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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.

August 2, 1904: Creffield Does Not Dislike Prison


Edmunc CreffieldOregon Daily Journal (Portland) 8/2/1904 p2

Apostle Does Not Dislike Prison


“Apostle Joshua” Creffield seems not to mind his surroundings at the county jail while awaiting trial on a criminal charge. He spends the most of his time lying on a cot in his cell reading the Bible supplied him by O. V. Hurt, his father-in-law and one of the men whose family was broken up by the prisoner’s fanaticism.


When some of the other inmates made a number of sarcastic comments on his tenets of faith this morning Creffield paid no attention to them for some time. Finally he turned to the most persistent of his tormentors and declared:

“I don’t care for your talk. The Lord is my protector.

The “apostle” was visited this morning by Fred Braun, a member of the Salvation Army. He stood at the bars and chatted with his visitor for about five minutes. The burden of his remarks was that the people are all in the dark and that he is the Moses sent by God to lead them out of the wilderness of ignorance and sin.


Creffield appears to be growing stronger. His cheeks are taking on a natural color and he eats and sleeps well. The officials declare that his poor physical condition is due largely to fright. He seems to feel perfectly safe in the county jail, and if any thought of the future troubles him, he does not show it.

Edmund Creffield
Jeffree Newman & Joe Haege as Jeffree Newman
as Sheriff Burnett & Edmund Creffield

Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/2/1904 p14

Creffield Is Human Study

Why He Should Exercise Influence Is a Hard Problem. Slowly Regaining Strength in Multnomah County Jail.”

What is there in this man that ye should forsake all and follow him?


Those who have seen Edmund Creffield, Holler Roller chieftain, since his arrest, wonder wherein lies his power to attract. They cannot understand why a religion invented by him and said to teach many things not usually considered orthodox, should be accepted, even by a very few, for the man does not appear to be of striking mind or personality. Creffield affords a problem for the student.


Edmund Creffield, self-styled “Joshua the Prophet” is decidedly a peculiar human being. Although he is gaining strength, both mentally and physically, at the County Jail, it is not likely that he will be sufficiently strong to face a preliminary hearing at Police Court on Thursday morning on the charge of adultery. If he has not gained sufficient strength by that time, his case will again be continued.


Today, though better, he is still little more than a wild man. Awaking from three months’ fasting in sackcloth and ashes, and dragged into the limelight of publicity in a big city after solitude and brooding had caused him to forget almost everything he ever knew, he was apparently stricken with bewilderment and knew not what he did. He knew fear and apparently that alone, as he moved about as might a child.


Creffield has now a strong desire to get well. At the County Jail, where he is confined, he lies on his cot nearly all of the time. During the day he sleeps a great deal. At his request he has been furnished a Bible, out of which he reads (illegible) during the time he is awake. He does not walk about the corridors, as do the other prisoners, probably afraid of the many inmates, or possibly because of his great weakness. He does not talk to the other prisoners, although they rail at him.




The jail meals are relished by Creffield as though he had been starved for months. He cleans the dishes even to the last scrap of meat and the last crumb of bread.


If he prays or follows his religion other than to read his Bible, it is not known to the officials of the jail or the inmates. If he prays, it is to himself for he does not speak aloud and makes no demonstration.


Creffield in his present condition is a subject more for the hospital than for a jail. He is harmless, and it does not require strong iron bars to keep hi a captive. Three months of what was practically starvation worked wonders in weakening his system and skeletonizing his form.


Creffield has a well-developed head, but has not a magnetic eye. He does not appear like an attractive person, although when he speaks his voice has a low and not unpleasant sound. He speaks slowly, but distinctly, and what he says seems to be emphatically impressed upon the listener. For this reason probably, people followed his “Holy Rollerism.”




He was born in Germany 31 years ago. He came to America nearly five years ago. For the past four years and up to the time he organized his camp at Corvallis, he preached in a number of the missions of Portland. He assisted the Salvation Army and other denominations in their missionary work of the slums of the city. There are many people in Portland who remember him and who say he was a strong and convincing speaker.



Corvallis Gazette 8/2/1904

Lewis and Warren Harley, while on a hunting trip up in Bohemia killed three fine big four-point bucks.



Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/3/1904 p8 Oregon State Penn

On Trial Tomorrow

Holy Roller Creffield Will Be Defended by Attorney John A. Logan


At his trial tomorrow morning before Judge Hogue at Police Court, Attorney John A. Logan will, through the orders of the court, defend Edmund Creffield, Holy Roller Leader, on the charge of adultery. Creffield is much stronger than he was when he was first brought to the jail. He relishes the meals of the institution and talks rationally on all matters. He is considered a model prisoner.


Evening Telegram (Portland) Wed 8/3/1904 p14 “Is Creffield A Hypnotist? Could Holy Roller Chief Restore His Victims to Sanity? Was Formerly Member of Salvation Army at Corvallis.”



(Blurb in a box)

Somewhere in the eastern part of the United States the mother of Edmund Creffield, now in the Multnomah County Jail, facing trial for a serious crime, is grieving because she does not know the whereabouts of her boy. Trying to find her son, this mother, whose address is not known here, has written to American headquarters of the Salvation Army in New York City, and inquiries have been forwarded to Portland, where Creffield once was engaged in Salvation Army work.


Is Edmund Creffield a hypnotist? Did he have his 17 followers at Holy Roller Camp under his influence? Could he, if he were nursed back to his original self, bring them out of their spell?


Members of the Portland Salvation Army Corps, who knew Creffield when he belonged to the organization, declare him to be possessed of hypnotic power.

It was learned late yesterday afternoon that Creffield had made a deep study of hypnotism and it is known that he practiced his power on people in Portland before he went to Corvallis. Members of Salvation Army, of which Creffield was an important officer, say he was a hypnotist, and it is their belief that he had his followers under this strange influence.


The officials are now collecting evidence to be produced at the “Apostle’s” trial Thursday morning to show that the women whom he led to accept his doctrine were held under some kind of mental spell. It is the theory that if he were strong again he could bring the people to their normal condition and that they would no longer need to remain in the asylum. The hypnotic influence of some other person beside Creffield may be tried on these patients.




Although not until recently realized, all of his followers seemed to go the same way--all losing control of their mind. They would move to the bidding of their leader, and did things the officers believe they would not have done had they not been controlled by a power that they could not resist. At the trial tomorrow, if the case is not again postponed because of Creffield’s great weakness, there will be evidence introduced on this question.


B. E. Starr, complaining witness in the case against Creffield, whom he thinks wronged his wife says he believes Creffield had his wife under the strange hypnotic power.




Through his untiring work and his convincing teachings, Edmund Creffield, now in the County Jail awaiting trial on the charge of adultery, was considered one of its most valuable officers while he was a member of the Salvation Army.

He has, since he started his exclusive peculiar and strange religion, fallen from grace, according to the rules of the Salvation Army, and is considered worse than a backslider who has gone deep into the ways of sin.

Members of the Portland branch of the Salvation Army know Creffield well, but now they refrain as much as possible from even speaking of him. It is hard to get any information from them about their former brother. They tell some facts, but only on close questioning. When Ensign Maude Bigney and Captain Bertha Holeton were seen yesterday, they told an interesting story of the “Apostle.” Their story follows:

It was four years ago this summer that Edmund Creffield, a native of Germany, was led to see the light of Jesus Christ. He was then only a common street listener, but he received the light and from that time on he was an earnest worker in the Army. Shortly after his conversion he came to Portland, where he entered the training department of the Army. In the garrison here he advanced from a private or common soldier in the ranks to the rank of Lieutenant. About six months later, or about three years ago he became a Captain. That was the last position to which he advanced.


While in Portland he did not have full charge of any single division, but he took charge of classes and officiated and preached at house and street meetings. He was never considered a clever man in a high degree, but he was looked upon as being above the average. His pleadings had effect and many additions were made to the Army during his work.


Because he was a man of considerable ability, he was then placed in charge of the corps at McMinnville. After remaining there a short time, he was sent to revive the work at Grant’s Pass. From there he went to Corvallis, and there is where he forsook the faith, to follow new and strange gods.




After being with the small flock there for a short time, he took a turn in his belief. One night he and his flock prayed and pleaded violently for a baptism of the Holy Ghost. They declared the power came to them, and from that time on Creffield and his followers no longer had any use for the Army. Creffield said: “The Army is not of God: neither is its people.”


Later in his “Holy Roller” career he said other harsh things about the Army, and for that reason the officials think that Creffield has fallen decidedly low. They do not speak ill of him, but rather pity him because of his present condition of great weakness.


After Creffield deserted at Corvallis, E. Brooks was sent down to pull the corps together, but he too went with the Holy Rollers and was later tarred and feathered.


When in the Army, Creffield was a bright, clever-looking man. He walked perfectly straight and could look a person in the face without a downcast eye. The contrast he presents now from his former self is exceptionally striking, almost shocking.

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