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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.

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

 

Holy RollersOregon Daily Journal (Portland) 4/30/1906 p1

Leaves Home For Roller

Two Little White-Haired Children Make Dandelion Chains, With Faith That Mother Will Return to Them. But Neighbor Woman Says She Will Not. Pretty Home in East Portland Mourns for Mrs. B. E. Starr, Who Left Saturday Night, Saying She Had Gone to Her Spiritual Love, Joshua Creffield.

 

In a grassy yard in front of a small neat home in East Portland, two little white-haired children of five and three sit all day and play contentedly. They greet a passing stranger with a friendly smile and the information that they like to make dandelion chains. The stranger asks where the mother is and they smile and day:

“Mamma has gone away for a little while. She will come back soon.”

 

Such is the faith of the children. Indoors is a charitable neighbor who has come in to take care of them. Her faith is not the same.

 

“She will never come back till she is sick of it. The best thing would be for her husband to go after and horsewhip her back. Anyone that could go and leave such a sweet baby as that has no feelings anyway.” and she cuddles fondly a little seven-months old babe who coos back gently and never sobs or cries.

 

And in the meanwhile, Mrs. B. E. Starr has joined her “spiritual love” among the Holy Rollers. She left her home Saturday night without warning while her husband still slept, and left a note to apprise him of her departure.

 

AFRAID CHILDREN WOULD CRY

 

“I did not tell you because I was afraid the children would cry,” she wrote, “and He said that Christ will take care of them.

 

“He” with the capital “H” is Joshua Creffield, her spiritual love, and Christ’s immediate emissary seems to be a neighbor who puts less trust in divine assistance than her own and presides over the home with loving words for the children interspersed with strong expressions of indignation against the mother and the “brute who done all this.”

 

“Does anyone want to do anything?” she asks. “Then let him get an army and go hunt down that vile man like a dog and kill him.  It is better than he deserves for the number of homes he has broken up.”

 

Mrs. Starr fell under the spell of Joshua Creffield, the Rolling prophet, three years ago when he was converting weak-minded women to his doctrine in Corvallis. Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Hurt of Corvallis, visited her at that time, and demonstrated to her the supposed beauties of his creed. Mr. Starr, a warehouse man on the east side, saw the filth where she saw the beauty and unceremoniously dragged the outraged prophet to court and succeeded in landing him in jail for a two years’ term. Matters were better for a time, and save for an occasional moment when Mrs. Starr began to “roll” on the floor in the middle of the night and disturb her husband’s slumber, the house was at peace.

 

Donna StarrTHEN EMERGED CREFFIELD

 

But the time came for Creffield to emerge and Joshua found that his two-year’s imprisonment paralleled the three days in the tomb. He didn’t exactly roll away a stone to get out when his time was up, but he began rolling as soon as he reached his destination. Since February, when he was released, he has held his camp near Waldport on Alsea Bay, and though none but his followers know the exact spot it is said that he is encamped in a ravine between two mountains that he may watch the approach of any comers, and that he boasts that his fortress is impregnable.

 

Since his release, nothing had been heard of Creffield at the Starr home except for Mrs. Starr’s remark one day that she still had a spiritual love for him. She had been unusually good at home and seemed to be happy with her children and her husband, who always kind and patient, still loved his wife. On Saturday evening, she told him she wanted new shoes and stockings and when he offered her the money she begged him to walk downtown with her to get them. She was unusually affectionate.

 

That night at about 11-o’clock, Mr. Starr awoke and found his wife missing. He looked about the house, but she had gone away in the shoes that he had just bought her. A note on the bureau told him where she had gone and that she had taken money from his pocket which she felt belonged to her. She wrote that this was not enough to take her all the way, but she could walk the remaining distance.

 

WHAT THE NEIGHBOR SAYS

 

Mr. Starr, almost crazed with grief, telephoned at once to Corvallis for his wife’s relatives to look out for her there, but no word has come. He has been unable to eat or sleep since then, the neighbors say, but he went to his work this morning to keep his mind from his sorrow. An aunt will come soon from Newberg to care for the children. Only lack of money prevents him following her at once, and his threats are dire in case he should meet the originator of the mischief.

 

“He will take her back if she comes,” said the neighbor who is in charge of the home, “but she will not come until she gets disgusted with the life she has to lead with that wretch. It will not be easy, either, for he will make her do penance for sending him to prison, even it was not voluntary. He got only two years last time, but if a certain father here would bring suit he would get 10 or more for the seduction of young girls and more than one family would rejoice to see him convicted. He has three men with him and about nine women, who have been insanely drawn to his horrible teachings and seek purification through the immoral methods he commands.

 

 

Corvallis Gazette 5/1/1906 p1

By The Rolling Sea

Holy Rollers

 

Friday, Frank Hurt and wife and two other women of Holy Roller fame arrived over from Corvallis. Saturday evening they were joined by the notorious Creffield and his wife. They went over to South beach the same evening and it is reported that they have since gone down the coast to Ten Mile Creek, a point below the Yachats in Lane County.

 

Creffield was followed to this city by a Mr. Hartley, who accused him of enticing his (Hartley) wife and daughter away from him, and bringing them over here. Hartley tried to get out a warrant for Creffield’s arrest Saturday night but was seemingly unable to swear positively to a complaint therefore no warrant was issued. Later it is reported that he purchased a pistol and went gunning for Creffield finding him just as he was leaving for South Beach and snapped his gun at him five times. It appears that the pistol was a center fire weapon, and that it was loaded with rim fire cartridges which accounts for their failure to explode.

Monday morning Hartley secured a rifle, and started down the coast on the Holy Roller’s trail with the avowed intention of shooting Creffield.

 

It is said that the holy rollers are going to start a colony at Ten Mile Creek.-- Yaquina Bay News.

___

Mr. Hartley, wife and daughter arrived in this city yesterday on the bay train.

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

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

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The Cast of Characters
Photos and Bios of the Holy Rollers

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Holy Rollers' Asylum Commitment Papers

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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

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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

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Comedians on Edmund Creffield

The Shadow Testament
A Play About The Holy Rollers

How the Fire Fell
A Movie About The Holy Rollers

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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

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Info about Cults

Could you ever be lured into joining a cult?

Share your thoughts about, and experiences with, cults

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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

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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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