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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 19, 1906: Mitchell to Enter Plea of Not Guilty


George MitchellSeattle Post Intelligencer 5/19/1906

Mitchell to Enter Plea of Not Guilty

Will Deny Guilt of Murder in First Degree in Killing Holy Roller.


When George Mitchell is arraigned in the superior court today to enter a plea to the charge of murder in the first degree he will declare himself not guilty, and his attorneys will ask that the case be set for trial at the earliest possible moment.

Will H. Morris, one of the attorneys for the prisoner, stated last night that this is the course that will be pursued and declared that Mitchell as well as himself is very anxious to have the case thru with at the earliest possible date.



Oregon Daily Journal 5/21/1906

Letters from the People


Portland, May 18.--To the Editor of the Journal--I am unacquainted with the laws, but I think that a man who has committed a premeditated murder such as that of Creffield ought to be tried and treated as murderer, irrespective of the circumstances. Civilization demands it. It seems to me to be incompatible with Christianity to commit murder under any circumstances. Respectfully yours,      HAROLD S. HAGEN




Seattle Daily Times 5/19/1906 p1

Mitchell Enters His Formal Plea


Oregon Daily Journal 5/21/1906

The Creffield Murder.


Oregon Sunday Journal 5/20/1906 p4

Mitchell’s Young Sister Esther to Testify Against Brother


Corvallis Times 5/22/1906 p1

Miss Esther


Evening Telegram (Portland) 5/19/1906 p8

Mitchell’s Plea “Not Guilty.”

Slayer of Holy Roller Pleads Not Guilty and His Trial Is Set For June. Girl Bitter Against Holy Roller’s Assassin. Maid States Creffield Did No One Any Harm--Thinks He Will Rise From the Dead--Brother Supports Accused.

Mitchell’s Young Sister Says She Will Testify Against Brother. Prisoner Pleads Not Guilty and His Trial Is Set for June 25.

Trial Set for June 25--Brother Visits Slayer of Creffield.


Seattle, Wash., May 19,--George Mitchell, the youthful slayer of “Joshua” Creffield and the avenger of the wrongs done his two sisters by the Holy roller prophet, pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in the first degree before Superior Judge Frater this morning. The proceedings took only a few minutes and shortly after the pleading June 25 was designated as the day on which the trial will commence.


Mitchell is taking his confinement philosophically and came into the court freshly shaven and with his clothing carefully pressed. He was accompanied by his attorneys, Morris and Shipley, and took much interest in the proceedings which transpired before he was called upon to enter his plea. Interest in Mitchell has not flagged, and as was the case when he was arraigned, the deputy sheriffs who brought him into court were forced to shoulder a pathway through the crowd which had assembled.



After entering his plea Mitchell walked to his seat and before the case had been started to return to the jail at the beck of his guardians. He was recalled, however, by Will Morris, one of his attorneys, and smiled when he was informed that it was desired that he remain until the date of his trial had been fixed. This detail gone through with Mitchell shook hands with his legal representatives and followed the deputy sheriffs through the crowd back to his cell.


In the Seattle Daily Times Article:

Fred Mitchell, a brother of the accused man came to Seattle yesterday from Corvallis and spent an hour during the afternoon visiting George Mitchell in the visitor’s cell at the county jail. The brothers talked long of the events which led up to the shooting and the possible consequences of George Mitchell’s act. When they separated it was with a hearty handclasp and a promise on the part of Fred Mitchell that he would be back in Seattle in a few days.


Following the visit to the jail, Fred Mitchell spent several hours in consultation with his brother’s attorneys. Aside from admitting that the defense of his client formed the subject of the meeting, Attorney Morris declined to discuss the conference.]


In the Oregon Daily Journal and Corvallis Times articles:

When Mitchell is called for trial the strange spectacle will be presented of his sister, 17-year-old Ester, testifying for the prosecution in order to send him to the gallows for killing Creffield, and his brother Fred, testifying in his behalf. The sister said today at the police matron’s home where she is being held as a witness:

“I hope my brother will have time to repent of his sins before they hang him.”



She is in daily consultation with Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh and has outlined to that official the evidence she will give: The prosecution’s home of convicting Mitchell of some degree of Murder has increased since the sister has come to its aid.


Esther Mitchell declares even now that Creffield is Christ and that he will rise again. She says her brother lies when he says that Creffield ever did her any harm. She admits that she believes Creffield will arise again from the dead to lead his flock. she says that her brother did wrong in taking his life and thus depriving his flock temporarily of leadership.


Fred Mitchell who reached Seattle yesterday from Corvallis declares that his brother did right and that he will stand by him. He says that his sister was ruined by Creffield. Esther Mitchell said today:


“My brother had no right to kill Creffield. If he says that Creffield did me any harm, he lies, and he knows it.


“Creffield always treated me properly as he did all of his other followers. They sent him to the pen simply to break up the religious camp we had. He was not given a fair trial. The people at Corvallis did not like us and they thought if they sent him to the pen we would all desert him.


“The committed perjury to send him to the pen. Every one in Corvallis knew it was a put up job. When we did not desert him and leave Corvallis, the people there began trying to send us to the insane asylum. I am sane and always was. So are the rest. They sent me to a home in Portland because they said i was crazy but too young to go to the asylum.


“I know Joshua will arise. I shall certainly testify against my brother. He never helped me. He never gave me a cent in my life and when I was a little girl I had to work for every cent of spending money I had. I believe he should be hanged after he is given a chance to repent.”]



Next to this article in the Oregon Daily Journal is an article titled:

Woman President Of Bank In California Town

Venice, Los Angeles County, Proud of Its Female Financier” about the first female bank president in California history.




Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 5/22/1906 p2

Still Believe In False Prophet.

Women Followers of Creffield Will Not Abandon Resurrection Idea. Faith Grows Stronger In Spiritual Existence. Corvallis People Subscribing to Fund for Aid of George Mitchell, Slayer of Holy Roller Leader--Indignation is Still Intense.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal)

Corvallis, Or., May 22.--With a faith firmer than ever the Holy Roller followers of the late “Joshua” Creffield are awaiting some spiritual manifestation of the return of the chief to this world.  Persuasion is of no avail in lessening their belief that Joshua, while slain in body will return in spirit and direct his chosen.


Such is the statement given out today by those in touch with the situation.

“They have no idea of ever giving up their belief in Creffield and his doctrine,” said a relative of some of Creffield’s victims. “Creffield had with infinite cunning prepared them for the emergency that finally overtook him and had instructed them in every particular as to their attitude and conduct after his possible demise.”


The followers who returned to Corvallis from the camp at Waldport a few days ago are still in this city, some of them at the O. V. Hurt home and others at the Lewis Hartley home. Mrs. Burgess Starr, who deserted her family in Portland shortly before the shooting of Creffield and who walked a good part of the distance to the Holy Roller camp below Waldport, is at the Hartley home, and it is not known whether she intends to return to her husband and helpless children in Portland or remain with the handful of deluded women who still await the return of “Joshua.”


Mrs. Frank Hurt is reported to have returned to her husband at Seattle. Lewis Hartley has effected a division of his property here, leaving the pretty Corvallis home to his wife and daughter, while he has gone to a son in a neighboring town. Homes have been broken up and husbands and brothers driven to despair by the practices and teachings of the late Edmund Creffield.


A fund is being raised here to aid George Mitchell in his trial at Seattle. Nearly $200 has been contributed and sentiment in favor of the young man and indignation against the late leader of the Holy Rollers is not less intense today that it was when Joshua fell at the hands of George Mitchell.


Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 5/26/1906

Mitchell’s Attorney Goes To Corvallis


(Special Dispatch to The Journal)

Corvallis, Or., May 26.--Attorney Will H. Morris arrived here at noon from Seattle in the interest of his client, George H. Mitchell, the slayer of Joshua Creffield. It is presumed that he will gather data and evidence for use at the trial.

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

(541) 563-3112


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Theresa (T-) McCracken