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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 13, 1904: The Holy Rollers And The Man Who Made Them



Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/13/1904

The Holy Rollers And The Man Who Made Them


Holy Rollers Photo SpreadEdmund Creffield is the self styled apostle of the Holy Rollers was today in Multnomah County Jail, charged with a crime, the penalty for which is a term of years in the penitentiary. The sanctity of religion, it is claimed, has been used by him as a cloak for deeds in comparison with which ordinary crimes are trifling. Six of his alleged victims are in the insane asylum, four young girls have been sent to the Portland Home, wives have been estranged from their husbands and daughters from their parents and the sorrow and misery all these things mean to the families affected represent an aggregate of which the public has no conception.


Four years ago Creffield was a Seattle hobo, when converted by the Salvation Army. In the spring of 1901 he came to Portland, where his ability as an exhorter advanced him successfully to the ranks of lieutenant and captain. He was then given charge of a corps at McMinnville and also worked awhile at Grants Pass. From there he was transferred to Salem, where a new religion was revealed to him while listening to discussions at Ryan’s Mission by the Holiness people. In company with a follower named Mercer he came to Corvallis in the fall of 1902, and began to preach the doctrine of “God’s Elect” as he called his church.




He claimed to be blessed with personal communion with God and asserted that his converts would receive the same privilege by renouncing all things carnal. A smooth and persuasive speaker, the apostle soon interested a number of Corvallis people in his religion. Most prominent among these were the families of O. V. Hurt and Lewis Hartley, both well known and highly respected citizens. As his following increased he gradually became more pronounced, and fanatical in his preaching. He threatened eternal damnation for the wives and children who did not separate themselves from unbelieving husbands and parents, claiming as God’s holy prophet to have the authority to regulate the details of their daily life.


J. K. Berry, a young business man, was persuaded to advance the money to fit up a house of worship, and when payment was due he was solemnly informed that God had sent a direct communication to the apostle, that the debt was canceled and for Mr. Berry to acknowledge receipt of payment and turn over everything to God’s Elect. Mr. Berry promptly closed up the place of worship and still holds Creffield’s note as proof that some mistake had been made in the transmission of the message.


Deprived of a tabernacle, the apostle “received instructions from on high” to hold a camp meeting, and Kiger’s Island, a few miles up the river, was selected as the location.




Elijah Brooks, a former Salvation Army associate of Creffield, appeared on the scene at this time, taking the place as assistant prophet, as Mercer and Creffield had a falling out. Separated from the restraining influence of home ties and the reproaches of husbands and parents, a hold was soon secured upon the members of his flock by this modern Elijah that with few exceptions has never been broken. Whether this was accomplished by hypnotic poser or by the influence which was a keen and crafty mind may in time exercise over weaker ones, but will probably never be known, but the fact remains that he came to be looked upon as a holy prophet who could do no wrong, and his commands were unhesitatingly obeyed.


Wives refused to return to their homes and daughters turned a deaf ear to the pleadings of parents. If reports from some who were present be true, they lived as one family, and many of the acts of God’s elect would hardly pass muster in respectable society, though in accordance with commands from on high as interpreted by Creffield.


It was at this time that the nickname of “Holy Rollers” was first applied to this sect, owing to a practice they had of rolling and tumbling on the ground for hours at a time, apparently for the purpose of working themselves into a state of religious ecstasy.




After breaking up camp meeting, Creffield and Brooks began a series of religious meetings at the home of Mr. Hurt, and the days and nights were made hideous by the groans and screams of the rollers. The sensational climax to these proceedings which attracted the attention of all Christendom was when in obedience to the commands of the prophet a huge bon fire was kindled in the front yard, on which were burned wearing apparel, jewelry, carpets, bedding and household furniture, and even offering up as sacrifice a few cats and a stray dog. A sign was nailed up over the gate on which was inscribed, “No admission here except on God’s business.” News of these incantations spread like wildfire and that night a mob of about 300 men and boys gathered at the house with the intention of ducking Creffield and Brooks in the river near by. not finding their intended victims, the crowd stoned the house, tore up the shrubbery and sidewalks, thus completing the destruction started by the holy Rollers. Next morning the neat home of a day before looked as though wrecked by a cyclone. Creffield and Brooks were at the time arrested on a charge of insanity, but on being examined were pronounced sane and discharged. That night they were waited upon by a few determined men and told to leave the community and never return on penalty of being tarred and feathered.

Acting on this warning they left, but about a week later returned to the home of Frank Hurt, just across the river in Linn County, and calling in their followers began again their peculiar religious services.




On the night of January 4, 20 citizens of Corvallis and vicinity surrounded the house, secured Creffield and Brooks and bringing them back in Benton County stripped them, administered a coat of tar and feathers and turned the loose warning that next time they were found here they would be the principals in a necktie party. Frank Hurt, who had followed the crowd and watched the performance from a safe distance, intercepted the apostles in their flight and took them back again to his home, where he furnished the oil and turpentine for removing their sticky covering.


Early next morning Creffield and Maud Hurt drove to Albany, where they were married. The bride was the sister of Frank Hurt and eldest daughter of O. V. Hurt. The apostle’s next appearance was in Portland, early in February, where he attempted to organize another following, his wife meanwhile returning to her father’s home. Shortly afterward a warrant was sworn out by B. E. of Portland, charging him with adultery, and the accused fled from that city. In spite of a diligent search, stimulated by a reward of $350 for his arrest and conviction, he evaded pursuit and mysteriously disappeared.





In the meantime his former followers in Corvallis, acting from instructions received, as they stated “from on high,” began to discard shoes, hats and all the superfluous clothing and to wander aimlessly about the streets, till they were in turn arrested, examined adjudged insane and sent to the asylum. The mystery of these late developments was explained when a few days ago the missing apostle was discovered by young Roy Hurt under the house of O. V. Hurt where he had lain for nearly four months hidden in a pit 15 inches deep by six feet long. The story of how he was fed and cared for by his followers during his hiding, of his being dragged out naked and emaciated by the officers of the law and of the events following his arrest has been so fully described in late issues of the daily papers that a detailed account here is not necessary.


Denying that he is insane, and declaring that God will be his lawyer, the former Holy Roller chief is now lying in jail, awaiting the sessions of the jury in September to try his case.

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