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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 18, 190: Creffield Railed In Vermont


George & Perry Mitchell & ShipleyCorvallis Gazette 5/18/1906 p3

Lewis Hartley has filed suit for divorce from his wife, Cora A. Hartley. The complaint is of a sensational character. W. S. McFadden is attorney for the plaintiff.



Corvallis Gazette 5/18/1906 p4

Wednesday, five women, the last inhabitants of the Holy Roller camp near Waldport, arrived in this city. It is sincerely hoped that with the death of Creffield they will henceforth walk in the paths approved by all good citizens.


Seattle Star 5/18/1906 p1

Expert Writes on Creffield Case

Norman H. Nesbitt, A Portland Psychologist, Discusses the Hypnotic Features of the Career of Dead Holy Roller.


That no person can be induced to commit an immoral act without there exists a predisposition or willingness on the part of the “subject.”


In the view taken by Norman H. Nesbitt, a practicing psychologist of Portland, Ore., in his investigations regarding the Creffield case. He treats the slaying of the Holy Roller leader by George Mitchell and the sway which Creffield held over his subjects from a psychological point of view, in an interesting letter to Mr. Trimble of the firm of Trimble and Esterly, Portland attorneys. The letter, which has been delivered to Mitchell’s attorneys by L. V. Newcomb is as follows:

“To answer to you questions regarding the use of suggestion of hypnotism to the Creffield case I would state that this case presents the difficulties to modern experiment psychology.


Without further preamble let me say without qualification that no person can be induced under the influence of hypnosis to commit an immoral act unless there exists a predisposition on the part of the ‘subject’ to commit such offense in the waking state. Such tendency might never be observed or evoked during the previous lifetime of the subject, but a strict examination of the family history, environment, temperament, and general moral tendencies, the black streak would be found without fail. All that is necessary to bring out the latent criminal impulse is sufficient incentive or apparent opportunity, real or imagined.


“Here is where the culpability of the criminal suggester or hypnotist enters into the equation. He is responsible for furnishing the incentive and inducement--in Creffield’s case his hyperemotional victims were promised eternal bliss and creating the opportunity. At the same time it must be noted that no criminal could influence a moral, conscientiously moral person, for suggestion only works successfully along the line of least resistance, in other words, the moral consciousness, or ‘conscience’ cannot be set aside, either in the hypnotic or waking states.

“The ‘Holy Roller’ case presents a nice opportunity for expert testimony in regard to its peculiar psychological aspects. The conclusions of theory without practice are frequently far from reliable.”



Seattle Post Intelligencer 5/18/1906 p5

Mitchell to Enter Plea Tomorrow


George Mitchell, charged with the murder of Franz Edmund Creffield, the leader of the Holy Rollers, will enter his plea in the superior court tomorrow, and there is much conjecture as to what course his attorneys will pursue in conducting the defense.


Will H. Morris, one of the prisoner’s attorneys, states that he will fight the case to the last point, but he refuses to say what the plea of his client will be. The possibility of Mitchell’s attorneys trying the case on a plea of their client having been temporarily insane is considered by officials in the prosecuting attorney’s office as being the most probable course that will be pursued, for in this way testimony may be entered in the trial of the case that otherwise will be excluded.

G. C. Moser, deputy under John Manning, district attorney for Multnomah County in Oregon, is in the city in attendance at the K. of P. convention, and he is taking a deep interest in the case. He spent some time with Mitchell’s attorneys yesterday and also paid a visit to Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh.



Seattle Daily Times 5/18/1906 p4

Creffield Driven From Vermont

Holy Roller Leader Horsewhipped by Angry Citizens While Addressing Camp Meeting in East in 1899.


As long ago as 1899 Edmund Creffield was preaching the same doctrine that recently resulted in his tragic death on the streets of Seattle. Fred Dow, whose home is at Johnston, Vt., but who is now in the city preparing to take mining machinery into Alaska, conveyed to Morris & Shipley, the attorneys for George Mitchell, Creffield’s slayer, the information today that he had seen Creffield in the far East.


In the latter part of 1899 Creffield appeared at Johnston, Vt., and addressed a camp meeting there. He was introduced as “the cyclone orator of the West.” His talk was made up of such filth and vulgarity that the people pulled him from the pulpit, horsewhipped him and ran him out of town.


Creffield advocated many of the indecent acts that he committed in Oregon while leader of the Holy Rollers.


The self-styled Joshua, who now lies beneath a mound in Lake View Cemetery, the victim of a man who shot to avenge the wrongs done to his sisters, did not again show up in Vermont, and Mr. Dow did not hear of him again until he learned of his death in Seattle.



Seattle Star 5/18/1906 p1

Creffield Railed In Vermont

Holy Roller Leader Then Styled Himself ‘The Western Cyclone,’ But People Refused to Tolerate His Actions.


Edmund Creffield, who was slain in this city recently by George Mitchell, as a result of Holy Rollerism, had gained some notoriety in the east years ago from his strange religious creed, according to statements by Fred M. Dow, who is now stopping at the Hotel Northern.


In 1899, according to Mr. Dow, Creffield, then known as the “Western Cyclone,” appeared at a camp meeting in Johnston, Vt., and became so indecent in his religious protestations that a committee of indignant citizens rode him out of town on a rail.


Mr. Dow will not be used as a witness for the defense in the trial to come, but he was in session with Mitchell’s attorneys this afternoon relative to the information which he possessed of Creffield’s actions at Johnston, and according to his statements, the slain self-styled “Joseph” was given such drastic treatment at Johnston that he never showed up again.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 5/20/1906 p5

F. M. Dow Denies Knowing Creffield

Asks the Post-Intelligencer to Refute Statements Attributed to Him.


Fred M. Dow, who has been quoted by an afternoon paper as saying that he knew Creffield, the Holy Roller in Vermont, used very vigorous language yesterday to a Post-Intelligencer reporter in denying that the alleged interview with him had the slightest shadow of foundation.


“It is true,” says Mr. Dow, “that during a conversation about the matter I incidentally mentioned to a personal friend the tactics religious or otherwise attributed to Creffield reminded me of another prophet who held sway in Johnson, Vt. some years ago, but I never said that the two men were identical.


“I do not say this thru want of sympathy for Mitchell, tho in passing I may say I feel no lack of it, but I do not desire to be put on record as holding a man up to obloquy for acts which I have no knowledge of, and which I should not be quoted as having ascribed to him.


“I did not speak to another being on the subject and the publicity given remarks to which I have never given utterance lead me to believe those in charge of Mitchell’s defense have taken unwarrantable steps. I leave here today at 3 p.m., but I was unwilling to do so without having given the Post-Intelligencer the facts as they occurred.”

Holy Rollers

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Newspaper Articles about Creffield & the Holy Rollers

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

1900:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1901:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1902:Holy Rollers' Lives Creffield

January 18, 1903: Fred Mitchell Attempts Suicide

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

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

November 2, 1903: Fanatics In Court

November 3, 1903: Had Promise of Tar and Feathers

November 4, 1903: Flight of The Apostles

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

November 6, 1903: Rollers Take On New Life

November 7, 1903: Is Creffield Back?

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

November 24, 1903: Girl of Sixteen Almost Insane

November 25, 1903: In Pursuit of Creffield

November 27, 1903: The Lord May Starve Them

November 28, 1903: Holy Rollers Receive Unwilling Baptism

December 7, 1903: Demented Woman Suffers

December 8, 1903: Hurt Seen In Portland

December 11, 1903:Holy Rollers Roll Into Eugene Church

December 21, 1903:Holy Roller Victim Worse

December 22, 1903: Linn County Holy Rollers

December 23, 1903: Is Crazy Now

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

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

January 6, 1904: Holy Rollers Tarred and Feathered

January 9, 1904: Their Welcome Departure

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

January 13, 1904: Where Brooks Went

January 19, 1904: Our Brainy Contemporaries

January 25: Holy Rollers’ in Hobo Camp Life

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

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

February 11, 1904: Medium Mystify Corvallis People

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

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

March 17, 1904: Where is the Apostle?

March 21, 1904: Reward For Creffield's Capture

March 23, 1904: Fugitive Creffield

March 28, 1904: Reward is Offered

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

April 18, 1904: Holy Roller High Priest Is Seen

April 29, 1904: Urania Seeley is Arrested

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

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

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

June 11, 1904: Attie Bray Escapes

June 17, 1904: Mae Hurt is Committed

June 29, 1904: Sarah Hurt is Committed

July 22, 1904: Holy Roller on Death Row

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

July, 30 1904: Armed Guards Protect Creffield

July, 31 1904: Corvallis Could Not Raise a Mob

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

August 2, 1904: Creffield Does Not Dislike Prison

August 4, 1904: Creffield Says He Is Entirely Purified

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

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

August 9, 1904: No Flowers For Creffield

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

August 16, 1904; Creffield Reward Will Be Returned

August 19, 1904: Followers in Asylum Stick To Faith

August 23, 1904: Creffield Will Fight His Own Case

August 28, 1904: Creffield Destroys His Revelations

September 16, 1904: Creffield is Guilty

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

March 22, 1905: Prison Life Of Joshua Creffield>

April 8, 1905: Life In Corvallis Returns to Normal

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

April 24, 1906: Creffield Establishes a Camp Near Waldport

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

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

May 3, 1906: Creffield In Fear Of His Life

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

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

May 9, 1906: Oregon Prosecutor Would Aid Mitchell

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

May 11, 1906: Bail Is All Ready

May 12, 1906: Mitchell Denied Bail

May 13, 1906: Creffield is Due To Rise Today

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

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

May 16, 1906: Holy Rollers Starving Near Heceta Head

May 17, 1906: Public Sentiment Favors Mitchell

May 18, 1906: Creffield Railed in Vermont

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

May 27, 1906: Joshua Says Not to Worry

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

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

June 19, 1906: Many Witnesses For Mitchell

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

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

June 26, 1906: Mitchell Jury is Selected With Care

June 27, 1906: Mitchell Trial Held Up By Squabble

June 28, 1906:  Jury is Secured to Try Mitchell

June 29, 1906: Trial is Now on in Earnest

June 30, 1906: Mrs. Creffield's Testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 7, 1906: Insanity Expert on the Witness Stand

July 8, 1906: Plan To Revive Holy Rollerism

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

July 10, 1906: Mitchell Case Goes To Jury

July 11, 1906: Not Guilty

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

July 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Kills Her Brother!

July 14, 1906: Mitchell Boys Are Done With Esther

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

July 16: 1906: Will Mortgage His Home for Daughter

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

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

July 19, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail

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

July 21, 1906: Mitchell Boys to Stand by Esther

July 22, 1906: Hurt Thinks Both Women Are Insane

July 23, 1906: Frater Favors a Commission of Alienists

July 24, 1906: Mackintosh Will Oppose Calling Commission

July 26, 1906: Is Reconciled to Holy Roller Wife

July 27, 1906: Holy Rollers Seek Home in Wyoming

July 28, 1906: Mitchell Juror is Insane

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

July 31 1906: Esther Mitchell Says Not Guilty

August 1, 1906: Relatives to Help Esther Mitchell

August 4, 1906: Creffield Greatly Hurt True Religion

August 6, 1906: Mitchell Boys in Drunken Row

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

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

August 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Not Seriously Ill

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

September 10 1906: To Examine Minds of Slayers

September 12, 1906: Hurt Thinks His Daughter Insane

September 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Objects to Help

September 14, 1906: Women Not Agitated

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

September 17, 1906: Mrs. Creffield on Stand

September 18, 1906:  Maud Creffield Anxious to Hang

September 19, 1906: Are They Sane of Insane?

September 21, 1906: Both Women May Go Scott Free

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

September 23, 1906: Murders Must Be Tried

September 24, 1906: Must Not Deport

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

September 28, 1906: Insanity Board Not Paid

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

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

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

November 18, 1906: Death May End a Hypnotic Spell

November 19, 1906: Reviews Findings in Examination of Brain

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

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

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

December 4, 1906: Washing Dirty Linen

December 17, 1906: Sad Christmas For Holy Roller

February 21, 1907: Esther Mitchell Goes to Asylum

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

April 6, 1909: Esther Mitchell Leaves Asylum

April 9, 1914: Esther Mitchell Marries James Berry

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

1953 Stewart Holbrook's Murder Without Tears

1951 Startling Detective Magazine: Nemesis of the Nudist High Priest

A List of All the Articles


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

(541) 563-3112


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Theresa (T-) McCracken