the day, but there was always a crowd around the house, and they did not want to hazard an escape under such environments. The crowd stayed and stayed, increasing in number until mid afternoon. Towards evening people began to go supperward, and some time after four, Brooks was seen to leave the house and walk swiftly away. He traveled towards Corvallis and disappeared so far as is known and has not since been seen. There are suggestions that he is still hiding at one of the Holy Roller homes, but this is not generally accepted. One man says he saw Brooks mount a bicycle, taking the back streets for it, and pedaling for all his life was worth. The apostle was probably then quitting Corvallis for good and aye.




It was an hour later when the chief apostle, Creffield fled. A buggy driven by one of the members of the sect appeared at the door of the house. The door opened and Creffield came out and hastily entered the vehicle. The buggy with its two occupants drove swiftly away , and disappeared to the southward. It is supposed to have gone to some East side town where the apostle took a train for other scenes. Another story is that Creffield’s final start did not take place until Monday morning. It is averred (sic) that he was taken across the river above the Mills in a row boat, that a buggy subsequently met him beyond the ferry, and thence proceeded with him to an East side railroad.


Various incidents tended to anger the public toward the apostles. It was known that both had for some time subsisted mainly, if not entirely at the Hurt home. It was figured out that as leaders in the new scheme, they were leading women, girls and others into delusions and unnatural conditions. There were also reports of various kinds in circulation, some perhaps true and some untrue, with reference to the teachings of the apostles and the effect of these reports was to stimulate public wrath. One of these reports is that Creffield taught that marriage was not necessary. Whether he did or not, cannot be declared here. He got the credit for it, and that did as much as anything else in his system to bring him into public reproach.




Another feature that the public resented was that in which the wives and daughters joined the sect and other members of the family did not. The teachings of the apostles is that the members of the sect are withdrawn from the world, and must have nothing to do with those who remain in the world. Brooks declared this in his examination for sanity, if reports be true. A bitter alternative was necessarily left to a husband whose wife was in the sect and he was not. She was out of the world and he was of the earth entirely, and she would have nothing to do with him. Whether or not any of the Corvallis families involved reached that point is not known. The declaration of Brooks renders it certain that to such an alternative is exactly where the teachings of himself and Apostle Creffield distinctly trended. That was why the furniture was burned and other things destroyed. It was for the removal of all earthly thing from contact with the apostles and their disciples.


Another feature that was fruitful in inciting public wrath was the scene into which the officials entered when they took Creffield and Brooks into custody for the examination as to their sanity. The girl with the cloth over her face was in an apparent state of trance. She was receiving a so called message from the Almighty, and others, on mats, rugs and blankets around the room were noting it down. Creffield was close beside the girl with his head near hers on the pillow. This incident has been told and retold and always with indignation, in which true or untrue, Creffield is set down as a mountebank.




All these and other considerations caused many a reference to tar and feathers, to vigilance committees and to proposals to find means for sending the apostles away. It is certain that there was a well defined purpose on the part of a body of determined persons to seek the apostles out, to take them across the Willamette, to tell them to clear out, and then if they hesitated or neglected to obey orders, to administer tar and feathers.


That something of the kind would have happened if the spectacular incident at the Hurt house had continues is entirely probable. On both Friday and Saturday nights there were reports current that something was sure to happen before morning. The flight of the apostles however prevented trouble and the public mind is again at rest. With the other members of the sect, nobody so far as is known, has any quarrel.


A matter that created general remark is the personal appearance of some of the members of the sect. They are haggard of face and hollow of eye. There is a whiteness and wanness of complexion that is unnatural. That they labor at times under great mental and nervous excitement is undoubted. That the practice of their peculiar faith at least in its most violent form is harmful to both mind and body is generally believed. That it may ultimately send some of them into the mad house is freely predicted. That a short cut from heaven to the bug house by the Holy Roller route would be a most regrettable end to this season of spiritual elevation is a sentiment that is freely expressed.


Sheriff Burnett
Jeffree Newman as Sheriff Burnett



At other houses than at the Hurts, there has been burning of worldly things like furniture, carpets and clothing. There was such a deliverance to the flames at the Starr house on North Main Street. It happened in the early morning several days ago. Neighbors were awakened by a bright light in the Starr back yard and hurried out of bed in the belief that there was a fire. What met their eyes was a bon fire with chairs and other things of use and value as the chief item of fuel. Whether in any other of the four or five houses in town in which in whole or part the family are Holy Rollers there have been sacrificial fires with useful and ornamental things as fuel, is not known.


(Directly under this article is a small ad “For best grade of gasoline, 35 cents a gallon go to Berry and Carl’s” Next to it is a large ad for S.L. Kline’s New Fall Footwear for women)



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 11/4/1903 p10

Holy Rollers Seem to Like Oregon

(Journal Special Service.)


The Dalles, Nov. 4.--The Dalles can sympathize with Corvallis in the way of “Holy Rollers,” as this city has been pestered for a year with two “Holy Roller” joints. In several instances women have given up lucrative positions and burned clothing and furs, given up insurance in societies and gone into trances at the meetings and then carried home on stretchers. The men have been equally foolish and given up membership in their lodges, taken the blinds from the windows of their houses, and annoying whole neighborhoods with their outlandish noises, so that finally complaints were made to the authorities. One man and several women temporarily lost their reason at the meetings where excitement ran high. Little children would become wild and almost raving crazy for the rime. Just now one of their meeting places has been closed for a time on account of chicken pox.


One man went crazy so that he was locked up in the city jail. He refused to eat, saying the Lord did not want him to partake of food. The authorities gave him time to cool off and then let him go, so that it had the effect of quieting him very materially. People holding positions of trust became unreasonably foolish in the new sect and gave away things of value and in many other ways were rabid, and beside themselves with excitement. They are not so foolish as they were, and many are ashamed that they ever acted in so senseless a manner.


Corvallis Times 11/4/1903 p2

Holy Rolling


The right of everyone to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience is a foundation stone of the American republic. Every child in the nation understands the principal and adheres to it. If a citizen chooses to be a “Holly Roller” and the practice of his religion does not interfere with the rights of others in the community, he exercises a right that that was sealed and made sacred to him by the blood of Revolutionary sires. If the destruction of furniture and household effects be a part of the practice of his faith, that is his own business, provided his debts are paid and the destruction of such article is not to make of him or his a care upon the community. The deliverance of the articles to the flames may place the enthusiast before the community as a curiosity or a freak, subject to remark and ridicule, but that is his own personal business, and a matter entirely beyond the concern of the public. If the Christian theory is true, and it is, every man must be answerable in the end for his own deeds. If he chooses to kill a cat because it seems to be a hindrance to his worship, it is nobody’s business, provided that it is not his neighbor’s cat. If he burns the cat’s body afterward, that is wise, because it is better sanitarily and otherwise that the carcass be reduced to ashes than to fester and decay either in or out of the ground. For every act done in the name of religion, then the real and only test is, was it according to the conscience of the worshiper, and does or does it not, by leading into unnatural influences or otherwise endanger the mind or body of irresponsible persons, or by tending to bring the worshiper or those dependent upon him into want to the extent that they shall become a public charge. Such acts as successfully run the gauntlet of this test are wholly private, and ought to be immune from the concern of the public. The right to practice acts so tested, and found to be legitimate, is the heritage of every American-citizen, and nobody has the right to abridge or take it away.


It may be seriously questioned if certain acts that have exercised the public of Corvallis of late will successfully run the gauntlet of the true test of religious privilege. All of them are probably as orthodox as are the acts of a distinguished Presbyterian preacher who certifies that all his football players are bona fide students when he knows and everybody else knows that they are not. A lie told by a preacher is none the less a lie because he professes religion. If in the manifestations of the so called God’s anointed sect persons of moderate mental vigor are being led into false positions, that is not a proper worship. If the leaders of this sect, as may be possible, are by profession of superior godliness, playing upon minds in such a way that there is delusion and folly, the practice stands convicted by the test. If two strangers, largely without antecedent and almost wholly unknown are leading weak women into a state of mind where there is more frenzy than reason, more folly than sense, the condition is harmful. If these comparative strangers who call themselves apostles and claim to hold constant communication with the Almighty are subsisting wholly on their labor of leading women and young girls into delusions and unnatural conditions, and if in pursuit of that labor home ties are wrecked and happiness driven away from firesides, great and irreparable wrong is committed. Many of the patients in the insane asylums become crazed on religion. One of the easiest ways in the world for reason to be dethrones is in over pursuit of religious fervor. Reasonable, well known, and lofty minded men rather than unknown, untested and characterless zealots should be the leaders in any new religious movement, especially where it is of a character to which burning and destruction of property is incident.


Creffield and Brooks may have true faith, but those who are following them to the bitter end are taking desperate chances.

e fanatics consisted of the most ludicrous and foolish performances, such as frightful barking in imitation of dogs and foxes, mimicry of cuckoos and other birds, jumping swinging the arms and rolling on the floor and from the last circumstances they were called Holy Rollers. Their leader declared that they must not shave, and they suffered their beards to grow for several months, when it was revealed to another of their number that they must all shave, and it was done.


These fanatics were [illegible] and encouraged by large numbers of the inhabitants of Hardwick and the neighboring towns. The pastor of the Congregationalist church, Rev. Chester, preached a vigorous sermon against these absurdities which was published and widely circulated in 1838. Some of their number were imprisoned for disturbance of religious worship.


These facts are set forth in much fuller detail in Thompson’s History of Vermont published in 1841. The author was a clergyman of the Episcopal Church and professor of natural history in the University of Vermont and his narrative may be accepted as a proof that in the modern Holy Rollers history has only repeated itself. When the Holy Rollers appeared in Hardwick it was a town of 2400 inhabitants and had been organized over forty years, had good schools and three churches, and is distant only twenty one miles from the capital of the state, but no civilization, no environments will ever be proof against sudden outbreaks of fanaticism on the part of ignorant, weak minded people who, if not deranged, have unarranged brains.

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


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