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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.

July, 31 1904: Corvallis Could Not Raise a Mob


Edmund Creffield
Joe Haege as Edmund Creffield

Sunday Oregonian (Portland) 7/31/1904 p10

Could Not Raise Mob

Corvallis People, Despite Hatred of Creffield, Would Not Violate Law.


CORVALLIS, Or., July 30. --(Special)--

An effort was made here last night to raise a mob for the purpose of doing violence to Creffield. Four men arrived from Portland during the night, and it is known that it was their desire to wreak vengeance on the apostle. The officers had notification of their presence and their purposes. A canvass was made for followers, but not enough volunteers could be secured. Absence from town of some of the men who have been deeply wronged by the teachings of Creffield, and into whose home deepest sorrow has been brought by him, made the perfecting of an organization more difficult than would otherwise have been the case. Discouragement was also thrown on the enterprise by the attitude of one man, who more than all others, has cause to have fiercest hatred of the bogus saint. He has the hatred, but has with it a deep respect for the law, and his counsel is known to have been for peace.


Warned by outsiders, the authorities were on their guard for every emergency. The county Jail is of the latest design and the hated prisoner was locked securely in the innermost cell. The keys to the jail were locked in a safe known only to the officers, and no mob could have secured them Much time would have been required in battering down or cutting through steel bars of the cages, and meantime a close watch was kept by officers, and arrangements perfected for summoning help from various quarters by telephone in case of need.


Sunday Oregonian (Portland) 7/31/1904 p10

May Cure His Disciples

Creffield’s Capture Expected to Have Good Effect on Rollers in Asylum.


SALEM, Or., July 30. --(Special)--Physicians at the State Insane Asylum are very hopeful that the capture of Creffield will have a good effect upon his followers who are now confined at that institution. Before Creffield went into hiding he told his band of Holy Rollers that they need have no fear for his welfare for the Lord would protect him. He assured them that it would be impossible for the officers to arrest him. Subsequently, events seemed to prove his claim to be true, for many weeks of zealous search failed to bring about his apprehension. The apparent fulfillment of his prophecy served to increase the faith of his followers. It is hoped that his capture will be accepted as proof that he is an impostor and that his followers will lose the delusion by which they have been controlled.


The asylum authorities have not informed the Holy Roller patients of the arrest of their leader, but will leave them to find it out as they probably will in a few days; from other patients, when they will be left to think the situation over by themselves and without any argument or persuasion on the part of physicians or attendants.


During their confinement, the subject of their peculiar religious beliefs has not been mentioned to them, except when it became necessary in compelling them to dress and wear their hair as other people do. The Holy Roller patients have given comparatively little trouble.


Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 8/2/1904 p4

(Editorial Page)

No Mob At Corvallis

THE JOURNAL did not believe the story printed in the morning paper to the effect that a mob of Corvallis people gathered with the purpose of lynching Creffield, and that he was only saved from that fate by the active efforts of a Portland detective and the pleading of Mr. Hurt, one of the crazy fellow’s victims. It was incredible that a mob of Corvallis people, “leading and well known citizens,” collected for any such purpose. The very circumstances under which the demented creature was found, and his appearance, would have restrained any such effort on the part of the citizens of Corvallis, even if they had entertained such a design. It would take a very extreme case to cause such men as those of Corvallis to form themselves into a mob; and while they were naturally incensed and indignant at the results of the “Holy Roller” craze, they are far to sensible, level-headed and law-abiding a collection of people to engage in any such act of outlawry on this occasion. Doubtless some strong language was used; perhaps some hot-headed persons said the fellow ought to be hanged; but there was neither any attempt to carry this suggestion, if it were made, into execution, nor any design or intent to do so. The detective evidently was trying to make a hero of himself, and Mr. Hurt has had so much trouble in consequence of Holy Rollerism that it is easy to excuse him for imagining a state of affairs that did not exist.


If Creffield was legally sane, his actions deserve very severe punishment; if insane, there is a proper place provided for him. That he is entirely sane nobody supposes; but even if he had been so, and even in view of the enormity of his offenses and their dire consequences, he would not be lynched by the people of Corvallis, nor any other similar Oregon community.


A column next to this title “Small Change” has this quote;

“To every new Elijah, ever other one is an impostor. To this extent they are right.”



Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/2/1904 p10

Did Intend To Lynch Creffield


Detective Lou Hartman takes strong exception to the statement of Mayor B. F. Irvine, of Corvallis, who says there was no intention of the people to lynch Creffield, the Holy Roller leader, when the detective went to Corvallis to bring the prisoner to Portland. Detective Hartman said this morning that he was notified that a mob would be ready to lynch Creffield. For this reason he said he laid plans to keep the prisoner from the crowd. Mr. Hartman would not talk much about the communication sent out by Mayor Irvine, but said he would write a letter to the Mayor.


Corvallis Times 8/3/1904 p3

The Bogus Prophet

Taken to Portland--Incidents of His Going--Effect of Capture.


Corvallis has parted company with Creffield, and there is a fervent and universal home that it may be forever. Supported between two officers, Creffield walked out of the door of the Benton County jail shortly after one o’clock Saturday afternoon, and the West side train hurried him, a prisoner, to Portland. When the jail door swung open, the apostle looked into the faces of perhaps 100 boys, women and men, gathered in curiosity to see what the man looked like. Either from weakness or otherwise, he walked with some difficulty, and required the assistance of the officers to get along. In the three months period of hiding under the Hurt house, there was but little exercise for his legs, and it is but natural that they should be shaky for a time. If he never got out from under the building at night to shake out his plumage and drink in a breath of fresh sea breeze, he must not, during the long period of his sneak, have once been able to raise himself to the full of his majestic stature. To have lain so long on his back, on one side or the other or on his face with but twenty odd inches of space between earth and floor to operate in, is illustration in itself of the manly character of this latest and funniest of all the Elijahs. Probably no other man on earth, whether on in complete touch with the Almighty or just an ordinary sinner, would have devoted so much time to so noble a calling, to-wit; hide under a man’s house, be fed by foolish women, in avoidance of a simple, plain charge of adultery. Any man with spirit of a seven-year-old boy in him, would have quit the spot any dark night, and have fled to some other place where at least he could stand on his pins and look the world in the face.



But it is a different sort of fiber in the make up of Creffield and the crowd that watched him leave the jail saw his slender figure, surmounted by Victor Moses hat, shambling along between Deputy Sheriff Wells and a Portland detective named Hartman. O. V. Hurt and Chief Lane were escorted to the procession and when the outfit moved from the jail steps, the crowd followed.

From the jail the prisoner was taken past Mrs. Burnett’s house to Sixth Street, where it had been arranged for the train to stop. The train had not left the station house when the track was reached, and Creffield was allowed to seat himself on the edge of the sidewalk while the party waited. At the station meantime, many other curious people had gathered to see the apostle take the train. The seaside passengers of whom there happened to be many were likewise craning their necks for a sight of the dashing Elijah, this one that doesn’t go up in a chariot in the clouds, but hides under the floor of a man’s house. His fame was in every mind about the station and his name on every lip, and each arrival who traveled in company with somebody else was guessed to be Creffield. One man thought J. R. N. Bell might be the apostle, and another stranger thought he had him sure when he allowed that S. N. Lilly was the man.




While he sat on the sidewalk, waiting for the train, Creffield did a little stunt at singing. His voice was low, and his words undistinguishable, save that once was heard “Jesus hath the victory.” He paid no attention to the crowd, which was constantly swollen by new arrivals. People in the vicinity and afar had seen the procession, had guessed its meaning and they came in twos and threes, small boys, housewives, and others, all eager with curiosity for a view of the man with the champion sneak to his credit. Perhaps a hundred had gathered when the train finally came along, slowed up for a second and waited for its notorious passenger. A big man with a big mustache on the platform signaled to the passengers streaming out of the aisles to move back, a white-haired figure under Clerk Moses cast off hat was helped up the steps, the officers pushed him through the door, down the aisle and into a seat and Creffield was gone. The good humored bystanders hurled many a sally of repartee after him and turned from the sight of the speeding train and Passenger Elijah with a sigh of thankfulness and relief.




The night after the prophet was lodged in the Benton county jail there were suggestions of violence. The suggestions did not come from Corvallisites, and few if any of them expected any trouble on that score. Hundreds of them felt the man deserved more than he can get in the way of punishment from the law, but their idea was and always is to abide and obey the law. Accordingly, the scenes about the streets were not other than usual. At six o[clock, business houses closed, and everybody went home. Before that hour, the stragglers who had hung round the county jail all afternoon, had dispersed. By nine o’clock in the evening, there were not half a dozen men on Main Street. A number of drummers sat in front of one of the hotels and talked until a late hour, and this was the only sign of life save an occasional citizen who passed along the thoroughfare.


Nevertheless, there was a proposition to do violence to Creffield, but it did not come from Corvallisites. The authorities heard of it early in the evening. Four men left Portland on the evening train and drove over from Albany. They were men who have full occasion to hate Creffield. Among them was B. E. Starr, who is plaintiff in the case which Creffield must answer in Portland courts. After arrival in Corvallis, the Portlanders went to O. V. Hurt, and proposed a settlement with the man in the jail. They argued that the punishment to be expected from the law couldn’t be adequate, and inquired if Mr. Hurt would be a party to the plan. The latter took poison at once against it.




Mr. Hurt advised peace at all cost. It was good advice, and the men from Portland accepted it as such. They gave up the plan without further effort, and there the matter ended.


Meantime, however, the jail was under constant surveillance by an officer. In the absence of Sheriff Burnett, Deputy Wells was on duty. It was arranged with the Corvallis police to render aid in case of need. Private partied were made conversant with plans for preventing violence. Deputy Wells spent the night in the county clerk’s office where from a window and under a favorable moonlight, every object in the vicinity of the jail was plainly discernible. The watch there was kept up until five o’clock in the morning, but no suspicious circumstances occurred. Nobody approached the jail, and even passersby ceased to appear after ten o’clock. At half past one, a buggy drove along the street, going west from the direction of the ferry, but it passed the jail without halting. As it approached, the deputy had visions that the time had come for trouble, but as it drove swiftly by and disappeared to the westward, everything lapsed back into a silence and peace that continued until the morning. By use of a convenient telephone, it was proposed for assistance to have been summoned if the Portlanders had succeeded in the plan for violence. Deputy Wells had a newspaper man as a companion in his vigil.




No disposition has been made of the reward. The sum offered was $340, of which $200 was for the capture and $150 for the capture and conviction. Roy Hurt, 14 years of age, is the person who discovered Creffield and mad his capture possible. Under the terms of the offer, he is entitled to $200 now and $150 later id there is a conviction. O. V. Hurt, however, has given it out that he does not want the boy to have the money, and the lad has assumed a similar attitude. Mr. Hurt said yesterday: “It was Creffield that we wanted; not money. Several of those who are contributors to the reward fund have expressed to me their willingness for the boy to have it, but I do not want him to have it. It is not yet known what disposition will be made of the sum.




It is believed that the removal of Creffield from the community will give his followers a chance to recover mental balance. As long as he was able to remain in communication with them and play the martyr before them, they became worse. It was always mysterious to those who suffered from conditions Creffield made, how it was that his followers grew worse instead of better, after his disappearance. They did not know that, as they do now, that from his pit under the northeast corner of the Hurt house, he was giving out revelations and apostolic decrees to his victims. It is an explanation of why after Creffield disappeared, hats and shoes were discarded by members of the sect, all of whom knew his whereabouts, and of his orders. If now, the law puts him where he can no longer communicate with them, it is believed that they will gradually pass out from the diabolical influence that he seems to have over those foolish enough to accept him as a real man of God, instead of the monumental humbug and viper that he is.

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