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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.

April 29, 1904: Urania Seeley is Arrested


Florence SeeleyOregon Daily Journal (Portland) 4/29/1904 p11

Officer To Seize Young Holy Roller


(Special Dispatch to the Journal)

Albany, Or., April 29.--As a result of a complaint made by her sister, officers this morning started from here to Corvallis to arrest Urania Seeley, a 16-year-old orphan girl who has joined the Holy Rollers.


Late last evening Edna V. Seeley, the sister, filed a complaint with the county court of Linn County in which she says that her sister has come under the influence of Apostle Creffield and has joined his sect near Corvallis.


The complaint charges that the Holy Rollers are a depraved, demented, disreputable people, the members of which lie around on the floor without regard to sex or other conventionalities and are totally unfit for a girl to associate with. It asks the court to place Urania Seeley in the care of the Boys’ and Girls’ home, where she may be protected from the influence of the Holy Rollers.


Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 4/30/1904 p3

Holy Rollers’ Lose A Convert

Edna V. Seeley Of Oregon City Causes The Arrest Of Her Sister.


(Special Dispatch to the Journal)

Albany, Or., April 30.--Miss Urania Florence Seeley, a girl 16 years old, was brought before County Judge H. M. Palmer yesterday afternoon on a warrant charging her with being from under the control of her natural protectors and in the hands of the Holy Rollers. She was arrested upon petition filed by her sister, Edna V. Seeley of Oregon City, who alleged that her sister was with the Holy Rollers, that she was being injured, and asked that the girl be placed under the care of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid society.


The girl was given a hearing before the court, and three gentlemen of Corvallis who were well versed in the operations of the Holy Rollers, testified to the fact that the life of the girl with the members of the sect could only result in the complete degradation of the child.


It was shown that the sect, since it was expelled from Benton county last winter, has taken up its quarters in Linn county, just across the river from Corvallis, and here the girl-wife of Creffield, the apostle, has surrounded herself with a bunch of young men and women, especially some silly girls, and almost naked, they lie about the floor for hours at a time, praying. There is no furniture in the shack occupied by the Holy Rollers, and the barest necessities is all that they provide themselves.


Among them is Frank Hurt of Corvallis, who was formerly a clerk in a gents’ furnishing goods house. He and his wife are among the fanatics, and it was with him that this girl was found by the Linn county officers. When brought in she was hatless, he hair hung down, uncombed and unconfined, and she acknowledged having destroyed her hat in response to a divine command. After the hearing of the case, the county judge committed the girl to the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid society and Sheriff Worth Huston was ordered to take her to Portland this morning, which he did, being accompanied by Miss Edna Seeley, sister of the girl, and who was radiantly happy over the success of her efforts to snatch her young sister from the hands of the fanatical sect that has already blighted so many lives and homes in this section of the valley. Another sister, and older girl, is still with the Holy Rollers. Efforts will be made to have several of the leaders of the sect examined as to their sanity and committed to the insane asylum.


1891 hair remover advertisementOregon Daily Journal (Portland) 4/30/1904 p3

Frank Hurt Is Forced To Flee

Religious Sect Parade Streets Bareheaded And Barefooted--Women With Hair Hanging Loosely Over Shoulders And Eyes Turned Heavenward.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal)

Corvallis, Or., April 30.--A scene on Main street at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon caused considerable excitement as well as amusement. It was a chase by city officers around several blocks and down to the ferry, in pursuit of Holy Roller Frank Hurt, who in spite of good report and evil, still pins his faith to the roller religion.


Mr. Hurt and a number of females have for several days been parading about, the former with bare feet, pantaloons rolled up half way to the knee, and bareheaded; the females, with hair hanging loosely over their shoulders, eyes rolled heavenward and heads bare.


After the recent expose of the Apostle Josh and his villainous practices, the appearance of the local followers in their new role has much the same effect on local residents as does the waving of a red flag in the face of a bovine. Wearied by the sight, Chief Lane today decided to end the carrying on of Frank Hurt, and when the latter appeared on Main Street the officers gave chase. Hurt dodged down back streets and reached the river, where his own boat carried him across to Linn County and to safety for the time being.


The condition of night watchman David Osburn, injured in Sunday morning’s shooting affair in this city is improving, and there is little doubt of the patient’s ultimate recovery.



Albany Democrat 5/6/1904

(From Friday items)

A Holy Roller Victim. Urania Florence Seeley Wanted by Her Sister


V. Seeley of Oregon City, came over from Corvallis last evening, where she had been after her sister, Urania Florence Seeley, aged 16, but learned that she was across the river in Linn county with a gang of Holy Rollers, and so came to Albany and last evening Judge Palmer granted and order for the Sheriff to take charge of the girl and turn her over to the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society in Portland.Boys & Girl Aid Society Handbill


The affidavit of the sister prepared by Deputy District Attorney Kelly states that the mother is dead and the father had abandoned his daughter, that she is now associating with a number of disreputable and demented people styling themselves Holy Rollers, which is ruining her, and unless cared for she will become unbalanced and her life hopelessly ruined. That the Rollers go barefooted, hatless, half-dressed, and men and women lie around on the floor indiscriminately for hours at a time in pretended obedience to alleged divine commands of one Creffield, notoriously disreputable, immoral, degrading and licentious, teaching immoral, degrading and demoralizing and will result in her degradation.


Deputy Sheriff Munkers left at 9:30 o’clock today after her. Mr. Munkers found the girl at the home of Frank Hurt, with Hurt, Mrs. Hurt being in Corvallis. Hurt was barefooted with nothing on but overalls and a shirt, and acted in a very demented way. The house seemed to be destitute of everything. The girl wanted to stay, but consented to come. She had no hat, saying they had burned it, and came bareheaded.


Another older sister, who is in Corvallis, the complaining witness says, has been ruined already by the Holy Rollers.


The case was heard before Judge Paler this afternoon, O. V. Hurt, father of Frank Hurt referred to, Lewis Hartley, whose wife and daughter have been lead off by the Holy Rollers and C. M. Starr who was, with his wife, a Holy Roller for a year, and whose sister is one. All testified as to the demented condition of the present Holy Rollers, the immoral influence and the degraded conditions. The girl refused to testify. She was committed to the Girl’s Home at Portland, and will be taken down by the sheriff.

Mr. Hurt stated that his son Frank was arrested in Corvallis for insanity just as he left, having gone there bare headed and barefooted.

Holy Rollers

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Holy Rollers is a story that has everything a good read should have: sex, religious fervor, mass insanity, the downfall of prominent families, murder and sensational court trials.

And it's all true.

John Terry, the Oregonian's 'Oregon's Trails' columnist says of the book: "A dandy piece of research and a good read. Lots more stuff than I was aware of. It deserves an audience"













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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