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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.

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

 

George MitchellMorning Oregonian (Portland) 5/8/1906 p6

Funds for Mitchell’s Defense

 

ALBANY. Or., May 7.--(Special.)--The report of the shooting of Creffield, the Holy Roller, was received with satisfaction here, where his operations were well known. several of his victims were sent to the asylum from here two years ago, and he married one here. Mitchell, who shot Creffield, is favorably known here. Many of the citizens are ready to subscribe funds for Mitchell’s defense it is needed.

 

 

Corvallis Gazette 5/11/1906

To Assist Mitchell

 

Throughout the states of Oregon and Washington there is an intense feeling of sympathy for and endorsement of the action of George Mitchell in slaying Edmund Creffield. Mr. Mitchell is a poor young man and he needs financial assistance. Many of our prominent citizens are taking the initiative and are contributing.

 

“The Gazette” will receive contributions and receipt for the same.

 

Help the boy in his trouble.

 

Morning Oregonian (Portland) 5/8/1906 p6

Career of Creffield

Born In Sweden, Deserted from Army. Sent to Corvallis by Salvation Army, He Attracted Followers, Who Became Insane.

 

Edwin Creffield, self-styled Joshua, and leader of the “Bride of Christ Church,” whose members were nicknamed Holy Rollers, a convict and teacher of one of the most bestial forms of faith, is thought by many to have received his just deserts when he was shot and killed yesterday in Seattle by George Mitchell, brother of one of the fanatic’s victims. The news of his death in quarters where he was best known, was generally received gladly and probably very few expressions of sympathy were entertained by those who knew of the practices of the Holy Rollers.

 

During his short careers as a “Joshua,” all too long for those who were affected by his fanaticism, he passed through a strenuous existence. Creffield was born in Sweden about 33 years ago, and is said to have had wealthy and well-educated parents. He deserted from the German army and came to America. He joined the Salvation Army when he came to Portland and soon after was sent to Salem and Corvallis. While there Creffield met one named Mercer and the two organized what they called the “Bride of Christ Church.”

 

Mercer soon withdrew from the so-called church and left it in the hands of Creffield who soon collected almost 100 members. He dubbed himself Joshua and made his followers believe that he would develop into a second Elijah. His camp meetings attracted adverse criticism and his teachings, part of which was spiritual love, were universally condemned. Finally a number of irate citizens of Corvallis, whose wives and daughters had been attracted to the Holy Rolling community, raided the Beach house where Creffield and his followers were quartered. Creffield tried to escape, but was captured and given a coat of tar and feathers, and warned to leave that section of the country. Creffield returned to Corvallis the following morning where the tar and feathers were scraped from his body by friends. Creffield then went to Albany, where he married Maud Hurt.

 

The Creffields then came to Portland and visited at the home of B. E. Starr. Starr, who had left Corvallis to get his wife away from the evil influences of Creffield, filed a charge against the fanatic. Creffield escaped, but was captured by Detective Hartman July 28, 1904, while hiding under the house of Mrs. O. V. Hurt at Corvallis. He was returned to Portland and was brought to trial.

 

His fanaticism developed itself in court as it has done at the camp meetings. Refusing the services of a lawyer and with a Bible in his hands he quoted scripture in his defense and harangued the jury on the justness of his religion. A jury returned a verdict of guilty, and Creffield was sentenced to two years in the penitentiary. He made no plea for mercy, saying only that he, like Christ, was misunderstood. His sentence was commuted and last February he was released.

 

Again working up fanatical enthusiasm among a few of his followers he took them to Waldport, where he again tried to carry on his practices. He was given to understand, however, by the residents there that his camp would not be tolerated and from a lack of food he was forced to give up and fled with his wife to Seattle, where he was followed by Mitchell and killed.

 

One of the most harmful results of Creffield’s teachings was the insanity caused to a number of his followers. Mr. O. V. Hurt was committed to the insane asylum. Mrs. Starr’s young sister, Ester, and sister also of George Mitchell, was a victim of Creffield. She was turned over to the Boys’ and Girls’ aid Society and later sent to relatives in Indiana.

 

 

Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 5/8/1906 p1 Oregon Daily Journal Front Page

Creffield’s Slayer To Escape, Disciples Disband

Medal to Be Given Mitchell in Recognition of His Killing. Fanatical Leader--Money for Defense.”

 

(In a box)

Seattle, Wash, May 8.--If the expression of public opinion is any guide, George Mitchell, the young man who shot and killed “Joshua Creffield, leader of the notorious Holy Roller fanatics, will escape Scot free. Whoever is familiar with the creed and practices of the dead man expresses approbation for the deed and regret that the end was postponed so long.

The Holy Rollers as a religious body are doomed to early extinction. Already disintegration among the ranks has set in and the victims are coming to their senses.

 

Creffield’s mode of procedure was to select weak-minded women over whom he obtained fanatical control, tell them that they were destined to be goddesses of love or duty, according to the disposition of the victim. But for them to reach the desired state of perfection, it was necessary for him, as the supreme one, to lay his hands upon them and purify them. Once in his power the most horrible orgies were carried on under the guise of religion.

 

(Special Dispatch to the Journal)

Seattle, Wash, May 8.--That a medal will be presented to George Mitchell by the citizens of Corvallis, Oregon, in recognition of his killing Franz Edmund Creffield, leader of the Holy Rollers, on the streets of Seattle yesterday morning, is the statement made this morning by O. V. Hurt of Corvallis, the father of Creffield’s widow. Hurt reached Seattle last night to aid the man who had murdered his son-in-law. Hurt declared this morning that immediately on hearing of the murder a committee of Corvallis citizens was appointed to solicit funds for the defense of Mitchell and money also to purchase a medal for him.

 

TO CARE FOR WIDOW Edmund Creffield

 

Hurt expressed no grief at the slaying of his daughter’s husband. He says that he believes Creffield only obtained his just deserts. Hurt says he will take care of Creffield’s wife. Hurt said:

“I never saw more excitement in Corvallis than when the news was received of the killing of Creffield. Everyone went crazy with joy. I received the first word of it in a telegram from Mitchell and I showed it to a few friends.

 

Some one suggested starting a fund to buy Mitchell a medal. This was taken up at once and a committee appointed to get the money. A committee was also appointed to raise money to defend Mitchell.

 

A JUST REWARD

 

“I have no sorrow for Creffield. He simply received the reward for his actions. I knew he would be killed. He could not hope to go on ruining women as he and his followers did without some one taking revenge on him. My daughter was completely in his power. I shall take care of her. Creffield drove her insane once, and she had to be put in the insane asylum.

 

“He had my daughter hypnotized. His control over her was wonderful. I am glad he is dead. Glad for my daughter’s sake. He also had my son under his influence. My son was a good boy until he came under that man’s influence.

 

“Yes, you can say for me I am glad Creffield is dead. I am glad that he was murdered like a dog. I will do everything in my power to aid Mitchell. He only did what any man would have done. I do not want to see him suffer. The citizens of Corvallis will see that he has plenty of money to make a fight for his liberty. I shall tell the jury what I know of Creffield and I am sure they will see Mitchell did right in shooting him.

 

Hurt also asked Sheriff Smith to furnish Mitchell with as good quarters as possible. He told this official that he bore Mitchell no malice, but considered his act worthy of the greatest praise.

 

MAYOR JOHNSON TALKS

A. J. Johnson, mayor of Corvallis, who is also a national bank inspector, was in Seattle yesterday and made the following statement:

“Creffield never dared to come back to Corvallis after his release from the Salem penitentiary. He had been treated to a coat of tar and feathers while in the city and warned that if he ever showed his face there he would be shot down like a dog.

 

“Mitchell was not the only man looking for hi on account of his conduct. Only a few weeks ago, when he tried to start his new colony at Ocean View he took the wife and daughter of a man named Hartley away from their husband and father.

“Hartley went after his wife and child and I understand that he tried four times to shoot Creffield, but his revolver snapped each time.

 

“The outrages that have been committed by the ‘Holy Rollers’ in Corvallis and in the vicinity of Oregon City have been too numerous to mention. They have broken up dozens of families with their vicious doctrine. In the case of the Hurt family, there was only one member of the entire family that was not under the influence of Creffield at the time of his death, that being the father, O. v. Hurt, who is a respected citizen in Corvallis, and even he was under the hypnotic spell of the infamous creed for some time.”

 

 

Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) Tue 5/8/1906 p1

Creffield Won Victims of Telepathy

 

Mental telepathy was the means by which “Joshua Creffield,” who was shot and killed in Seattle yesterday by George Mitchell, gained his absolute control over the members of the Holy Rollers sect and forced them to indulge in the revolting practices prescribed by the creed which he promulgated. At least this is the assertion of persons who knew the self-styled prophet for years past and are familiar with the debasing doctrines he taught his followers.

 

He was more than average intelligence, well educated, an orator of ability and possessed a sort of magnetic influence, it is claimed, that appealed to men and women, especially the latter. Those most intimately acquainted with him deny that he was mentally unbalanced. They say he simply descended into complete moral degeneracy, became a pervert and was ruled by bestial passions. He made his followers believe implicitly in his alleged divine powers and that the debasing doctrines of ”purification” which he taught, were given to him by God himself by means of personal communication between the Almighty and himself.

 

EDUCATED FOR PRIESTHOOD

 

From a man who has known Creffield’s history from the date he first came into this section of the country some five or six years ago it is learned that he was originally educated for the priesthood. During his schooling he made a particular study of mental telepathy and it is claimed, became something of an expert in the science of thought transference.

 

For some reason he never entered the priest hood for which he was trained, but came to Portland and became a laborer. On Sundays and at other opportune times it was his custom to preach to such congregations as he had opportunity. This was before the time Holy Rollerism had ever been thought of. A man who has heard him preach during this period says he was a most forceful, convincing and magnetic speaker.

 

“About four years ago,” said this man, “he began to gather a little congregation about him. He preached to them regularly and began to promulgate a new doctrine. The revolting features of his creed, however, he kept a year or more. He won their confidence first by his gift of oratory, his peculiar magnetism, and his manner of dealing with them he made them believe he possessed divine powers, that he was in direct communication with God and that he was a holy apostle by means of mental telepathy. He even succeeded in making his followers themselves broach him the doctrines of “purification” which the creed of Holy Rollerism contains He accomplished this in this way:

 

SAID GOD HAD SPOKEN TO HIM

 

“When he thought the time ripe for the promulgation of his revolting doctrines he told his followers that God had spoken to him and told him that he had some new teachings which he desired to unfold to his people. ‘But,’ said Creffield, ‘ it is not for me to tell you what these teaching are. You must ascertain them for yourselves through prayer.’ He wrought the people up to the highest pitch of mental excitement, kept them in constant prayer and by means of mental transference of thought made them conceive the bestial doctrines which his own perverted brain had evolved. When some of them approached him and suggested that free love was essential to “purification” he told them that they were tight, that this was the doctrine God desired to reveal to them.

 

This made his followers believe he was really what he claimed to be and they accepted any teaching he gave as divine and God-given. He worked upon their credulity to such an extent that he robbed them of their reason, he stole their minds from them, drove them insane and filled the asylum with his mentally deranged followers. the sins that brought destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah were not equal to the things he made his followers do under the belief that such practices were necessary for their purification and sanctification.”

 

There is a popular belief that the sect derived its name from the practice of rolling upon the floor or the ground in a nude condition when praying. This is an enormous idea, according to the assertion of those in a position to know. The name was derived from the fact that all members of the sect were required to sign a document or register in the form of a roll and called the Holy roll. The signers were called Holy Rollers.

 

By those who know anything of the sect, how it originated and was kept extant, it is believed that it will become extinct now. There is no one, it is said, who bids fair to become Creffield’s successor, and public feeling has been so strongly aroused against the sect and its bestial practices that there is little likelihood of it flourishing longer.

 

Creffield is said to have been in the German army at one time, but is alleged to have deserted and taken flight to America, coming to the Pacific coast shortly after arriving in the country. At one time, after reaching Portland, he was a member of the Salvation Army. It was in 1903 that he went to Corvallis and organized a sect of Holy Rollers. A year later, when people of that town learned the nature of his pernicious teachings, they took him and his right-hand man, Charles Brooks, and gave them coats of tar and feathers. Following this he was hunted down by the Portland officials, captured under a house at Corvallis, where he had been in hiding for several weeks, and brought to this city for the trial on a statutory charge preferred by the husband of a woman whom Creffield had entangled in his net. He was convicted and sentenced to two years in the penitentiary. After his release Creffield went back to the vicinity of Corvallis, though he did not dare enter the town for fear of being killed on sight. By correspondence he gathered his followers together at Waldport, in Lincoln County. He was pursued by Louis Hartley of Corvallis, whose wife had fallen a victim to Creffield’s wiles. Hartley snapped his revolver at the Holy Roller’s leader five times, but it did not fire because the cartridges did not fit the fun. Realizing that his life was in danger, Creffield fled secretly to Seattle, where Mitchell followed him and shot him dead.

 

O. V. Hurt of Corvallis, step-father (sic) of Mrs. Maude Creffield, Mrs. B. E. Starr and George Mitchell, who killed the Holy Rollers; leader passed through Portland last night on his way to Seattle to look after his daughter and the prisoner. Mr. Hurt is a well-known merchant of Corvallis and is a respected citizen. His home was completely wrecked by Creffield, every member of the family, saving himself and George Mitchell, having fallen under the baneful influence of the alleged prophet. Creffield married one daughter, was sent to prison for relations with another, caused the latter to desert he husband and children in Portland and a younger daughter to desert he home to follow him, and even got the mother within his power. It was this that led Mitchell to pursue him to Seattle and shoot him down like a dog.

 

B. E. Star, husband of the woman who deserted he home an children to follow Creffield, and brother-in-law of Mitchell, who killed the alleged prophet, has gone to Seattle with his father-in-law to assist in doing what he can for the man who killed the destroyer of his home.

 

 

Evening Telegram (Portland) 5/7/1906 p1 Evening Telegram Front Page

Portland Man After Creffield

B. E. Starr, Whose Home Was Despoiled by Holy Roller, Threatened Apostle.

 

Creffield’s extermination had been determined on by the men whose families had been ruined by the Holy Roller, and the killing of the self-styled apostle in Seattle today by George Mitchell was the second attempt made on Creffield’s life by the band of avengers. There was a mutual understanding, if no actual organization, among the men that the first to find Creffield face to face was to efface him from society. These determined men would not swerve from their purpose of taking the law into their own hands, and this Creffield knew, for he had been traveling with two large revolvers lashed to his body prepared to meet the emergency, which he realized would come in the course of time. The brotherhood of revenge maintained a strict watch of the Holy Rollers and their movements in the hope of being led eventually to Creffield’s place of concealment. These avengers were located in various parts of the state, and had Creffield been found in Portland there was a man here who considered it his duty to wipe out the stain on his escutcheon. This Portland avenger is Burgess E. Starr of 429 East Main Street.

 

RECEIVES NEWS WITH JOY

 

With joy in his heart, a smile on his lips and a revolver in his hip-pocket, Starr received the tidings that his brother-in-law, George Mitchell, had succeeded in killing the leader of the band of fanatics. Mrs. Starr and her sister, Esther Mitchell, are two of the women whom Creffield had enticed from their homes. It was Starr who sent Creffield to the penitentiary at Salem for an outrageous crime committed in Fulton, Multnomah County.

 

It was Mr. Hurt, of Corvallis, one of the most wronged men in Creffield’s list of enemies, who sent the joyful news to Starr this morning.

 

“George got that fellow in Seattle,’ said Hurt. “George is in jail and the other fellow is in hell.”

“Good!” exclaimed Starr. “But it would have been better had Creffield been found in Portland.”

 

For of all the husbands and fathers who have suffered from Creffield, Starr has had the heaviest cross to bear. It was because of his relations with Mrs. Starr that Creffield was sentenced to the penitentiary for two years, after freely confessing his guilt and attempting to justify himself.

 

Burgess Starr is happy. But the revolver which he has carried with him constantly since Creffield reappeared and reorganized the Holy Rollers still has its five chambers loaded. Had Creffield been recognized in the city, George Mitchell would not have found his journey of vengeance to Seattle necessary.

 

STARR READY TO BE EXECUTIONER

 

“I expected to go out myself,” said Starr, significantly pointing to his weapon, which lay within his reach as he worked.

 

There was no braggadocio in his manner. Creffield would have had to be quick on the draw to save himself from this outraged husband whose wife had deserted him and her children to become a victim of Creffield’s wildest orgies and bestial practices.

 

There is no happier man in Portland today than Starr.

 

Where his runaway wife is he does not know; but there is intense and genuine satisfaction in the knowledge that Creffield is where he can cause no more trouble to mortals.

 

“George got him. Good!” said Starr. “This is a happy day. The authorities will not cause George to suffer, for if ever a man was justified he was. Creffield was a brute, a-- a--”

 

Starr paused. He could not find words sufficiently strong with which to express his detestation of the man who unbalanced the mind of Mrs. Starr.

 

SORRY APOSTLE ESCAPED HIM

 

“It was certain to come,’ continued Starr, “but George happened to be the most fortunate. All the rest of us have to work, and while we were waiting to hear of Creffield turning up somewhere, George, who is not working, did detective business until he located this beast. Oh, if he had only been seen in Portland!

“We were determined to get Creffield. Louis Hartley made an attempt recently, but he failed. It was at Newport. Hartley’s daughter was one of the Holy Rollers, and she was sent to the insane asylum. Harley borrowed a bulldog revolver and got some rim-fire cartridge, when the gun only shot center-fire. For this reason, when Hartley drew a bead on Creffield, as he was pulling away from the seashore, the revolver just snapped and Creffield was saved.

 

“I don’t know why Creffield didn’t take a shot at Hartley. Perhaps because he was out of pistol range. Creffield, when he left the penitentiary, was seen wearing two revolvers strapped to his waist. He made the statement that he was going to kill his enemies. The enemies, of course, meant Hartley, Mr. Hurt, of Corvallis, George Mitchell, myself and several others who had suffered.

 

CREFFIELD A GERMAN DESERTER

 

“Creffield was a deserter from the German army. He came to Portland and here became a member of the Salvation Army. They sent him to Salem and Corvallis. While there he met a man named Mercer, a good talker, and they organized the Holy Rollers. When Creffield’s practices became intolerable, Mercer left him. Mrs. Starr and I met Creffield in Corvallis. Esther Mitchell, Mrs. Starr’s sister, joined the band, and so did my wife. I tried to have her return home, but she wouldn’t.

 

“Finally I obtained evidence against Creffield and sent him to the penitentiary for two years, but his time was shortened for good behavior.  All his followers were sent to the insane asylum, but my wife. I brought her home and she remained quiet until he was released, and then I could see that she was anxious to join the band again, although she denied it. One night, a couple of weeks ago, she disappeared between 11 and 1 A. M., taking scarcely anything and leaving the two children and the baby with me.

 

APOSTLE’S BANEFUL INFLUENCE

 

“Before she met Creffield she was a model wife and mother. She was a good girl. Creffield was a hypnotist, or something similar, for he had a great power over people. When he placed his hands on their heads they were absolutely in his power and did anything he told them. He abused them and called them names, but they never resented, and had he told them to jump in the river they would not have hesitated a moment, but plunged in. He was a very homely man too, but he attracted women wonderfully.

 

“The Mitchells come from Illinois. I married my wife in Portland six years ago, and everything was serene until Creffield appeared. This is also true of the Hurts, Hartleys and the others. Creffield married Hurt’s daughter. The only man, practically, in the Holy Rollers besides Creffield himself, was young Hurt, brother-in-law of the leader. Hurt was a promising youth until Creffield set him crazy. He had a good job in Seattle and left this, taking about $300 of his savings. this money and what little Creffield could secure from the women in his following seems to have kept the Holy Rollers going. Creffield held his meetings behind closed doors, and would not let any one not belonging to his band enter. He didn’t want outsiders. Creffield made his dupes believe that they would be infused with Pentecost, and spread over the world. He made everyone insane who associated with him.

 

“Creffield was bad, thoroughly bad. In killing him George Mitchell has done the world a service.

“I have never received news which pleased me more.”

 

 

Los Angeles Examiner 5/8/1906 p3

Fanatic Killed by Brother of Victim

 

(The usual, plus …)

Creffield it is claimed was the man who, as head of the “Holy Jumpers” made an evangelical tour through Southern California in August and September, 1904, and was finally forced by mobs, incited by his wild ravings against the established churches and by stories of Mabel Lynch, supposed daughter of the founder, who recanted, to leave the country. Creffield was also threatened with violence by an Alabaman named Hinton whose wife had deserted him to join the sect. Hinton followed the band from place to place in his endeavors to break up the meetings and get his wife back.

 

Evening Telegram (Portland) 5/8/1906 p1

Deed of Avenger Endorsed

Citizens of Albany and Corvallis Declare Creffield Deserved Death.

 

ALBANY, Or., May 8.--”Only justice was done.” is the universal comment in Albany upon the death of Edmund Creffield. The shooting of the “prophet” was the topic of Albany conversation last night, and young Mitchell’s harsh methods of dealing out justice was generally commended.

 

Mitchell is the boy continuously shadowed Mrs. Creffield, but did not indicate his intention to kill the leader of the fanatic Holy Rollers. He intimated, however, that men in Corvallis were bent on his destruction.

 

There is a report current here that Creffield was seen at Thurston’s sawmill near the town of Crawfordsville last Thursday, and it is probably correct. the camp at Waldport was broken up Sunday and Creffield walked most of the way from the coast to the Willamette Valley. He was seen in Blodgett Valley, going south, Monday, but it is not known where or when he caught a train to Seattle. all north-bound trains passing Albany last Monday and Tuesday were closely watched by two men from Corvallis, who thought the “apostle” would try to join his wife, but they did not discover him.

 

Reports that Creffield had been in Seattle some time are incorrect. It is true that he went there after being liberated from the Penitentiary, but he went to Waldport immediately after his reconciliation with his wife, the first week in April. They scarcely could have been in Seattle one week, for, as stated, Mrs. Creffield was in Albany last Tuesday afternoon. It is very probable that Creffield had not been with his wife more than a day or two.

 

While Creffield never lived in this city he was known here, as were those who adopted his fanatical teachings, and his death has aroused much interest and comment. It has been stated here that Hartley, Hurt and other Corvallis men whose homes were wrecked, were determined to end the “prophet’s” career, and news of his death caused little surprise.

 

 

Evening Telegram (Portland) 5/8/1906 p8

Arranging for Defense of Mitchell

 

CORVALLIS, Or., May 8.-- With hardly an exception, the people of this city express themselves as impressed with the conviction that the killing of Holy Roller Creffield has removed a man who constituted a dangerous element in the community.

 

“His teachings led to degradation and shame. Many households were threatened by his presence in the county, and it is a matter for congratulation on the part of citizens of Corvallis that he is dead,” said a citizen today in referring to the killing of Edmund Creffield yesterday in Seattle.

 

Many of his former victims in Benton County left their homes to follow the teaching of the false prophet, as has been reported in The Telegram.

One or more of the leading attorneys of this section will assist in the defense of young Mitchell, according to plans being formulated by citizens of Corvallis.

 

 

Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 5/8/1906 p8

Death of Roller Causes Joy

Murder of Joshua Creffield Warmly Approved by People of Corvallis. Frightful Creed Taught to Weak-Minded Women. Regret Expressed That End Did Not Happen Long Ago--Many Homes Ruined and Asylum Filled With Victims of Self-Styled Apostle.

 

(Special Dispatch to The Journal)

Corvallis, Or., May 8.--When the message flashed over the wires from George Mitchell at Seattle to O. V. Hurt in this city, “I got my Man; am in jail. Mitchell,” there was no need to question, for like wildfire the news spread and from tongue to tongue was handed the words, “Creffield is dead.” There was general regret expressed that the end had not come before so many homes had been ruined by the Holy Roller chief.

 

Edmund, alias Joshua Creffield, came to Corvallis six years ago, left for a while and returned. He was a lieutenant in the Salvation Army and in 1903 established a Holy Roller colony on Kiger Island, a few miles from Corvallis.

 

His teachings were never so fully known as they are today, when some of his dupes tell of the orgies that went on in the tents of the chief and some of his followers.

 

TEN-HOUR PRAYERS

 

Creffield first gained the entire confidence of his disciples, would keep them praying for him for eight and ten hours at a time, pretending that unless they prayed and fasted he would be taken away from them. This was doubtless the only hypnotism he possessed, but it was sufficient.

If a disciple became suspicious, he or she was banished from the fold and in this way Creffield culled his flock until only easy victims remained.

 

TAR AND FEATHERS

(The usual)

 

LIVED UNDER HOUSE

(The usual)

 

REUNION OF ROLLERS

 

Since his release in December 1905, he has gained control again of his victims and all recently congregated at Waldport on the coast, from which place Creffield disappeared a week ago and was followed by several men whose families had been ruined, and by George Mitchell, who tracked Creffield to Seattle, and whose terse telegram told the story of the apostle’s tragic ending.

 

Parties who are familiar with all the teachings of the late chief Roller stated that never in history had such fiendish practices been known as those of Creffield.

There were other men, relatives of girls who had been led astray by Creffield who it is said would have shot the latter on sight if they could have found him. The Seattle tragedy caused no surprise here and there is universal hope that Mitchell may be cleared.

 

 

Evening Telegram (Portland) 5/7/1906

Corvallis Commend Deed

People of City Where Creffield Began Crusade Show No Sympathy.

 

[Telegram Coast Special.]

CORVALLIS, Or., May 7.-- The news of the killing of Edmund Creffield at Seattle, which reached here this morning, spread rapidly over the city, and the universal verdict is that the Holy Roller apostle got what he deserved. Young Mitchell, who did the killing, has two sisters who were betrayed by the self-appointed prophet. If a Benton county jury were to sit on the case it is declared a verdict of “justifiable homicide” would certainly be returned.

 

One of Mitchell’s sisters, Mrs. Burt Starr, is the woman whose evidence sent Creffield to the penitentiary two years ago.

 

The revolting details of the crime that Creffield committed, as sworn to by Mrs. Starr, appeared in the daily press at that time, and do not need repetition.

 

Esther Mitchell, another sister, 16 years old, was also under Creffield’s influence during his orgies at Corvallis, and while a number of his followers were sent to the insane asylum she was sent to the Reform School at Salem.

 

Upon her release she was taken east by relatives, but as soon as Creffield was discharged from the penitentiary she ran away, came to the Pacific Coast and followed him to his late camp at Waldport.

 

 

Seattle Post Intelligencer 5/8/1906 p11

History of The ‘Holy Rollers

People of Corvallis at One Time Drove Them Out of Community.

 

When Franz Edmund Creffield first appeared in Corvallis early in the spring of 1903 announcing himself to be the reincarnation of Joshua and thru a spiritual message the direct personal representative of God, he was generally looked upon as a harmless fanatic. Even while drawing people to his self-made creed, the citizens summed up their estimate of him with a tap of the finger on the forehead. But this was the result of a lack of knowledge of the true tenets of his belief. Creffield’s religion in public meetings and that carried on in private gatherings of his followers were two far different things.

 

Although a man without much seeming magnetic influence, Creffield nevertheless held some weird and uncanny power over a number of his followers.

 

HURTS ARE EARLY CONVERTS

 

The first converts to the new sect were the family of O. V. Hurt the father of Creffield’s wife. The Hurt house was made headquarters for the “Holy Rollers,” and it was there that the meetings were held nightly. During the summer of 1903 Creffield secured a following of nearly 100, and by the time the townspeople had become accustomed to the nightly antics and turmoil of the Rollers while engaged in their devotions.

 

The meetings were always presided over by Creffield who invariably, with his exhortations and harangues, worked himself and the weaker minded members of the sect into an insane frenzy. Crying out in wild shrieks they would beat themselves and fall on to the floor rolling about in their temporary madness.

 

The novelty of the new “apostle” had just about worn off and begun to pall on those on the outside, when new interest was awakened, an interest which was really the beginning of the end for Creffield.

 

It was on November 2, 1903, that Corvallis was startled one night with the spectacle of a huge fire outside the Hurt home. This was the sacrificial fire ordered by Creffield, who asserted divine inspiration as a sacrifice, and which the entire furniture of the Hurt home was thrown for fuel by the “Rollers.” This mad freak was followed in a few days by another sacrifice in which cats and dogs were burned alive.

 

FOLLOWERS GO INSANE

 

Then came the rumors of the inside workings of Creffield’s religion, the evidences of fast breaking minds and the breaking up of homes.

 

In the following January, however, the citizens of Corvallis, infuriated and wrathful at what they then knew to be true, took the law into their own hands and seizing Creffield and a companion one night, stripped them and after tarring and feathering them, drove the two from the town.

 

Still staunch to their leader the Hurt family began a search fro Creffield and a day or two later discovered his hiding place in the underbrush a few miles out from Albany. His companion has not been heard from to this day.

 

The Hurts took Creffield to their home, where he was again surrounded with a large part of his following and where a few days later he married Miss Maud Hurt.

By this time Corvallis had become too hot to hold Creffield, and he left that city for Portland, where he lived at the house of Mrs. B. E. Starr, a sister of Mitchell, the murderer.

 

CRIMINAL COMPLAINT

 

Mrs. Starr, with her sister Esther, were ardent believers in Creffield, but it was only while he was staying in Starr’s house that the latter awakened to the true condition of affairs. Starr then swore out a criminal complaint against Creffield, but the accused got wind of it and left the city.

 

For several weeks he could not be found, but in the meantime Mrs. Hurt had become violently insane and was taken to the asylum.

 

On July 29 one of the younger sons of Hurt happened to look under the house and discovered Creffield.

 

When taken out he was so famished and weakened that he could barely stand, and it was then discovered that during the first week of his stay and up to the time of her commitment to the asylum, Mrs. Hurt had knowledge of his presence there and had few him and attended to his wants.

 

When tried he was sentenced to a two-years term in the penitentiary which he served. This, he said, was his death from which he would arise with greater divine glory.

 

 

HEADLINES IN DIFFERENT PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLESeattle Daily Times Front Page

Seattle Daily Times 5/8/1906

Justifiable Homicide?

 

Corvallis Times 5/11/1906 p1

Justifiable Homicide?

If Corvallis Stories Are True Mitchell Will Go Free!

 

(In a box in the Seattle Daily Times)

If the stories from Oregon, to the effect that Creffield was the leader of an immoral sect and had been the cause of breaking up many homes, sending many women to the insane asylum and debauching many young girls, prove true, then Mitchell will be justified for his deed in the eyes of the majority of the people, particularly if his own sisters were involved in the Corvallis Orgies.

 

SHOULD HE BE PUNISHED?

 

ACCORDING to legal bookworms, the killing of “Joshua” Creffield by George Mitchell yesterday morning was murder in the first degree. According to fathers with families and to brothers with defenseless sisters it comes within the same category of the law as the killing of a mad dog. It is, perhaps, proper that in cases where human life is at stake there should be some such difference of opinion in order to discourage too hasty judgment by individuals.

 

If this man who was instantly killed on one of the most prominent street corners of the city was the debased brute, clothed in a cloak of religion, he is said to be, George Mitchell deserves immediate freedom that he may display the gold medal his old neighbors in Oregon wish him to wear.

 

If the statements made by this young man and others in any way approach the truth, he has merely gone straight at a task for which his duty to his family and the community made him the proper instrument.

 

In accomplishing it he seems to have shown straightforwardness of purpose and a high disregard for selfish fears about the consequences. His work was to take a life for the removal of which the law did not provide the means. It was not lynch law--this is usurpation of the functions of the courts. In such cases as this, the courts are powerless. The old, primitive, animal law holds, and this was its fulfillment.

 

It is dangerous, perhaps, to say that every man whose women-folk are injured in such a manner should take the life of the man responsible, yet it is a law which has held good and true in the main all through the ages since the doctrine of “Free Love,” which this man is declared to have taught, was confined to the minds of hypocritical libertines, who still use it for their own purposes in the guise of religious or sociological teachings.

 

Yet when a case is fully established, the crime of the man and the helplessness of the woman proven, the inability of the courts to measure out any adequate punishment is usually made only too clear.

 

Consider, then, a weapon in the hands of the man whom society expects to lay down his life, if necessary, to protect his helpless ones. There is not much to be said on the side of a law which places his act in killing the destroyer of his home alongside the miscreant who shoots down a traveler to rob him of his purse.

 

It may not be technically correct to take the life of such a scoundrel--but if there were more men like George Mitchell there would be fewer human beasts and still fewer broken, ruined women in insane asylums and on the streets.

 

George Mitchell is in the county jail. There has been no denial that the man whom he killed was all that Mitchell says he was. If the Oregon stories are true, the issue is plain.

 

The verdict will be largely a matter of public opinion.

 

 

HEADLINES IN DIFFERENT PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE

Evening Telegram (Portland) 5/8/1906

Gold Medal For George Mitchell Who Killed Holy Roller Apostle

Slayer of Creffield, Leader of “Holy Roller” Fanatics, Will Be Rewarded by Corvallis, Oregon, Citizens. Father of Dead Man’s Widow Comes to Seattle to Arrange for Defense of Boy Who Revenged Wrongs to Sisters. Body of the Self-Styled Joshua Will Probably Be Laid Away in the Potter’s Field at Expense of King County.

Seattle Paper Commends Taking Off of Creffield. Hurt Reaches The City. Father of Dead Holy Roller’s Wife Will Do All He Can for the Defense of George Mitchell, the Slayer.

Father-in-Law of Dead Prophet Says Popular Subscription to Provide Reward for Slayer Has Been Started.

 

Seattle Daily Times 5/8/1906 p1

Mitchell to Get Medal For Murder

 

Morning Oregonian (Portland) 5/9/1906 p6

Justifies The Shot

 

[Telegram Coast Special]

GEORGE MITCHELL, the slayer of Franz Edmund Creffield, the self-styled “Joshua”, leader of the band of fanatics calling themselves the “Holy Rollers,” is to be presented with a handsomely engraved gold medal as a reward for shooting to death Creffield on First Avenue yesterday morning. When the medal is presented Mitchell will probably be the only man in the country who has been so honored for a murder.

 

The donors are to be a committee of respectable citizens of Corvallis, Oregon where Creffield and his band created so much excitement and indignation three years ago. The man who brought the word to Seattle that the gold medal is forthcoming is O. V. Hurt, a Corvallis resident, and the father of Maude Hurt Creffield, the dead “prophet’s” widow.

 

The man who brought word to Seattle that the gold medal is forthcoming is O.V. Hurt, a Corvallis man, and father of Maud Hurt Creffield, the dead prophet’s widow.

 

Hurt arrived in Seattle this morning, and to officers whom he saw at the depot he announced that he had come here for the purpose of taking care of his daughter, but mainly to make arrangements for the defense of George Mitchell, who has been removed to the county jail to await trial on the charge of first degree murder.

 

JOY GREETS DEATH NEWS

 

O. V. Hurt declares that as soon as the news reached Corvallis that Creffield had been killed by Mitchell a committee of citizens at once started a subscription for the purpose of raising money to present Mitchell with a medal and to hire a good criminal lawyer to defend him.

 

“Mitchell’s friends, or more especially the good citizens who were opposed to Creffield’s immoral teachings, will go to the limit of their resources to defend the young man,” said Hurt. “We do not propose, if it is in our power to prevent, to have Mitchell punished for an act which deserves commendation. It would have been better had that fraud’s life been ended long ago. There would have been fewer unhappy families in Corvallis.”

 

Hurt says that the minute the news of Creffield’s death reached the Oregon town that it spread like wildfire and that there was universal joy. For weeks persons in Corvallis who had been disgraced through the influence that Creffield had on members of their families had been searching for the Holy Roller leader. He had been driven from one town to another, and for a month lynching was threatened. It was generally believed that it was only a question of time until some citizen feeling the outrage that had been perpetrated upon him, would take the law into his own hands.

 

OTHERS SOUGHT FANATIC’S LIFE

“Mitchell’s well-aimed shot spared others the trouble of sending Creffield to an eternity that he deserved.” said Hurt in substance.

 

Hurt’s entire family at one time was under the spell of this religious fanatic. It was at Hurt’s home in Corvallis that some of the disgraceful scenes of the Holy Rollers were enacted. Hurt himself was once under the influence, but it didn’t take him long to throw it off, and since then he has been one of Creffield’s most pronounced enemies.

 

At one time during the orgies of the Holy Rollers, all the furniture in the Hurt House was piled in a heap in the front yard and set on fire by Creffield who announced that it was a burnt offering to God; that religious people had no right to have furniture for furniture was a luxury. At another time live cats and dogs were offered up in the fires while Creffield went through his incantations and worked himself and his followers into a frenzy of emotion.

A short time prior to the date that the Corvallis people captured Creffield and tarred and feathered him, he succeeded in inducing Maude Hurt, O. V. Hurt’s daughter to marry him. Creffield his in the woods after he was tarred and under the cover of night returned to the Hurt house where he crawled beneath the floor and remained a week, where he was fed by Mrs. Creffield.

 

SENT TO PRISON

 

Later Creffield sought refuge in the house of B. E. Starr at Portland. During his stay there the husband of Mrs. Starr filed a charge against him that led to his sentence of two years in the penitentiary. Mrs. Creffield in the meantime had become insane and was sent to an asylum about the same time that Creffield went to the Salem prison. Mrs. Starr is a sister of George Mitchell, the slayer. Mitchell also claims that Creffield enticed his younger sister Ester into the ranks of the Holy Rollers and disgraced her for life. For there two acts Mitchell swore revenge.

 

After a time Mrs. Creffield was discharged from the insane asylum. She returned to her home in Corvallis and while away from the influence of Creffield, appeared to improve. Creffield was finally released from prison and after a short time again got into communication with his wife, who had in the meantime secured a divorce. She came and as already told in The Time he remarried he here April 3 and induced Frank Hurt to again join the Holy Rollers, which he attempted to reorganize at Waldport, Or.

 

TO LOOK AFTER DAUGHTER

O. V. Hurt has little to say about his daughter, Creffield’s widow, other than that he would see that she is well taken care of. Mitchell is in the county jail, and at the advice of his counsel, Will Morris, has refrained since yesterday from making any public statements. Mrs. Creffield is at the home of the police matron, and she too refuses to talk today, saying that she has been advised by the prosecuting attorney to say no more.

 

Just what will be done with the body of Creffield has not been decided. When killed he had $21 in money and a watch.  It is probable that this money will be given to his widow and the body laid away at the expense of King County.

 

Among the effects found in the clothing of Creffield after he was shot were several envelopes addressed to “E. Sandell, Seattle, Wash., General Delivery.” The letters had been removed from the envelopes. They came from Albany, Waldport and other towns in Oregon, and it is believed that Creffield used the name “E. Sandell” to throw followers off his track. It is supposed the letters were from the few followers of his creed which he had gathered together after his release from prison.

 

MYSTERIOUS NOTE

 

A loose note without date, and written with a lead pencil, reads as follows: “I arrived in Seattle this morning. Father sent me to be the connecting link between you and Jim. Without me you would cut yourself loose and Jim could not live. My faith was tried in Albany. Satan was there rebuked. Meet me on the corner of Frederick & Nelson’s.                        “DEBRIAH.”

 

The coroner’s office, which has the letter, has not determined the meaning of the contents. Who is Jim and who the person who signed the note are not known.

 

 

Seattle Daily Times 5/10/96

Doings of Holy Rollers at Corvallis Ira Bray

 

CORVALLIS, Wednesday, May 9.--”I got my man. Am in Jail.” These words flashed over the wire told that young George Mitchell, crazed by the debauching of his sisters by Edmund Creffield, had sent the soul of the self-styled Joshua of the Holy Rollers to be judged by the God whose prophet he claimed to be. Had Burt Starr, Lewis Hartley, George Baldwin, Ira Bray, Clarence Starr or other relatives of Creffield’s victims met him fist it would be one of them and not George Mitchell who would be charged with the death of this prophet.

 

Two years ago Creffield was sent to the Oregon penitentiary upon the sworn testimony of Mrs. Burt Starr of Portland, a sister of young Mitchell. During the imprisonment of the Holy Roller leader, women members of his flock, who had been sent to the insane asylum recovered their reason and returned to their homes. Freed from the influence of Creffield, they have confessed to husbands, fathers and brothers such a revolting tale of his practices that he was doomed, and it was only a question of which one of a half dozen men reached him first.

Creffield was first heard of at Grants Pass seven years ago. At that time he was a Lieutenant in the Salvation Army and together with Captain Dodson of the corps sang and marched in the streets of that city. So little interest, however was taken in their work that they often went hungry and finally Dodson proposed that they apply for work on a public sewer, as landlord Winters, with whom they were stopping had threatened to throw them out. Dodson went to work, but Creffield demurred, saying that the Salvation Army owed him a living, and with his blankets on his back he tramped out of town.

 

The next summer, in 1901, he was in Corvallis, still a lieutenant with the Salvation Army, but before he was there long he had a row with some of his fellow workers, and left for Salem where he was next heard of assisting in Holiness Meetings being held at the campground near there by the Ryan Brothers.

 

It was here that he became acquainted with some of those who afterward became identified with the Holy Rollers. These were Mrs. Victor Hurt, her son Frank, and Miss Maude, who is now Mrs. Creffield.

 

In November, 1902, Creffield again appeared in Corvallis. This time accompanied by a preacher named Mercer, and these two began to hold services in the old Salvation Army building, announcing that they had come to found a new church. They were very abusive to all other denominations, but proclaimed themselves the elect of God. They taught that all forms of mental and bodily suffering could be cured by the laying on of hands, and claimed special powers for themselves along this line. They also taught the possibility of a personal communion with God and claimed that they had reached a state of spiritual perfection that made this possible for them and that they at all times were acting under divine direction.

 

From the very first they seemed to acquire an influence with those who afterwards became members of ‘God’s Elect’ that seemed to be something of an hypnotic nature. During the winter of 1902 Creffield and Mercer spent several months at The Dalles, but receiving little encouragement they returned to Corvallis in the summer of 1903. The Starr Brothers, Burt and Clarence, with their families, were camped on Kiger’s Island about three miles above town, where the men were engaged in cutting wood to fill a contract. Mrs. Victor Hurt, their sister, and her family took their tent to the island for an outing as later on did other former members of Creffield and Mercer’s congregation. Here they were found by these ministers of God’s Elect, and a revival meeting was begun.

 

It was at this time that some of Creffield’s peculiar doctrines began to creep out. Becoming jealous of Mercer, he soon announced that God had revealed to him that he was the real leader, and that Mercer was insincere, etc. In this way he soon got rid of his fellow worker. He also announced that God desired that he be no longer called Edmund Creffield, but that new name must be given him. Another revelation produced the name and “Joshua, the Prophet of God” appeared on the scene.

 

He also instituted the long prayer service, lasting at times all day and night, during which he encouraged a religious frenzy that developed into the rolling and tumbling that later on gave his followers the cognomen of ‘Holy Rollers.’ As he gradually strengthened his influence over his followers he began to weed out those who hesitated to believe that he was divine. He claimed to have revelations about such people that turned his other members against them and soon caused them to pack their belongings and leave.

 

He was particularly anxious to get rid of the men, and soon disgusted all but Frank Hurt, Levins, Campbell, and Brooks. The last was a former Salvation Army man whom Creffield persuaded to leave the army and join in with him. Brooks afterwards became his right-hand bower and stuck to Creffield til the tar and feather episode which happened later on.

 

Among those who left the island, severing connection at this time with the rollers were Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Starr, Mr. and Mrs. Bert Sharp, Burt Starr, and James Berry. The latter, a well-known businessman of the city was never a convert, but used to ride out from town in his automobile to attend the services and visit with the campers. Creffield told him on one occasion that he had just been told by God that Berry was to sell his machine and turn over the proceeds to help build a temple. Berry could not see the proposition in that light, and was immediately informed that his presence at the meetings was no longer desired.

 

Up to this time Creffield had professed a horror of all things carnal; personal purity was a favorite theme of his, and he broke up an engagement between young Campbell and Sophia Hartley, two of his flock, claiming that the relation of man and wife was unholy, and under his teaching wives refused to return to their homes, and daughters were led to believe that they must accept nothing from unbelieving parents.

 

During the latter part of the meetings on the island, he began to introduce his ideas in regard to free love, which later on became the principal part of his religion, which finally landed him in prison and which is today responsible for his death. He here “endowed” his lady followers with the “grace of love.” To carry out this ceremony it was necessary to retire with him to a tent and there engage in a long prayer service, at the end of which the disciple was supposed to put her arms around his neck and kiss him. Some of the girls refused to carry out this part of the program, and were immediately denounced by him as being “carnal and of the Devil.”

 

After the Kiger Island meetings broke up, services were resumed at the residence of Victor Hurt in this city, and as they continued the actions the Hurt residence was surrounded by a mob of 300 who had gathered with the attention of giving Creffield and Brooks a ducking.  Failing this, they stoned the residents and tore up shrubbery and walk.

 

At this time the Holy Rollers began to burn their clothing, jewelry, furniture, etc., because Creffield declared that all such were carnal and must be destroyed. Following this demonstration by the citizens of Corvallis Creffield, and Brooks disappeared for a time, next appearing a couple of months later at the home of Frank Hurt, situated just across the river in Lynn County. Campbell and Levins soon appeared on the scene and six women, five of whom were young girls, all former members of Creffield's ‘Gods Elect,’ gathered to do the prophet honor. It was here that Creffield consummated his long laid plan as to free love, and it is necessary to draw a veil over the peculiar ceremonies inaugurated by him and participated in by those who believed that he could do no wrong. Wesley Seeley, a new convert, refused to become a party to the practices urged by Creffield and was thrown out. Through him an inkling leaked out as to what was going on, and one January night 20 determined men surrounded the house, captured Creffield and Brooks, or Levins and Campbell, escorted them into Benton County, where they were tarred and feathered and warned to leave the country under the penalty of being hung to the nearest tree if they returned.

 

Brooks has never been heard of since, but Creffield returned to Frank Hurt’s home, where, with his assistance the sticky covering was removed. Early next morning he and Maud Hurt drove to Albany and were made man and wife.

 

The apostle was next heard of in Portland, where Burt Starr swore out a warrant against him, his victims being the sisters of George Mitchell. Creffield, hearing of the warrant escaped from Portland, and was not seen for four months. Rewards aggregating $300 were offered for his capture.

 

In the meantime, his followers in the city began to show signs of insanity. They appeared on the streets bare headed and bare footed, and scantily clothed, and when questioned would invariably answer ‘blessed be Jesus.’ One after another they were arrested, examined, and confined to the asylum until only the wife of Louis Hartley remained. Those so committed were Mrs. Victor Hurt, Mrs. Maud Creffield, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hurt, Attie Bray, Sophie Hartley, and Rose Seeley. Mae Hurt, age 16 years, and Esther Mitchell, age 15, were sent to the boys and Girls’ Aid Society of Portland as they were too young to send to the asylum.

 

Esther Mitchell was the young sister of George Mitchell and when she fell victim to Creffield's teaching the quite harmless young men determined upon vengeance. Only deferred by Creffield's imprisonment and which was fanned by the recent occurrences which proved that they were again under the influences of the Holy Roller control. Late in June Roy Hurt, an adopted son of Victor Hurt while playing around the house looked underneath and saw a man (text illegible) Coming to town he reported to his father his discovery and the officers hurried to the scene and dragged out to the light Creffield, naked, dirty, emaciated, and unshaven. In a shallow pit under the house he had lived under the house for four months fed by the members of his flock. With this (text illegible) After the men of the family had departed to their daily labor, Creffield would emerge and hold services in the back room of the house, at which times he sought by example to teach how (text illegible) was the use of clothes of any kind.

 

As his followers were sent away to the asylum (illegible)

 

He went to Los Angeles and from there sent letters (illegible) to Esther (illegible).

 

They met at the home of Frank Hurt in Seattle and were married. Frank was persuaded to give up his position there, convert his furniture into money, about $300, and himself and wife, a daughter of Frank Sandell of Seattle, accompany him to the Oregon coast where a new camp was formed on the Yachats south of Waldport.

 

Here his old followers began to gather around him, and at the same time the relatives of his victims began to close in on him determined to put an end to the man. Lewis Hartley followed him to the Coast, and young Mitchell came in from Portland. Ira Bray, father of Attie Bray, also took the trail. Creffield learned in some way of their intentions and disappeared, leaving his followers to look out for themselves. Young Mitchell, however, believing that Mrs. Creffield knew of the prophet’s destination, and seeking his two sisters, followed her to Seattle, where (text illegible) Creffield, he fired the shot that stopped for all time the practices of the Holy Roller leader.

 

 

Seattle Daily Times 5/10/1906 p1

Bullet Only Way to Save His Sisters

 

Joshua Creffield was buried today with the deluded remnant of his flock still insisting that he would arise from the dead within four days. The strange power he has held over his people for four years still endures over the handful to whom his hypocrisy has not even yet been made apparent and the divinity of his person which he taught them still holds a footing in the minds of men and women whose intellects have been shuttered as their ideas of moral and proper living have been debased under his tuition.

 

George Mitchell, to whose straight shooting the world in general, and Corvallis, Oregon, in particular, owes the removal of this “Prophet” is in a cell of the county jail where he is welcomed even by the criminals around him as a man who has done something good in the world. As a mark of good fellowship he was hauled before the “Kangaroo Court” yesterday and fined $2.50, which represented his worldly capital.

 

This is mentioned simply to throw some light upon the character of this young man to whom a reporter for the Times talked at length in the presence of his attorney, Will H. Morris, this morning. Aside from the fact that Mitchell has never before been in jail, he had not even heard of this “kangaroo court,” the existence of which is known to every man in the country whose habits or associations lands him anywhere near a jail or men who unwillingly frequent it.

 

George Mitchell might be taken as a composite of the honest, simple farmer boy who more than one wise man has said forms the backbone of the American nation, as the type furnishes the material for the best of its soldiery. Sandy-haired, somewhat freckled, with large hands that show the signs of the work that has been necessary since he was a small boy, this young man of 23 years looks upon life from the simple viewpoint of a quiet unostentatious worker in the toll of the world. Some men call him a hero. Others declare he is a cowardly murderer.

 

Pleaded with Sisters

If you should ask him which he was he would not know how to answer. And right there is the keynote to the character of this youth who has imperiled his neck and his liberty in defense of the sisters whom he and others declare this dead man has ruined and debased.

 

“I did my best to keep them away from him,” this boy said. “I argued and pleaded with my sisters. Sometimes I was successful and hoped that they had forgotten, as I tried to forget and forgive. I had my own living to make, and you can’t make enough in a lumber mill or a lath factory to give up all your time to such things. I helped to send this man to the penitentiary, hoping that while he was there my sisters would recover from the influence he had on them. I don’t know what you call it. I don’t know what hypnotism is exactly, but maybe it was that. My married sister called it a spell,” whatever that is. But anyway, I though they would get over it, and I thought they did.

 

“My sister, Mrs. Starr, told her husband that she was sorry for what she had done, that she hadn’t meant to do anything wrong and that she didn’t know shy she had done as this man bid her. She said she realized it all now and that she would never again do these things which he had led her to do.

 

“Her husband forgave he and life for all of us seemed to be worth living again. My little sister Ethel (sic) who is 18 years old talked the same way. We sent her back to Illinois where we came from for a time, and when she came back she went to work in a woolen mill in Oregon City and seemed to be all right. I think she had some idea of getting married, but she never told me herself.

 

REGAINING CONTROL OF GIRLS

 

“Then they let this man Creffield out of the penitentiary. He wrote letters to my sisters. He soon influenced Ester to go to his camp at Waldport and about two weeks ago my brother-in-law, Burt Starr, awakened and found my other sister gone. There was a note she had left. She said good-bye and that she was going to leave him forever. She said she couldn’t go in the daytime because the children would cry and want to go with her and that she couldn’t stand that. She said she had taken $3.50, but she thought she had been worth that much to him. she said she wasn’t taking even enough to pay her railroad fare to the place she was going and that she would have to walk.

 

“We found out the truth a few days later, although we had guessed it from the first, because this man Creffield taught them that it was holy to break up families and desert husbands and children. We found out that she had walked the ninety miles to Waldport and was again with this man Creffield.

 

“As soon as I found out that he was in Seattle I came here. I guess you know what happened. Everything else that I had tried wouldn’t do any good. I won’t say anything more about that man, but I’m not afraid. I won’t be afraid whatever they do to me. I realize that it is a serious matter without Mr. Morris telling me that it is. But I know what was going on down there in Oregon and I get some satisfaction out of knowing that it can’t go on any longer

 

UNUSED TO NOTORIETY

 

Mitchell said this sitting on a stool in the visitors’ cell at the jail, with his big browned hands twisting in a nervous clutch, but with his eyes looking straight out at his questioner. He isn’t used to the limelight, and it was this that made him nervous. There was not the slightest trace of an appreciation of the fact that he had done anything unusual or that he was any more interesting to the world than when he worked at his place in the mills of Portland.

 

In response to questions he said that he had never carried a revolver before in his life, because he had never any occasion to and despite his straight shooting upon this one occasion said that he had never fired more than a few times when he was a youngster. He was born in Illinois and his father now lives there at Bluford, in the southeastern part of the state. The family came to Oregon when the children were young and the father settled his family upon a ranch. There, the mother died when the boy was 12 years old, leaving the father with the boy, the two sisters who have been mentioned and an older one who has never been connected with the Creffield scandals and who Mitchell desires to keep out of it.

 

He himself had lived in Corvallis, Portland and other places in Oregon, working in the mills and supporting himself. He shared his earnings with his younger sister until he found out that the money he worked for and sent to her was steadily finding its way into Creffield’s pockets, and then he says he stopped.

 

WERE GOOD GIRLS

 

“They were good Christian girls he said, speaking of his sisters, “until this man came along. They met him in a Salvation Army mission when he was an officer of the army. They believed in him and thought he was a godly man. I guess they believe in him yet. In spite of the fact that he has ruined them and disgraced the rest of us. I tried to make them see it like we and everybody else saw it, but it was no use as long as he was around. Well, he ain’t around now.”

 

On the subject of his movements and motives after he found that his two sisters were again victims of Creffield, Mitchell is silent. He will say nothing about it. He has been made to realize that the law terms his act in protecting his sisters and other deluded women murder and that a determined and guarded defense may be made by men who hold close to the letter of the statute books.

 

Indeed, John F. Miller, assistant prosecuting attorney, is determined upon a rigid prosecution of what he calls deliberated, cold-blooded murder. Mr. Miller is inclined to be somewhat indignant.

 

“There are two sides to this case,” he said today. “In my mind it is the worst murder that has been committed since I have been in Seattle and it seems strange that if public opinion in Oregon is in the mood it is represented to be, that these people could not have done their killing down there without picking one of the most prominent corners in Seattle as the wash-line for their dirty linen.”

Mrs. Creffield declines to be seen by newspaper men. She is in a highly nervous condition and both at her own request and that of the prosecuting attorney all interviews are denied.

___

(right under this was the following article)

Polygamy will be up for discussion before the Southern Presbyterian general assembly this month. Dr. S. S. Laws of Virginia, having charged that some of the missionaries of the church at Leubo, Africa, have received into church membership certain converts who have not abandoned their plural wives. Dr. Laws has appealed to the assembly for positive orders forbidding any missionaries to admit a polygamist convert into the church until he has discarded every wife except the first one married. Dr. Laws recommends, however, that converts who so renounce plural wives shall have church aid in providing suitably for the wives and children put away.

Holy Rollers

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***

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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

***

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

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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

***

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

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

(541) 563-3112

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Theresa (T-) McCracken