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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.

September 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Objects to Help


Seattle Post Intelligencer 9/13/1906 p1

Esther Mitchell Objects to Help

Examination of Slayers of Geo. Mitchell on Insanity Charge Begun. Case Continue Today. Witnesses Tell of Behavior of the Women Before the Tragedy.


“I don’t want any of you to do anything for me. I don’t care whether they hang me or not, and I don’t want the impression to go to the world that I am insane. I did a good deed, and I want the world to know it.”


With these words Esther Mitchell being examined with Mrs. Maud Creffield in Judge Frater’s department of the superior court on a charge of insanity, dismissed her brothers, Fred and Perry, who had sought an interview with her during the examination of witnesses late in the afternoon. There was no anger in the remark, and though the brothers were in tears the young girl stood unconcerned and half smiling up at them as she made the statement. Then she turned away and joined Mrs. Creffield in her seat. W. T. Gardner, superintendent of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society home at Portland, who has been called as a witness and who had charge of the girl for a number of months, was present at the time the statements were made.


 The hearing of the two prisoners, charged with the murder of George Mitchell, but now being examined as to their sanity, began in the superior court yesterday morning. Drs. Kenneth Turner, J. H. Snively and R. M. Ames are conducting the examination before Judge Frater. Prior to the opening of the examination a conference was held in the court’s private chambers between the attorneys and the physicians relative to the fitness of the physician’s to act, it being argued by the state’s attorneys that they might be prejudiced in the matter. Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh, with his deputy, John F. Miller, are in attendance for the state, and Mr. Baxter, of the firm of Baxter & Wilson, and Attorney Holzheimer, of this city, with Attorney Clark, of Portland, for the prosecution, but up to this time they have taken no active part in the examination, although they are allowed the right to do so if they desire.




The hearing will continue today, and it is not expected that a return of the findings of the commission will be made until tomorrow. Last night, Mr. Holzheimer sent a telegram to Corvallis requesting that Mrs. O. v. Hurt, the mother of Mrs. Creffield, be brought to the city at once, if it is possible, and if not for the family physician to be sent here to act as a witness. The attorneys for the two women are very anxious that Mrs. Hurt be present.


Among the witnesses examined yesterday morning and afternoon perhaps those who attracted the most interest were James Berry and Frank Hurt, the brother of Mrs. Creffield. Berry refused to speak until taken in private, and then he gave the reason for the refusal that at the time, Mrs. Creffield, then Maud, associated herself with the “Holy Rollers,” and for a time after that he was engaged to be married to her. He told of her actions before and after the religion had secured a firm hold on her, and of his giving her up when she finally became associated with Creffield. He declared she was always very devout, but that she never acted peculiar until becoming a radical member of the Holy Roller church. He declared that for some time before she became a member of the organization she had suffered considerably from nervous troubles.


Telling of her actions after she joined the band, the witness said she had often been known to fast for three days at a time and did anything that came into her mind, saying that she had received a message from the Lord to do so. On one occasion, he says, she ran into a crowded dining room and knelt down in the middle of the floor, praying for the salvation of those present. Berry admitted that for a time he himself was interested in the Holy Roller church, but that he left when the teachings became so radical under Creffield. He expressed the firm belief that both of the women are insane and have been since they entered the Holy Roller church.


Considerable time was spent with frank Hurt by the physicians in trying to discover the official positions and standing of Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell in the church, but though he declared that he had been a member up to the time of the killing of Creffield he appeared to know little of the workings of the organization.




Hurt said that while he believed in the practices carried on by the members of the church at the time he was one of them, he denounced their actions now. He made no statement as to his opinion regarding the sanity of the women, and it was almost impossible to get any direct statement from him.


The first witness called was O. V. Hurt, the father of Mrs. Creffield. He told, in answer to questions put to him, of the actions of his daughter before entering the Holy Roller church. According to his story, the girl was healthy and normal as a child, but that when she was 22 years old she was sent to the asylum for the insane at Salem, Or., for six months. He declared that her condition was brought about at that time by the teachings of the “Holy Roller” church. Prior to this, he said, she was always of a religious turn of mind and generally took up with every new creed that presented itself. While in the asylum her condition was such that it was necessary to keep her in a straight jacket and oftentimes tied in her bed or chair. At that time the girl’s mother was also confined in the same institution, and while the latter was formally discharged the daughter never was, but was allowed to return to her home on probation. He expressed his opinion that both of the women are insane and have been for some years, and that his daughter was never cured at the time she left the asylum.




Superintendent Gardner, of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society home at Portland, as well as Mary J. Graham, the matron of the institution, were examined regarding the actions of Esther Mitchell when she was confined there some three years ago for a period of six months. Both of their stories were practically the same and were to the effect that, in their opinion, the girl was insane when she was taken into the home. They declared she refused to mingle with anyone, that some days she refused to work and would spend the time in prayer; that oftentimes during the night she would get up from her bed and pray on the floor or would go to the matron or one of the children and say that she had a message from the Lord to do something; that she was always melancholy and showed plainly a religious mania. A letter was introduced in evidence which went to show the condition of the girl’s mind at the time and the hold the religious teachings had upon her. In the letter the girl speaks of her brothers, of “Joshua,” as Creffield was called, and of “all the saints.”


Only a short preliminary examination was given the women and the questions put to them were principally upon their ages, schooling and state of health. Both of the prisoners appeared in the court room neatly dressed and for a time during the preliminary conference smiled and talked with those who approached them. they were guarded by two deputies. During the examination they were stolid and spoke in low tones.




During the intermission between the afternoon and evening session a telegram was received from Mrs. Hurt, at Corvallis, stating that she will leave at once for this city and will probably arrive here this afternoon.


Only two witnesses were examined at the session of the commission last night--Perry Mitchell, brother of Esther, and Police Matron Kelly, who had charge of the women after their arrest following the murder of George Mitchell.


Mitchell stated that he believes Esther was insane at the time she shot her brother, and that in his opinion she had been insane since first coming under the influence of Creffield. He said that during the time that the girl had been in the East with her father, in 1903, she had gradually gotten over her religious frenzy, but that upon returning to this state again and falling in with the Holy Rollers she again took up her old ways.


He declared that she was taken to the Boys’ and Girls’ Home at Portland, because her relatives feared that if she was not removed from the influence of her former associates she would have to be sent to the state asylum. He told of the condition of the girl before she met with the Creffield followers, and said at that time she was normal and altogether different from the person she afterwards became.




In speaking of the meetings held by the Holy Rollers, he stated that after they had been conducted for some time outsiders were refused admittance, and he held that this was due to a great extent to the fact that the followers felt that they were being persecuted and looked with suspicion on everyone, especially the members of their own families.


As to former traces of peculiarities in his family the young man said his father had been a religious and political crank for years and had a quick temper. Following these statements, Mitchell gave a recital of the occurrences at the Union depot, when his brother met his death.




Matron Kelly was then examined by the commission in regard to the personal habits and bearing of the women after their (illegible). Neither (illegible) (illegible) (illegible) (illegible) from statements formerly given by other witnesses, was learned from her.


The session of the board today will be called at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Fred Mitchell will be the first witness called and he will be followed by Mrs. Hurt as soon as she arrives. No other witnesses with the possible exception of the Hurt family physician, will be examined unless new ones are found before the time set for the next session. The commission hopes to conclude its work today, but in order to do this it may be found necessary to hold a second night session.


Attorneys for the defense declare that if the commission finds the women insane they will be returned to Oregon, where they hold citizenship, as this is the law in such cases. According to testimony introduced yesterday Mrs. Creffield was not formally discharged from the asylum at Salem and she can be returned there in the opinion of the attorneys. The most interesting part of the proceedings will probably be tonight, when the final examination of the women will be made. This, the members of the commission say, will be thorough and exhaustive.

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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