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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 9, 1904: No Flowers For Creffield


Esther & Maud
Brighid Thomas & Maren McGuire as
Esther Mitchell & Maud Hurt Creffield

Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 8/9/1904 p2

No Flowers For “Apostle” Creffield


Up to date no women have called at the county jail with flowers and expressions of sympathy for Edmund Creffield, self-styled “Joshua,” the high Holy Roller apostle, but one woman has written him from Montana asserting that while she had been ignorant of the fact for a long time, she believes she holds to the Holy roller doctrine and asking for an expression of his views. The apostle is now preparing a concise exposition of his doctrine for the woman.


He received a communication this morning from J. Nowak of McMinnville containing a dissertation on the “New Age.” According to Nowak, the “New Age” is a great spiritual wave, passing over this earth, sweeping away dogmas, creeds, superstition, selfishness, fear, prejudice, narrowness.

Creffield divides his time between reading letters and the Bible. He is cheerful and apparently does not mind his environment.



Evening Telegram (Portland) Wed 8/10/1904 p14

No One Visits Edmund Creffield

Religious Teacher, With Wide Acquaintance, Is Forsaken


Once prominent in the Salvation Army, having many followers in a creed of his own manufacture, and being generally known throughout the Pacific Northwest, Edmund Creffield, the leader of the Holy Rollers, is not visited in jail.


Why is it that this man who has such a wide acquaintance has no friends?


Such is the question being asked by the county officials at the Sheriff’s office and at the County Jail. Jailer Grafton is extremely surprised to find that no one calls on him. During the time he has been in the County Jail--nearly three weeks--he has had but two callers. The first one was O. V. Hurt, of Corvallis, who took compassion on his son-in-law, and carried him a Bible the second day he was confined in his cold cell, much more comfortable, however, than the hole in which he lay for nearly three months. The other man was an officer in the Salvation Army who called upon the weakened leader, partly because of pity and partly because of curiosity.


If any one would call upon him, the officials think it would probably be some of his followers. But, alas, it appears that Creffield has no longer any one to lead, as his flock is broken. Some of his former followers, the young members, have deserted his religion and now worship with their mothers. These are the young girls who were sent to the Boys’; and Girls’ Home. For a while the children hung tenaciously to his creed, but after they had been at the home for awhile they were glad to follow the religion taught by the officials. They were young, and gradually grew out of the belief that had been fixed upon their minds by the strange teachings of their leader, Edmund Creffield, who at that time held his followers by some strong strange power.


Others have been sent to the asylum, from where they will probably never return. Creffield seems to have fallen in the minds of the better class of people, until there is no one to go and see him.



Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/11/1904

All Victims Of Religion

Creffield Declares His Followers Are Being Persecuted. Those in Asylum Are Not Crazy, but They Are Misunderstood.


(In a box)

I do not believe it possible that the followers of Edmund Creffield were hypnotized by him. It was suggestion rather than hypnotism--the influence of a strong mind over those mentally weak or susceptible to fanaticism which has caused all the trouble. Just what manner of man Creffield himself is I do not know, having never met him.--Dr. Andrew C. Smith, president of the Oregon State Board of Health and Northern Pacific physician.



“My people are being persecuted: they have been unjustly imprisoned in asylums for the insane,” responded Creffield, in deep German accents to a question asked him for The Evening Telegram. They were not given fair trials, and the physicians who examined them for their sanity were not competent to judge. It is persecution, 20th century persecution, if you will, but persecution just the same. They are as sane as I am,” and the latest prophet and propounder of new religion the world has seen turned back to his cell from which he emerged at the call of the jailer to talk to a reporter.


The change in Creffield’s personal appearance since he came to Portland is great. He has been shorn of the long whiskers which adorned his face when captured, his head has been carefully barbered, and he had just emerged from a bath when he gave out the above statement. His eye has lost none of its brightness, and he still impresses those whom he meets with that something indefinably mysterious, which has since he became known as the leader of the “Holy Rollers,” marked him as a man apart from his fellow-beings and of an almost different sphere.



Although “kangarooed” by his fellow prisoners when he entered the jail to await trial on the charge of adultery, Creffield has inspired a feeling of mixed respect and jocoseness among them. He is seldom molested, and spends much of his time in reading the Bible.


He is still in communication with those of his followers who have escaped the clutches of the law by reason of their saner actions, if the letter written yesterday by him to a Mrs. Perry at Gresham, Or., has been allowed to go to its destination by the county officials. The contents of the letter were not revealed to anybody but the jail officials, and they refuse to divulge them.



It contains, however, the ten articles of his faith. Christ gave to the world ten commandments, and now the latest propounder of religion, either by accident or design, sends out to those who suffer for him in silence, or for ought known, continue to practice in secret the tenets of the new faith, ten articles, embodying the principles of his religion and explaining what is necessary to become a true follower of the “faith.”


What manner of man Creffield is nobody really knows. He is called by some of the jailers “the biggest faker on earth,” and this opinion is shared by many others. There are many who claim Creffield to be insane along one line and perfectly rational in all others. what the line of his insanity specialty consists of, nobody has attempted to explain, but that his queer religion is the result of it is confidently asserted. Creffield himself denies he is insane; says with conviction that at the right time the Lord will liberate him, and that he fears not the least the result of his trial. That he looks upon it as one of the persecutions heaped upon him to try him as though by fire, there is hardly a doubt.




Yet there is ever present, as he is watched, that something which, besides being mysterious, gives the keen observer of human nature and inkling that if the veil were lifted Creffield would stand revealed as a man as human as the average man of today.


On account of his peculiar position in the world, the feeling he has inspired in those who see him daily, and his physical condition, as well as his inclination, he is not put to work, but is allowed to remain in peace and quiet in his cell. He seldom talks to visitors, of whom he has had but few--newspaper men and officer of the Salvation Army.


He rises at 6:30 o’clock in the morning to partake but lightly of the prison fare, consisting of potatoes, beef, gravy and coffee for breakfast. During the morning hours he assists in caring for his cell and reads his Bible. Rarely does he say a word to anybody, but Jailer Grafton, to whom he has talked more than to any other person since his capture and incarceration. Jailer Grafton today is probably “closer” to Creffield than anybody except his followers. To him was confided the letter Creffield wrote to Mrs. Perry, of Gresham, and to him Creffield has explained his religion.





At noon Creffield, like other prisoners, is given a light lunch of tea and bread. In the afternoon he continues reading his Bible, and in the evening he eats a supper composed of pork and beans and coffee. Regular meals, plain food and plenty of sleep and rest have wrought a wonderful change in the man, who was taken into the jail ragged, emaciated, with a head covered with long, unkempt hair and beard, a man so weak it was necessary to carry him.


“I am feeling all right now, and will be myself again in a week or so,” he quietly replied to a question asked him. A peculiar smile expanded slowly across his face as he made the remark, and without another word he walked into his cell, passing from view of the inquisitive eyes without.


Corvallis Gazette  8/12/1904 p3

Now that it transpires that Creffield got his Holy Roller Start in Salem under the eaves of the Journal, the Democrat takes back everything it has ever said about Corvallis being the Holy Roller City.

Holy Rollers

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

And it's all true.

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













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Newspaper Articles about Creffield & the Holy Rollers

1897-1899:Local Lore, News Of Corvallis and Vicinity Told in Brief B. C. (Before Creffield)

1900:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1901:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1902:Holy Rollers' Lives Creffield

January 18, 1903: Fred Mitchell Attempts Suicide

June 10, 1903: Salvation Army Major Deserts and Joins the Holy Rollers

October 31, 1903: Zealot Worshipers Burn Furniture, Dogs & Other Things

November 2, 1903: Fanatics In Court

November 3, 1903: Had Promise of Tar and Feathers

November 4, 1903: Flight of The Apostles

November 5, 1903: Once-Esteemed Family No Longer Has the Sympathy of the Community

November 6, 1903: Rollers Take On New Life

November 7, 1903: Is Creffield Back?

November 11, 1903: “Apostle” Creffield Still Under Cover

November 24, 1903: Girl of Sixteen Almost Insane

November 25, 1903: In Pursuit of Creffield

November 27, 1903: The Lord May Starve Them

November 28, 1903: Holy Rollers Receive Unwilling Baptism

December 7, 1903: Demented Woman Suffers

December 8, 1903: Hurt Seen In Portland

December 11, 1903:Holy Rollers Roll Into Eugene Church

December 21, 1903:Holy Roller Victim Worse

December 22, 1903: Linn County Holy Rollers

December 23, 1903: Is Crazy Now

December 29, 1903: Holy Rollers’ Not Liked at the Dalles

December 30, 1903: Owner of Property Refuses to Permit Séances

January 6, 1904: Holy Rollers Tarred and Feathered

January 9, 1904: Their Welcome Departure

January 12, 1904: Editorial Comment: “Put yourselves in our place!”

January 13, 1904: Where Brooks Went

January 19, 1904: Our Brainy Contemporaries

January 25: Holy Rollers’ in Hobo Camp Life

February 1, 1904: Camp In Linn County Is Broken Up By Officers

February 6, 1904: How They Tell The Holy Roller Story In Far Off Scotland

February 11, 1904: Medium Mystify Corvallis People

March 1, 1904: The “Holy Rollers” Offend Humanity

March 16, 1904: Holy Rollers to Be Arrested on Serious Charge

March 17, 1904: Where is the Apostle?

March 21, 1904: Reward For Creffield's Capture

March 23, 1904: Fugitive Creffield

March 28, 1904: Reward is Offered

April 1, 1904: “Holy Roller” Chief Very Badly Wanted

April 18, 1904: Holy Roller High Priest Is Seen

April 29, 1904: Urania Seeley is Arrested

May 2, 1904: Frank & Mollie Hurt are Committed to the Asylum

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

May 7, 1904: Attie Bray &Rose Seeley are Committed

June 11, 1904: Attie Bray Escapes

June 17, 1904: Mae Hurt is Committed

June 29, 1904: Sarah Hurt is Committed

July 22, 1904: Holy Roller on Death Row

July 29, 1904: Creffield Found Half Dead Under Hurt’s House

July, 30 1904: Armed Guards Protect Creffield

July, 31 1904: Corvallis Could Not Raise a Mob

August 1, 1904: Creffield says, "I am Elijah"

August 2, 1904: Creffield Does Not Dislike Prison

August 4, 1904: Creffield Says He Is Entirely Purified

August 5, 1904: He Does Nothing Unless Directed by God

August 6, 1904: Creffield Believes in Satan and Eternal Punishment

August 9, 1904: No Flowers For Creffield

August 13, 1904; The Holy Rollers And The Man Who Made Them

August 16, 1904; Creffield Reward Will Be Returned

August 19, 1904: Followers in Asylum Stick To Faith

August 23, 1904: Creffield Will Fight His Own Case

August 28, 1904: Creffield Destroys His Revelations

September 16, 1904: Creffield is Guilty

September 21, 1904: Holy Rollers go in and Out of the Asylum

March 22, 1905: Prison Life Of Joshua Creffield>

April 8, 1905: Life In Corvallis Returns to Normal

December 12, 1905: Frank & Mollie Hurt Have a Baby Girl

April 24, 1906: Creffield Establishes a Camp Near Waldport

April 30, 1906: Donna Starr Leaves Children to go to Her Spiritual Love, Joshua Creffield

May 1, 1906: Creffield Takes Credit for The San Francisco Earthquake

May 3, 1906: Creffield In Fear Of His Life

May 7, 1906: Holy Roller Shot Down Like A Dog

May 8, 1906: Medal to Be Given Mitchell in Recognition of His Killing

May 9, 1906: Oregon Prosecutor Would Aid Mitchell

May 10, 1906: Shows No Emotion At Husband’s Grave

May 11, 1906: Bail Is All Ready

May 12, 1906: Mitchell Denied Bail

May 13, 1906: Creffield is Due To Rise Today

May 14, 1906: Creffield’s Widow Watches At Grave

May 15, 1906: Corvallis Starts Fund for Defense of Mitchell

May 16, 1906: Holy Rollers Starving Near Heceta Head

May 17, 1906: Public Sentiment Favors Mitchell

May 18, 1906: Creffield Railed in Vermont

May 19, 1906: Mitchell to Enter Plea of Not Guilty

May 27, 1906: Joshua Says Not to Worry

June 1, 1906: Morris Claims Mitchell Rid World of a Fiend

June 16, 1906: Prosecution and Defense are Making Last Preparations

June 19, 1906: Many Witnesses For Mitchell

June 24, 1906: Trial Will Cost Taxpayers Ten Thousand Dollars

June 25, 1906: George Mitchell on Trial For His Life

June 26, 1906: Mitchell Jury is Selected With Care

June 27, 1906: Mitchell Trial Held Up By Squabble

June 28, 1906:  Jury is Secured to Try Mitchell

June 29, 1906: Trial is Now on in Earnest

June 30, 1906: Mrs. Creffield's Testimony

July 1, 1906: Creffield’s Ghost Controls His Flock

July 2, 1906:  Esther Mitchell on Stand Refuses To Aid Brother

July 3, 1906: Hurt Tells of Debauched Wife and Debased Sisters

July 4, 1906: Creffield’s Unsavory Record Presented to the Jury

July 5, 1906: Expected Admissibility of Evidence Will Arouse Controversy

July 6, 1906: Others Testify They Wished to Kill Creffield

July 7, 1906: Insanity Expert on the Witness Stand

July 8, 1906: Plan To Revive Holy Rollerism

July 9, 1906: Killing of Judge Emory May Effect Mitchell

July 10, 1906: Mitchell Case Goes To Jury

July 11, 1906: Not Guilty

July 12, 1906: General Rejoicing at Mitchell’s Acquittal

July 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Kills Her Brother!

July 14, 1906: Mitchell Boys Are Done With Esther

July 15, 1906: Hurt Will Come to Aid of His Daughter

July 16: 1906: Will Mortgage His Home for Daughter

July 17, 1906: Let’s Think When We Talk

July 18, 1906: Mrs. Starr’s Life Threatened

July 19, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail

July 20, 1906: George Mitchell’s Attorney Offers Aid to Murderesses

July 21, 1906: Mitchell Boys to Stand by Esther

July 22, 1906: Hurt Thinks Both Women Are Insane

July 23, 1906: Frater Favors a Commission of Alienists

July 24, 1906: Mackintosh Will Oppose Calling Commission

July 26, 1906: Is Reconciled to Holy Roller Wife

July 27, 1906: Holy Rollers Seek Home in Wyoming

July 28, 1906: Mitchell Juror is Insane

July 30, 1906: Esther Will Deny Committing Murder In The 1st Degree

July 31 1906: Esther Mitchell Says Not Guilty

August 1, 1906: Relatives to Help Esther Mitchell

August 4, 1906: Creffield Greatly Hurt True Religion

August 6, 1906: Mitchell Boys in Drunken Row

August 8, 1906: St. Louis Woman Coming to Convert “Rollers”

August 12, 1906: Esther Mitchell Close to Death from Typhoid

August 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Not Seriously Ill

September 1, 1906: Four Charged with First Degree Now in County Jail

September 10 1906: To Examine Minds of Slayers

September 12, 1906: Hurt Thinks His Daughter Insane

September 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Objects to Help

September 14, 1906: Women Not Agitated

September 15, 1906: Mrs. Creffield’s Trial Set for Next Month

September 17, 1906: Mrs. Creffield on Stand

September 18, 1906:  Maud Creffield Anxious to Hang

September 19, 1906: Are They Sane of Insane?

September 21, 1906: Both Women May Go Scott Free

September 22, 1906: Where is This Thing to End!

September 23, 1906: Murders Must Be Tried

September 24, 1906: Must Not Deport

September 25, 1906: Judge Frater is in Very Small Business

September 28, 1906: Insanity Board Not Paid

October 1, 1906: Holy Roller Woman Dies While in Trance

November 9, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Said to Be in Very Nervous State

November 17, 1906: Maud Creffield Dies in the County Jail

November 18, 1906: Death May End a Hypnotic Spell

November 19, 1906: Reviews Findings in Examination of Brain

November 20, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Killed Herself with Poison!

November 21, 1906: Poison Is Found In The Stomach Of Mrs. Creffield

November 22, 1906: Esther Says Maud Did Not Kill Herself

December 4, 1906: Washing Dirty Linen

December 17, 1906: Sad Christmas For Holy Roller

February 21, 1907: Esther Mitchell Goes to Asylum

April 30, 1907: Esther Mitchell Still Believe in Creffield & His Return

April 6, 1909: Esther Mitchell Leaves Asylum

April 9, 1914: Esther Mitchell Marries James Berry

August 3, 1914: Esther Mitchell is Dead By Own Hand

1953 Stewart Holbrook's Murder Without Tears

1951 Startling Detective Magazine: Nemesis of the Nudist High Priest

A List of All the Articles


Sample Chapters from Holy Rollers:
Murder and Madness in Oregon's Love Cult


The Cast of Characters
Photos and Bios of the Holy Rollers


Holy Rollers' Asylum Commitment Papers


Info for Book Groups

Book Reviews


1903 to 1907 Newspaper Articles About the Holy Rollers

1906 Editorial Calling for Gun Control
After Multiple Murders Involving the Holy Rollers

Stewart Holbrook Holy Rollers Article

Advertisements from 1893 to 1913


Oregon Insane Asylum
Where the Holy Rollers Were Committed

Creffield, Brainwashing & Thought Reform

Early Cases of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

1906 Autopsies Of Holy Rollers
Forensics Before CSI

Holy Roller Bizarre Divorce Decree
Hartley describes trying to kill his wife's lover


Comedians on Edmund Creffield

The Shadow Testament
A Play About The Holy Rollers

How the Fire Fell
A Movie About The Holy Rollers


Life in Corvallis in the early 1900s

Life in Waldport, OR in early 1900s

Heaven's Gate

Facts & Stats about 1906
And How The Holy Rollers Measured Up

Oregon State Penitentiary
Where Creffield Was Incarcerated


Info about Cults

Could you ever be lured into joining a cult?

Share your thoughts about, and experiences with, cults


Creffield's Preachings

Creffield Vs. Crefeld

The Salvation Army Opening Fire in 1886

Holy Roller Theology

Reverend Knapp's Bible Songs of Salvation & Victory
Songs Sung by the Holy Rollers


About the Authors

Theresa (T-) McCracken

Robert B. Blodgett

In addition to writing, McCracken is a cartoonist.

To see some of her 'toons, go to the Home of McHumor Cartoons mchumor.com

McCracken's Blog

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Theresa (T-) McCracken
890 North Bayview Loop
Waldport, Oregon 97394

(541) 563-3112


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Theresa (T-) McCracken