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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 14, 1906: Creffield’s Widow Watches At Grave


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

Seattle Star 5/14/1906 p1

Creffield’s Widow Watches At Grave

Fully Expecting ‘Holy Roller’ to Arise Woman Accompanied by Police Matron, Visits Cemetery---Displays No Emotion at Failure of Leader to Arise.


Fully expecting her husband to arise from the grave, as she prophesied immediately after he was shot by George Mitchell, Mrs. Edmund Creffield, wife of Edmund Creffield, Holy Roller leader and self-styled “Joshua,” visited his grave in Lakeview cemetery yesterday.




In company with Police Matron Kelly, the widow of the slain religious fanatic reached the little mound of earth under which his body had been placed last week, and, although she expressed no such statement in words, her mind was evidently fully made up to find the grave empty and her husband come back on earth to “confound his enemies.”




Several avowed followers of the peculiar creed which the dead man preached are known to be in this city, but as far as can be learned they did not appear in the vicinity of the cemetery yesterday. When viewing his remains at the morgue preceding interment these people expressed the same conviction as the dead man’s wife, that he would arise from the grave within four days and come back to earth in the flesh.


While at the grave Mrs. Creffield, according to her companion, Mrs. Kelly, acted the same as anyone would upon viewing the last resting place of someone whom they had held near and dear. The woman did not express herself in words, in fact she has hardly spoken a word since the shooting occurred. Because of the late hour, she was unable to secure any flowers to strew on the grave.



Upon the orders of the prosecuting attorney’s office Mrs. Creffield is kept isolated and is not allowed to talk to strangers or reporters. She appears to be in good health, but is extremely nervous, being able to sleep but little.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 5/14/1906 p12

Creffield Fails to Rise From Dead

Wife of “Joshua” Waits in Vain for Coming of Her Master.


Out in Lake View cemetery the mound still lies undisturbed on the grave of Franz Edmund Creffield, while the wife of the self-proclaimed prophet of chosen people still sits patiently in a room under the charge of the police matron and awaits the coming of her master.


Sunday morning, at 10:45 o’clock, four days after the burial of Creffield, he was announced to rise from the grave and proclaim to the skeptical that the chief of the “holy rollers” was invincible and could not die.


But so far “Joshua” has failed to make his appearance a second time in the flesh, and his widow still sits and homes.


Matron Kelly, of the police department, stated yesterday that Mrs. Creffield had so far maintained a stoical silence regarding the death of her husband, and so far as the matron could observe she had exhibited neither sorrow nor joy at the death of the prophet.



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 5/14/1906 p5

Looks For Spirit

Mrs. Creffield Gives Up Hope of Corporal Resurrection. Minds Seem Affected. Friends of Avenger Mitchell Have Been so Far Long on Sympathy But short on Contributions for the Defense.”


SEATTLE Wash., May 13.--(Special.)-- This was the fourth day after Edmund Creffield’s internment and the time he had (illegible) for rising to rejoin his followers. That he did not return has not worried his widow. She declares Creffield had told her he might return in spirit, and the woman lives in hope that she may (text illegible) and recognize the “Holy Roller’s” spirit somewhere. That the spirit might materialize illegible) itself in another hopeful home(illegible).


Spiritual love and spirit relationship were parts of Creffield’s teachings to his followers. Mrs. Creffield accepted it even in relation to the leader’s resurrection, though at first she thought he would return in the flesh and for that reason refused ( illegible) funeral ceremonies.


Creffield was buried in (illegible) sleeping gown before his internment the undertakers (text illegible)  out his brain to trace the course of the bullet. Moreover, Mrs. Creffield knows that her husband did not know that she was with the police matron and a (illegible) of absent-mindedness or delay in him (text illegible) locating her is not disappointing. Mrs. Creffield did not ask to be taken to the cemetery. In fact she scarcely thinks (text illegible)  of the tragedy. her mind seems to be affected and while grieving over Creffield’s absence, does not discuss it (text illegible). She is still jealously guarded by the police matron, acting under the orders of the Prosecuting Attorney. It is questionable, though, whether she can (illegible) used (illegible) to advantage in the trial.

Despite the volume of sympathy expressed for Mitchell, there is a lack of money for his defense. The Mitchell sympathizers thus far have been long on hope (illegible)  but short on funds. This may (text illegible)  him in arranging the defense.



Seattle Star 5/14/1906 p6

Sister Turns On Mitchell

Girl For Whose Honor He Shot Edmund Creffield Says Brother Had No Reason for His Act---Hopes George Will Repent Before He Pays the Penalty.


“My brother had no occasion to do anything to protect me. There was nothing in common between George and me. I hope he will not be killed until ha has had time to repent of his sins.”


This is the statement made by Miss Esther Mitchell, the 18-year old sister of George Mitchell, and one of the girls for whose sake he claims to have shot and killed Edmund Creffield, the leader of the now famous Holy Rollers, who arrived in Seattle yesterday morning at 7 o’clock from Corvallis.


The statement was made by her to Will H. Morris, the attorney who has been engaged to defend Mitchell and who met the girl at the train when she came in from the south.




Miss Mitchell has been isolated at the police matron’s and has not been allowed to talk to anyone upon orders from the prosecuting attorney. The only statements made by her to anyone since reaching the city were to Mr. Morris and Mr. Shipley, his legal partner, when they accosted her at the train yesterday morning.

“I want to see Maud,” was the first remark of Miss Mitchell, when approached by the attorneys. “Can you take me to her?”


The attorneys led her to the police station and she was later turned over to the charge of Police Matron Kelly.




“I do not want to say anything until I see Maud,” Miss Mitchell replied in answer to several questions the attorneys asked her.


Miss Mitchell was dressed in alight blue jacket, a blue skirt and her baggage was a parcel done up in a newspaper.


Late this afternoon Mrs. Creffield and Miss Mitchell were in conference with Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh and his chief assistant John Miller.



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 5/14/1906 p6

“For whatever wrong he did Mitchell’s sister he paid the penalty in the penitentiary, and Mitchell had no right, after Creffield left the penitentiary, to decide that any additional penalty should be exacted.” Thus reasons King County’s Prosecuting Attorney, who will endeavor to secure the conviction of the man who killed “Holy Roller” Creffield. The desire of Mr. Mackintosh to uphold the dignity of the law and punish all offenders is commendable. He should consider, however, that the intense public sentiment in favor of Mitchell at this time is due to the fact that the penalty was immeasurably inadequate to the crime. There was also nothing to warrant the belief that a heavier penalty would be inflicted in case the law again its course. Perhaps Mr. Mackintosh has no sisters, and is accordingly unable to understand how great a penalty was due the dead Holy Roller.

Holy Rollers

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

And it's all true.

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Newspaper Articles about Creffield & the Holy Rollers

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

1900:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1901:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1902:Holy Rollers' Lives Creffield

January 18, 1903: Fred Mitchell Attempts Suicide

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

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

November 2, 1903: Fanatics In Court

November 3, 1903: Had Promise of Tar and Feathers

November 4, 1903: Flight of The Apostles

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

November 6, 1903: Rollers Take On New Life

November 7, 1903: Is Creffield Back?

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

November 24, 1903: Girl of Sixteen Almost Insane

November 25, 1903: In Pursuit of Creffield

November 27, 1903: The Lord May Starve Them

November 28, 1903: Holy Rollers Receive Unwilling Baptism

December 7, 1903: Demented Woman Suffers

December 8, 1903: Hurt Seen In Portland

December 11, 1903:Holy Rollers Roll Into Eugene Church

December 21, 1903:Holy Roller Victim Worse

December 22, 1903: Linn County Holy Rollers

December 23, 1903: Is Crazy Now

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

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

January 6, 1904: Holy Rollers Tarred and Feathered

January 9, 1904: Their Welcome Departure

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

January 13, 1904: Where Brooks Went

January 19, 1904: Our Brainy Contemporaries

January 25: Holy Rollers’ in Hobo Camp Life

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

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

February 11, 1904: Medium Mystify Corvallis People

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

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

March 17, 1904: Where is the Apostle?

March 21, 1904: Reward For Creffield's Capture

March 23, 1904: Fugitive Creffield

March 28, 1904: Reward is Offered

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

April 18, 1904: Holy Roller High Priest Is Seen

April 29, 1904: Urania Seeley is Arrested

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

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

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

June 11, 1904: Attie Bray Escapes

June 17, 1904: Mae Hurt is Committed

June 29, 1904: Sarah Hurt is Committed

July 22, 1904: Holy Roller on Death Row

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

July, 30 1904: Armed Guards Protect Creffield

July, 31 1904: Corvallis Could Not Raise a Mob

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

August 2, 1904: Creffield Does Not Dislike Prison

August 4, 1904: Creffield Says He Is Entirely Purified

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

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

August 9, 1904: No Flowers For Creffield

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

August 16, 1904; Creffield Reward Will Be Returned

August 19, 1904: Followers in Asylum Stick To Faith

August 23, 1904: Creffield Will Fight His Own Case

August 28, 1904: Creffield Destroys His Revelations

September 16, 1904: Creffield is Guilty

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

March 22, 1905: Prison Life Of Joshua Creffield>

April 8, 1905: Life In Corvallis Returns to Normal

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

April 24, 1906: Creffield Establishes a Camp Near Waldport

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

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

May 3, 1906: Creffield In Fear Of His Life

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

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

May 9, 1906: Oregon Prosecutor Would Aid Mitchell

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

May 11, 1906: Bail Is All Ready

May 12, 1906: Mitchell Denied Bail

May 13, 1906: Creffield is Due To Rise Today

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

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

May 16, 1906: Holy Rollers Starving Near Heceta Head

May 17, 1906: Public Sentiment Favors Mitchell

May 18, 1906: Creffield Railed in Vermont

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

May 27, 1906: Joshua Says Not to Worry

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

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

June 19, 1906: Many Witnesses For Mitchell

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

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

June 26, 1906: Mitchell Jury is Selected With Care

June 27, 1906: Mitchell Trial Held Up By Squabble

June 28, 1906:  Jury is Secured to Try Mitchell

June 29, 1906: Trial is Now on in Earnest

June 30, 1906: Mrs. Creffield's Testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 7, 1906: Insanity Expert on the Witness Stand

July 8, 1906: Plan To Revive Holy Rollerism

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

July 10, 1906: Mitchell Case Goes To Jury

July 11, 1906: Not Guilty

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

July 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Kills Her Brother!

July 14, 1906: Mitchell Boys Are Done With Esther

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

July 16: 1906: Will Mortgage His Home for Daughter

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

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

July 19, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail

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

July 21, 1906: Mitchell Boys to Stand by Esther

July 22, 1906: Hurt Thinks Both Women Are Insane

July 23, 1906: Frater Favors a Commission of Alienists

July 24, 1906: Mackintosh Will Oppose Calling Commission

July 26, 1906: Is Reconciled to Holy Roller Wife

July 27, 1906: Holy Rollers Seek Home in Wyoming

July 28, 1906: Mitchell Juror is Insane

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

July 31 1906: Esther Mitchell Says Not Guilty

August 1, 1906: Relatives to Help Esther Mitchell

August 4, 1906: Creffield Greatly Hurt True Religion

August 6, 1906: Mitchell Boys in Drunken Row

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

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

August 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Not Seriously Ill

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

September 10 1906: To Examine Minds of Slayers

September 12, 1906: Hurt Thinks His Daughter Insane

September 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Objects to Help

September 14, 1906: Women Not Agitated

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

September 17, 1906: Mrs. Creffield on Stand

September 18, 1906:  Maud Creffield Anxious to Hang

September 19, 1906: Are They Sane of Insane?

September 21, 1906: Both Women May Go Scott Free

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

September 23, 1906: Murders Must Be Tried

September 24, 1906: Must Not Deport

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

September 28, 1906: Insanity Board Not Paid

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

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

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

November 18, 1906: Death May End a Hypnotic Spell

November 19, 1906: Reviews Findings in Examination of Brain

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

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

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

December 4, 1906: Washing Dirty Linen

December 17, 1906: Sad Christmas For Holy Roller

February 21, 1907: Esther Mitchell Goes to Asylum

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

April 6, 1909: Esther Mitchell Leaves Asylum

April 9, 1914: Esther Mitchell Marries James Berry

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

1953 Stewart Holbrook's Murder Without Tears

1951 Startling Detective Magazine: Nemesis of the Nudist High Priest

A List of All the Articles


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


The Cast of Characters
Photos and Bios of the Holy Rollers


Holy Rollers' Asylum Commitment Papers


Info for Book Groups

Book Reviews


1903 to 1907 Newspaper Articles About the Holy Rollers

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

Stewart Holbrook Holy Rollers Article

Advertisements from 1893 to 1913


Oregon Insane Asylum
Where the Holy Rollers Were Committed

Creffield, Brainwashing & Thought Reform

Early Cases of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

1906 Autopsies Of Holy Rollers
Forensics Before CSI

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


Comedians on Edmund Creffield

The Shadow Testament
A Play About The Holy Rollers

How the Fire Fell
A Movie About The Holy Rollers


Life in Corvallis in the early 1900s

Life in Waldport, OR in early 1900s

Heaven's Gate

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

Oregon State Penitentiary
Where Creffield Was Incarcerated


Info about Cults

Could you ever be lured into joining a cult?

Share your thoughts about, and experiences with, cults


Creffield's Preachings

Creffield Vs. Crefeld

The Salvation Army Opening Fire in 1886

Holy Roller Theology

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


About the Authors

Theresa (T-) McCracken

Robert B. Blodgett

In addition to writing, McCracken is a cartoonist.

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

McCracken's Blog

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

(541) 563-3112


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Theresa (T-) McCracken