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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 5, 1904: He Does Nothing Unless Directed by God


Edmund Creffield
Joe Haege as Edmund Creffield

Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/5/1904 p14

Roller Faith In Salem

Creffield Says He Prayed Five Months, Then Light Came. He Does Nothing Unless Directed by His Religion.


(A blurb in a box)



Edmund Creffield, the imprisoned founder of an unaccepted faith, says his every act is inspired from on high. His creed is:

To do nothing, however trivial, without querying heaven and receiving directions from above.

To do nothing for money.

To read the Bible early and late.

To commit no sin: for he says he cannot sin.

His peculiar form of religious worship came to him after five months of prayer.


“After tarrying in prayer for five months, I received the Holy Ghost, which directed me to leave the Salvation Army and follow evangelistic work. That was when I was in Salem and I prayed five months our of the eight that I was there.”


Leaning against the bars of his prison cell and watching a reporter for the Telegram closely to see that he made no mistakes, Edmund Creffield, living exponent of a religion that is dead, who awaits trial by the Grand Jury on a charge of adultery, gave out the above statement of the way he came to formulate a new belief to teach newer and stranger things to the same old world.


“The newspapers have been telling some lies about me, and I shall refuse right here to make any further statement for publication if you are not going to print exactly what I say,” the Holly Roller high priest said.


When informed that his exact conversation would be printed, he spoke freely about the way he claimed to have received the power from God.





“While in the Salvation Army I had the light, but I did not have the power. I was teaching his works, but was still in the darkness. I did not experience the fullness of his power until I had tarried long before God in prayer. The light came.


“The Holy Ghost told me that I should live a life of pure faith. I was to do everything by faith. I could no longer work for the army because its people are not entirely of God. I could not take part in soliciting for funds. I was directed by the Holy Ghost not to solicit for money. It is not right to hold ice cream socials and other special gatherings where money is taken.


“When one is living in the Holy Ghost he cannot sin. He lives a pure life. We are told in the Bible that the Apostles lived without sin. They lived by faith. I can live the same way.



Yes, God revealed himself to me. He came in the form of messages. He spoke to me. I heard his voice.”


Creffield was asked to explain more definitely as to how God appeared before him; that is, if he came in person, spirit or in whatever form. Creffield’s reply was:

“That cannot be explained or described. It can only be experienced. I do no do anything unless I am directed by a message from God. If I wish to do anything I always pray about it first, the answer comes and I act accordingly.


Creffield carries his bible about with him all the time. When he was arraigned in Police Court yesterday morning he had the book in his pocket. He spends most of his time reading.


He has greatly recovered, and talks rationally on nearly any subject. He likes to talk about his religion better than on anything else. He does not look like the same man who was brought here from Corvallis one week ago.


Brownsville Times 8/5/1904

May Hurt, daughter of O. V. Hurt, who was turned over to the Boy’s and Girls Aid Society a month ago, because she had gone wild over the Holy Roller religion, was released from the Home Monday afternoon. To the officers she gave some damaging evidence against Creffield, and on their arrival home Mr. Hurt will go before the prosecuting attorney and have a warrant sworn out for the arrest of Creffield, probably on the charge of criminal assault on his child. Misses Hester Mitchell and Florence Seeley were the two other girls crazed by the holy rollerism who were confined in the home. They have also been released.





Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/4/1904 p1

Creffield To Answer

Holy Roller Prophet Does Not Attempt Any Defense. Says He Is Willing to Let the Lord Decide His Case. Judge Hogue Remands Him to Jail, Waiting Grand Jury.


Corvallis Times 8/6/1904 p3




Brownsville Times 8/12/1904 p1

To The Grand Jury

In Two Thousand Dollar Bonds Creffield in the Portland Courts.


[(Corvallis Times) Creffield has been bound over to await the action of the grand jury of the Multnomah County circuit court in $2,000 bonds. The grand jury will be in session in September. The action was taken in the police court in Portland Thursday. The story of the proceedings is told as follows in The Telegram: ]


“John Doe” Creffield, as he is known in the cold verbiage of the law; Edmund Creffield, as his mother christened him in the incipiency of his troubled career; “Joshua” the prophet, self-styled in the weird and fanatical fancy of the man whose deeds have shocked the religious world must go before the grand jury and answer to the charge of adultery, contrary to the laws of the land and the Decalogue of the books he worships. This man was brought before Judge Hogue in the Municipal Court this morning and upon waiving the right of a preliminary examination was bound over to the tender mercies of a higher court under $2000 bail. After this formal procedure this man who says he is a prophet was led back to the gloom of his prison cell.


The old dingy Police Court room was crowded to the doors all forenoon by a staring, morbid crowd, bent on catching a glance of the religious crank, who, fleeing from the demands of the law, skulked under the house of the man whose family he almost annihilated and starved himself to a pale and sickly wretch.


WOMEN CAME TO SEE HIM [Evening Telegram (Portland)]


Women there were in the usual number, some of whom were there as witnesses of this and other cases, and some who were said to be there for a look at Creffield. All morning the crowd hung around the courtroom, half of them unable to procure seats, but still they stayed until after the stroke of twelve when the “prophet” appeared, was led away and the court room cleared itself with a rush.




“Bring Creffield,” said Deputy District Attorney Haney, and there was a stir in the court room. “Come on, Creffield,” said the officer in waiting on the court as he beckoned to an invisible object in the culprit’s room, and immediately through the doorway emerged the form of the Holly Roller leader. Pale in complexion and insignificant in form, he walked slowly toward the bench upon which sat His Honor, Judge Hogue. The crowd stared and the eyes of B. E. Starr, the complaining witness, flashed the hatred he avows toward the man, charged with violating the sanctity of his home.


“Creffield, you are here to be given a hearing, do you want one?” queried Deputy District Attorney Haney, as the pale man leaned against the bar and roller his big eyes at the court on high.


WANTED NO HEARING [Evening Telegram (Portland)]


“No,” came the response in a weak voice.


“You want to waive a hearing then?” commented the prosecutor, and the pale man assented.


“Do you understand what is meant by waiving a hearing and going before the Grand Jury?” asked Judge Hogue from the bench, and Creffield said he did.


“You understand then, that you are to go before the Grand Jury when you leave this court? You are sane; you are not insane, are you?” asked the court.


Creffield blandly replied that he was not insane, and that he understood.


“You understand the charge that stands against you, do you not?” asked Judge Hogue.

“Yes, I understand,” came the weak voice of the “apostle” in returo (sic).


After a short conference between the court and the Deputy District Attorney the amount of bail was fixed at $2000, and Creffield was led to the waiting room to await transportation to the County Jail where he will languish until the sitting of the jury court in September.


PITIABLE SIGHT [Evening Telegram (Portland)]


It was a rather pitiable sight enacted in the courtroom, exemplary of the proverbial remark of the might fallen. There, under the sting and disgrace of a criminal charge, the center of morbid curiosity, and the contempt of the law, stood this man, who, but a few months before, held forth at the town of Corvallis--like a prince feeding upon the fat of the land as did Belshazzar of old--now forsaken per force by his erstwhile followers and locked in the confines of iron bars with common criminals.


“I shall not ask for a lawyer, but if the state demands that I have one, then it must be so,” said Creffield, after leaving the courtroom.


“How do you expect to receive justice without a lawyer” was asked.


“How do I expect to get justice? God will be with me all the time. If he desires to have me found guilty, I shall receive it joyfully. I have no feeling of animus toward anyone. I love all men with a divine love. Not as the world loves, but with a divine love. If they were to sentence me for life, hurt or kill me, I would still love them. all hatred has left me, but the world cannot understand this.”


When asked why Starr should have preferred against him the charge he has if he were not guilty, Creffield acted uneasy and replied that he did not know. He refused to talk on this point, but declared that he is not guilty of the crime charged.




Creffield is not insane, but that he is a religious fanatic there is not the least doubt. He answers questions and carried on a conversation in a perfectly rational manner, but talks after the fashion of a pronounced fanatic when speaking of religion. He resents the story printed in the Telegram yesterday speculative as to his being possessed of hypnotic power. He declares that he knows nothing whatever of it. Knows nothing of the rudiments and has never practiced the art at all.


“I feel certain that Creffield has the power of hypnotism, or the ability of casting some strange influence over people,” said B. E. Starr, husband of Mrs. Donna Starr, the woman with whom the “apostle” is accused of criminal relations. “I am sure he has this power,” continued Starr, “because the people he has under his influence were good people and trying to do right.”


Starr says that his wife is gradually regaining her normal condition. She now eats pork, pickles and other edibles, forbidden by the Creffield creed. Her former coldness toward him, says Mr. Starr, is abated in a measure, although she still adheres to the faith and believes that she with all the other followers of this man, will have the power to cast out devils and perform other miracles, reputed of fact in Scriptural story.


Mr. Starr declares he believes his wife to be under hypnotic influence at the hands of Creffield.


HIS PAST HISTORY (Corvallis Times)


Some of the past history of Creffield has been dug up by the Portland newspapers. a sample of it is given in the following from the Portland Telegram:

(Excerpts from Evening Telegram (Portland) Wed 8/3/1904 p14)

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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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