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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.

May 4, 1904: Maud Hurt-Creffield & Sophia Hartley are Committed


Maud Hurt
Maren McGuire as Maud Hurt Creffield

Corvallis Times 5/4/1904 p3

--A carriage, containing Miss Hartley, Maud Hurt-Creffield, Sheriff Burnett and Lewis Hartley left Main Street at two o’clock yesterday to catch the Eastside train for Salem. Miss Hartley and Mrs. Creffield were en route to the insane asylum and the others were conveying them thither. Mrs. Creffield had an examination for sanity at noon, and was committed. There were no witnesses.


--Miss Sophia Hartley, aged 18, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Hartley was examined as to her sanity in the county court yesterday and committed to the asylum. The examining physicians were Drs. Farra and Altman. Her trouble is the result of the teachings of Creffield, who ought to be hunted to the ends of the earth, and be made to pay the penalty of his deception. Aside from her delusion on religious matters, Miss Hartley is an intelligent and amiable young woman. She was taken to Salem by Sheriff Burnett yesterday afternoon.



Corvallis Gazette 5/6/1904 p5

Miss Sophia Hartley and Mrs. Maud Creffield were sent to the State Insane Asylum Tuesday by Judge Walters. Complaints were lodged against the former by S. B. Bayne and against the latter by L. Hartley. Drs. Farra and Altman were the examining physicians. They recommended that the Holy Rollers be not permitted to see each other in the asylum. This practically puts an end to the organization at this place.


Daily Capital Journal. (Salem) 4 May 1904 p1

Wife of Apostle Creffield and Another Sister Becomes Guests of State


(the usual about Maud and Sophia’s commitment and … ).

The latest revelation received is that the band must go at once to South Africa to work with the natives, and as they are without funds, and are determined to follow out the supposed injunction, the hardships which they would endure if they persisted in making the trip would be something awful to contemplate.



Frank and Maud Hurt
Jon Ashley Hall and Maren McGuire as Frank and Maud Hurt

Weekly Herald. (Albany) 5 May 1904 p7

Holy Rollers in the Public Eye


(the usual about Frank Hurt’s commitment and …)

County Judge Palmer had called in Drs. J. P. Wallace and W. A. Trimble to assist in the examination. After the witnesses had been examined the two physicians plied the two prisoners with questions. Mr. Hurt stated that all he had done was under the direction and revelation from God. He reluctantly, and after repeated inquiries acknowledged that he had burned his clothing and bicycle, as the use of these articles was sinful. He had gone barefooted and bareheaded because of the same commands from God, and that he would at all times obey these commands. Asked if he would obey an order given to him in a revelation such as he claimed to have received requiring him to kill someone, he said that such an order would not be given.


Mrs. Hurt’s examination developed very little more than did that of her husband, except that she strenuously denied having burned any clothing that was of use; in fact, she insists that nothing of value had been destroyed, and she had never gone barefooted. She acknowledged burning a dog, but said that it was done because the dog could not be buried, and was done for sanitary reasons. She stated that she was a native of Seattle, and came to Corvallis as the captain of a Salvation Army corps, and had been converted by Creffield. She gave the impression of being a shrewd and wily operator, and as one of the spectators put it, “more knave than fool.” Hurt was clad in blue overalls and had two weeks growth of beard on his face. The woman, who is several years the senior of her husband, was clad in a plain black dress devoid of collar or ornament, and her light hair hung down her back in luxuriant waves, uncombed and unconfined.

Albany Democrat 5/6/1904 p5

(under items for preceding Saturday)

More Holy Rollerism. Frank and Mollie Hurt Brought to Albany


Frank Hurt instead of being arrested at Corvallis yesterday afternoon escaped the officers and went to his place across the river, where Mr. O. V. Hurt, father of Frank, found him and his wife last night, and took them to his home, where upon direction of Deputy District Attorney Kelley, they were arrested today by Sheriff Huston and his deputy I. A. Munkers and brought to Albany. J. K. Berry, of Corvallis, signed the complaint.


They were given an examination this afternoon by Judge Palmer and Drs. Wallace and Trimble. O. V. Hurt, Lewis Hartley, and J. K. Berry testified as to the condition of the Hurts, who received messages from God and went entirely according to the supposed direction from him, about their habits of destroying everything worldly, etc.


The defendants admitted that they were governed entirely by God, but declared that God wouldn’t ask them to kill any one or do anything wrong, that they believed in Creffield as an apostle, but denied his immorality.


They were ordered committed to the asylum for their own good.



Oregon Sunday Journal (Portland) 5/1/1904 p3

“Holy Rollers” Sent To Asylum


(Special Dispatch to the Journal)

Albany, Or., April 30.--Frank and Mollie Hurt of Corvallis were sent to the asylum today by the county judge after an examination as to their sanity. Both are members of the Holy Roller colony on the Linn county side of the river near Corvallis.


Hurt’s father was the principal witness. The testimony showed that the partied refused to work and that they destroyed all of their good clothing and other property by fire, neglected their persons and generally showed insanity.


The young man was formerly a salesman. He appeared in court dressed in overalls, saying he had burned his good clothing on orders from God, and had also destroyed a new bicycle for the same reason.


His wife had destroyed her clothing. She was formerly a captain in the Salvation Army, then took up with Apostle Creffield and married young Hurt.


Creffield’s wife is Hurt’s sister. She is still at the Holy Roller rendezvous near Corvallis.



Albany Democrat 5/6/1904 p7

Taken To The Asylum


Sheriff Huston yesterday morning took Frank Hurt and his wife Mollie to the insane asylum. During the previous night Hurt burned his new straw hat and shoes and went to Salem bareheaded and barefooted with his wife bareheaded. Of course they believe themselves martyrs, but the facts leave no doubt that they were taken to the proper place for treatment.



Albany Democrat 5/6/1904 p7

(from items from preceding Tuesday)

Frank Hurt Said


From the Journal:

“Will you make an effort to get out of the asylum” was asked, and he replied, “No not a thing. I am satisfied and will remain until they get tired of keeping me. I do not intend to give up my religion, and I constantly have a prayer in my heart to God. My father expects me to get weaned away from my views, but he will never accomplish what he expects to do.



Corvallis Times 5/4/1904/p4

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hurt were examined as to their sanity at Albany Saturday and sent to the asylum. Their condition is a result of the teachings of Creffield. The witnesses in the case at the examination were J. K. Berry, O. V. Hurt and Lewis Hartley.



Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 5/4/1904 p2

The transfer of Frank Hurt and his wife to the asylum is especially sad under the circumstances, and suggests the query as to how far the right of free speech and the free public propagation of maudlin ideas should be tolerated. If the Holy Rollers had been squelched when their first demonstrations were made, much of the aftermath, so full of sorrow and regret, would have been avoided. Instead of interfering, as was finally done, the people and officers at first regarded their performances with a degree of amusement and their exploitations were watched by hundreds while accounts of them were sent out daily to the papers of the state. Such people are really dangerous, not only to themselves, but in their flighty and irrational notions to others as well. The man who becomes convinced that the world is all going wrong, that the hands of the few are becoming so powerful that the rights of the many are actually in jeopardy, and that he has a mission to warn the public of an impending danger, in religion, or otherwise, is as a rule, unbalanced and should receive the care of a more enlightened public. In many cases he is the raw material out of which full fledged anarchists are made, and if he himself is not, there are often those who hear his rot whose balance wheel is already eccentric, and who may develop into a Guiteau or a Czolgosz [the assassins of Presidents Garfield and McKinley].



Albany Democrat 5/6/1904 p2

-The Salem Journal says Frank Hurt and wife are not insane. Perhaps not in a general way, but in a special way they are insane on the subject of religion. Sane people don’t go bareheaded and barefooted and burn pictures, bicycles and other so-called worldly things.


-The Corvallis papers have become ashamed of the Holly Roller proposition and only give a few lines without a head to the recent episodes. Albany doesn’t want the mantle.



Albany Democrat 5/6/1904 p4

(An editorial under Saturday Night Items)

-This week Albany had a Holly Roller case, which in a marked manner divulged the fanatical character of these people, indicating that their religion is not a religion at all, but that is a species of insanity. Genuine religion should strengthen a person’s mind. There is nothing in it when rightly considered to weaken anyone, but much to make one more reasonable and considerate in the relationships of life. There are people who are not Holy Rollers who go to extremes in matters, splitting hairs over things about which there is a reasonable dispute. A study of it will show that there is a golden mean which it is well to find and follow.


-When the Lebanon Criterion said there were worse people in Corvallis than the Holy Rollers the Corvallis papers got mad, but the Criterion man evidently was on the inside. The Holy Rollers were pretty tough too.



Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 5/4/1904 p4

Infidels Invited--

This (Wednesday) evening Rev., C. L. Engle will preach on the Divinity of Christ, at the Holiness Mission, 204 Twelfth Street. Infidels are especially invited.

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