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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.

January 9, 1904: Their Welcome Departure


Edmund Creffield & Esther Mitchell
Joe Haege & Brighid Thomas as
Edmund Creffield & Esther Mitchell

Corvallis Times 1/9/1904 p1

Their Welcome Departure


By an act of violence the Holy Roller apostles have been sent away from the community. Though every person who participated in the affair that drove them away is guilty of a misdemeanor and liable for prosecution under the state law, there is no enforcement of the penalty. The reason is that the two men had committed offenses against the people of the vicinity that the laws could not reach.


For weeks the community has been made notorious by the fool acts of zealots and their half crazed followers. A system of religion was set up in which this pair of high priests and their followers worshiped behind barred doors and closely drawn blinds, behind which the public could neither pass nor see. Though a shock to the proprieties, it was alleged worship of Almighty God for these two huskies to live in the same locked house with a number of young girls, and do nothing in the world but be religious. Whether as fools of knaves, whether as fanatical zealots or as sinister hypocrites, it remains a fact that the acts of Creffield and Brooks practiced under any other name than that of religion would have led to violent scandals and an interference by the public on the grounds of common decency long ago.


The unfortunate girl demented in a Portland sanitarium, is their victim, and a dreadful testimony of the importance of barring the doors of a community to such men. The halt dozens others in whom nervous shocks and mental agitation have left marks that can never be removed and wounds that will never heal and further victims to a system of religion officered by two ornery galoots, founded by nobody, and followed only by women. Whether honest or dishonest, whether sincere or false in their pretensions, the consequence of the career in this community of the pair and of Creffield in particular has been a succession of disagreeable as well as deplorable occurrences and conditions such as no community deserves and as few would so long tolerate.

The act of violence is deplored, but the departure of the men is welcome.



Corvallis Times 1/9/1904 p1

White Caps Again

They Held up Frank Hurt--Where is Brooks--

An Incident at the Beach House

The tar and feathers administered to Creffield and brooks, the flight of the apostles, and the marriage of Creffield and Miss Hurt have passed into local history and the excitement incident thereto has largely subsided. These events all happened Monday night and Tuesday, and were followed Tuesday night by incidents that to the participants were equally novel and unusual, but of less dramatic detail. That night the White caps were again at large and according to the best accounts obtainable exercised extreme vigilance in the vicinity of the Beach house. They not only watched the movements about the place, but at one time appeared at the barred door, required it to be opened, and to the number of a dozen men walked inside and made a search of every room, closet, and every possible hiding place about the premises. In there unbidden acts, they met with no resistance, and apparently found about the place nobody whom they sought. Half a dozen young women were there, but they paid no attention to the intruders, and the intruders paid no attention to them. It was other game that the White Caps sought.




For a long time before they entered, and for a long time afterward the White Caps prowled in secret about the house. They manifested far more secrecy than was observed in their movements on the night preceding, when they went to the Beach house and brought the apostles over the river for the coat of tar and feathers. They met at the river bank in different parties, and instead of taking the ferry boat as before, they crossed the Willamette in small boats and by different routes. Mooring their boats on the opposite side of the river, they stole noiselessly up the bank and picked their way to vantage points in the vicinity of the Holy Roller house. There, fully secreted they watched for a long time, some of them across the road in front of the house, and others at different points near at hand. A shrill whistle, like that of Robin Hood to his followers in the Scotch forests directing the movements of the men called them together, or dispersed them under a moon that was dim and partly fog enshrouded, the skulking forms occasionally moved about or simultaneously= rose in a phalanx, scary enough in appearance to make the timid tremble. They were looking for Creffield.




Reports in circulation during the afternoon of Tuesday were to the effect that Creffield and his bride had returned to the Beach house. It was also asserted that Brooks was in hiding about the place. True to the threat uttered when the apostles were told to leave and never return on pain of worse treatment, the White Caps were shadowing the house in the hunt for the apostles.


It was perhaps 10 o’clock of after when a vehicle could be heard approaching from the eastward. The creak of the carriage springs and the hoof falls of the horses in muddy roads was heard. Three men had stood in the road along the fence for some time watching the house, but at the approach of the traveler they secreted themselves in the orchard or beneath the trees at the roadside. The carriage passed to a spot in front of the house and there it stopped. It had a single occupant who threw out several quilts and buggy robes that had apparently been used by other travelers. Then is passes on down the road to the river, and thence over the ferry to Corvallis. A few minutes later the three men reappeared in the road and passed to a spot a short distance in front of the house. A moment later a dozen dark forms rose simultaneously from hiding places on opposite sides of the road, and by a sudden movement surrounded the three. The White Caps, in the dim moonlight thought for a moment that Creffield and Brooks were again in their clutches.




It was three harmless and lonely newspaper men in search of news that the White Caps had bagged. For a moment the two parties, the news writers and their captors, eyed each other in silence. Visions of smeared tar and sticky feathers had injected themselves into the minds of the quill drivers, while under the dim moon they saw that the White Caps were awfully big and fierce in appearance. “Anything new boys” inquired one of the writers, but there was no response. The White Caps apparently had business on hand, and had no time to talk about news. At last one of them broke the silence. “Why didn’t that carriage stop back there and let somebody out he asked in a gruff but quiet tone. A brief parley ensued in which explanations were interchanged when a shrill whistle set the White Caps to moving and within a moment they had disappeared, leaving the newspaper fraternity alone under the shadow of the Holy Roller settlement.


The man in the carriage was Frank Hurt. After he crossed the ferry the White Caps satisfied that Creffield and Brooks were out of reach followed him. They caught him, and took him to the spot where Creffield and Brooks were tarred and feathered, but just what happened there is not certainly known.




Different stories are afloat as to what they did to Frank Hurt and no direct statement can be made here as to what is authentic. The doings of the White Caps on Tuesday night were far more secretive than when Creffield and Brooks were disciplined. One version is that when they reached the bridge Hurt was ordered to disrobe and that he refused point blank to do so. Also that he told them that they were of superior numbers, but that he would not obey their orders. It is also stated that he finally secured possession of a club, and that with it he forced a truce.


Another version is that the captive was given to understand that two alternatives were open to him, and that upon his decision rested the result. These were that he must either promise to leave the Holy Roller headquarters and desist from the late manifestations, or that he must take tar and feathers. Also, that he said that he would never give up his religion, but that he would hereafter live within such regulations as would put an end to the Holy Roller troubles. That one or the other, or a part of both the above versions happened is certain. Hurt was captured somewhere on the streets after he had brought the vehicle to the livery stable. He had arranged with the ferryman to leave a small boat on the Corvallis side of the river so that he might return from Corvallis to the Beach house without calling the ferryman. His capture and abduction was so quietly effected that neither Chief Lane nor Officer Osburn were aware of it, though both were on duty until midnight or after.



Nothing is known concerning where Mr. and Mrs. Creffield went. After their marriage at Albany, they returned with Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hurt to the Beach House and tarried there for a brief time late Tuesday afternoon. Then they left again and it is asserted went in the same carriage to Tangent where they reported to have taken a train for unknown parts. It is also supposed that Frank Hurt was just returning from the trip to Tangent when he arrived at the Beach house Tuesday night where a dozen pair of eyes were watching him from roadside just before his capture in the streets of Corvallis.


Nothing whatever has been heard of Brooks since Monday night. The last seen of him so far as known was when his captors released him wearing a new coat of tar and feathers as well as his usual habiliments, and hastening to the northward along the Albany road. Tidings from him have been and are still awaited with more or less interest. He must have asked for assistance in the removal of the tar and feathers and for food at some farm house to the northward, and it is anticipated that news of this will ultimately be forthcoming. If not, then there will be suspicion that he returned with Creffield to the Beach house the night of the affair and there got relief from his unwelcome coat and subsequently left for parts unknown.




It is very probable that the events of the past week will put an end to the Holy Roller movements as recently conducted in the vicinity. So far as heard no word of sympathy has been uttered for the disciplined apostles. On the contrary, there have been many outspoken expressions of satisfaction that means had been found to send them out of the community. To them is ascribed all the blame for such undesirable notoriety as has come upon the community. They too are held generally responsible for such unpleasant incidents as have been brought to many family circles. Their influence in general is regarded as the beginning and end of Holy Rollerism hereabouts. The discipline administered to them is said to have had a wholesome effect on a number of their female followers who have determined according to numerous accounts to remain within reasonable bounds in the pursuit of their religious belief. The general idea is that it is well because if it had continued, the mental derangement of others and continuous notoriety of an unpleasant and unnecessary kind must have been the sequel.

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