The Cast of Characters
Photos and Bios of the Holy Rollers
1906 Editorial Calling for Gun Control
After Multiple Murders Involving the Holy Rollers
Oregon Insane Asylum
Where the Holy Rollers Were Committed
1906 Autopsies Of Holy Rollers
Forensics Before CSI
Holy Roller Bizarre Divorce Decree
Hartley describes trying to kill his wife's lover
Oregon State Penitentiary
Where Creffield Was Incarcerated
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
Men Are Gunning For Creffield
BY THE ROLLING SEA. HOLY ROLLERS
He fired a total of five times, and
all five times the gun snapped harmlessly. Lewis stared,
mouth agape, at the gun in his hand. Sophie said that if
her father had succeeded in killing Joshua, she would
have killed him.
"You see," Creffield said as he and
the flock crossed the bay, "no man can kill
It wasn't divine intervention that had
saved Creffield, however, but Mr. Ingalls, the
storekeeper whom Lewis had bought the gun from. Ingalls
knew Lewis was going to go gunning for Creffield but, not
wanting Lewis arrested for murder, sold him the wrong
kind of ammo. The gun Lewis bought used center-fire
cartridges, but Ingalls gave him rim-fire
That the defendant [Cora
Hartley] in total disregard of her marriage duties
has been guilty of cruel and inhuman treatment and
personal indignities toward this plaintiff [Lewis
Hartley] for the past three years rendering his life
burdensome in this: That without the knowledge and
against the will of this plaintiff in the early summer of
1903 and at all times until the fall of 1903 covering a
period of many months the said defendant deserted the
home of this plaintiff and took herself to Kiger's Island
[Smith Island] in said County and went into camp
with one Creffield known locally as "The Joshua" or "New
Christ," and the head of what is known as the Holy
Rollers; and said defendant remained in camp with sundry
women and men and more particularly the said Creffield;
the said defendant said Creffield and other women being
engaged in wild orgies on the earth together in almost a
nude condition rolling on the earth together in a
promiscuous way during unusual hours of the night and day
separated from the balance of the world, and the said
defendant conforming to certain ritualistic or
sensualistic practices prescribed and ordained as coming
from Heaven by and through the mediation of the aforesaid
Joshua--said defendant divesting herself of her under
clothing for the purposes of conforming to the
revelations claimed to be received in some occult way by
said Creffield and consenting to certain acts and
practices with The Joshua in conflict with the
fundamental laws of the State of Oregon; . . . that the
said Camp and its followers left said Island in the fall
of 1903 and established themselves immediately South of
Corvallis at what is known as the Hurt residence and the
defendant deserted her home and at said Hurt residence
again took up her abode with said Creffield and his band
of Holy Rollers in the same manner and form substantially
as to acts and doings as on said Island, and there
engaged in wild and unknown practices during whole nights
with said Creffield; and burnt furniture, clothing,
ornaments, watches, jewelry and generally every thing
necessary to the comfort of a well regulated household;
besides making burnt offerings of domesticated animals
such as dogs and cats. . . .
Wherefore Plaintiff prays a decree of the Court dissolving and annulling the marriage contract now existing between plaintiff and defendant and decreeing this plaintiff his costs and disbursements in this suit.
W. S. McFadden,
attorney for Plaintiff
Creffield and the flock continued on
to the Yachats River, twenty-two miles south of the
Yaquina Bay. The trek was arduous, but the Holy Rollers
survived it relatively unscathed, led, after all, by none
other than the new Christ. But this Christ wasn't able to
walk on water. Creffield waded to the south side of the
Yachats River. Although the north side was where Maud,
Frank, and Mae Hurt had been born, the flock opted not to
tarry there as the property now belonged to another
family, the Hosfords.
Creffield's flock may have thought he
was invincible--and for a while he may have believed this
too--but he was beginning to have his doubts. Why else
would he have now instructed his flock that should
someone succeed in killing him, they were to eat his
flesh and drink his blood--"Whoso eateth my flesh, and
drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise
him up at the last day"--John 6:54.
Once their camp was set up, Creffield
said that, as this was their new Eden, they should live
as Adam and Eve had lived in the original Eden--sans
clothing. Joshua told his flock that God had revealed to
him that they were to burn all their garments and wear
nothing but the thin cotton robes--robes that,
fortuitously, he had brought with him.
of the Hosford girls on the north side of the river,
using a makeshift spyglass, couldn't believe what she was
seeing--naked men and women burning clothes in a bonfire.
Excitement of any sort didn't happen very often around
the Yachats River, and excitement like this was almost
unimaginable on this lonesome, not to mention chilly,
coast. A day of seventy-degree weather was considered a
hot spell. The girl ran and told her father, Erwin
Hosford, what was happening. Erwin had no use for this
sort of excitement, and ordered the Holy Rollers, in no
uncertain terms, to leave.
Creffield and the Holy Rollers went south. Three miles after the Yachats River, they had to get around Cape Perpetua, the highest point on the Oregon coast. Locals joked that when the good Lord made Oregon, He found He had too much material on hand, and so, to get it all in, He had to stand part of it on end.
Near Ten Mile Creek, Creffield told
his flock that he was going to leave them temporarily to
go find an even better location than the Oregon coast for
their new Eden--maybe on one of the islands off of Queen
Charlotte Sound in British Columbia. He would come back
for them soon.
He told Maud to go north to Seattle,
that he would meet her there. It might take him a while
since he planned to go a very circuitous route on foot
with no provisions--continuing south then hiking through
the Coast Range. But he would meet her there. God would
make sure of it. Wasn't he God's Elect, the new Christ?
She wasn't to worry. God would look out for him.
now, Creffield said, see if Ira and Georgianah Bray would
give the rest of them shelter at their nearby homestead.
Surely they would offer assistance to a group of cold and
hungry women, most of whom they were related to. But Ira
Bray was a hard-hearted man and turned them all away,
even his daughter, Attie. There was to be no room in his
manger for the virgin who was to be the mother of the
next Christ--Esther, a relative of his by
It was a good thing Creffield left
when he did, because Ira, like Lewis Hartley, would have
gone gunning for him, might have even gone so far as to
fire three times--a real sacrifice on his part. Ira was
well known for grousing about how the makings of gun
shells had to be ordered from the east. When his sons
would go hunting, he would only give them three shells
and he would then belittle them if they didn't come home
with at least one for future use.
The Holy Rollers left the Brays',
walked eight miles north and set up camp at Cummins
Creek, a very remote and inaccessible beach south of Cape
Perpetua. The only nearby protection from the elements
was a cave accessible only at low tide. Here they waited
for word from Joshua.
Maud made it on her own to the Albany
train station, the one nearest Corvallis. There she was
spotted by George Mitchell and Edwin Baldwin, who were
searching for Creffield in every freight and passenger
train that passed through. While they were searching,
Edwin tried to talk George out of killing Creffield, to
let Edwin do it.
told him about how his eldest daughter, Una Baldwin, had
been led astray by Creffield. "By force I had taken this
daughter away from the Holy Roller camp; had carried her
home, weak and emaciated, and had nursed her back to
health," Edwin told George. "When the law gave up its
claim on Creffield and he came back to Oregon, he
reestablished his influence over my daughter and I was
forced to use force to keep her from going to him. . . .
I decided that I would remove her from the earth, rather
than permit her to ever again get under his control. I
decided that I had raised them [my son and my four
daughters] honorably thus far, and that it was my
duty to continue to protect them. . . . I am an old man
and the honor of my family is dearer to me than life
Edwin pleaded with George to let him be the one to kill Creffield.
“I told [George Mitchell] that he was a young man with his life ahead of him, and with every opportunity offered to upright young men. . . . I tried to show Mitchell how much better it was that I, in my old age, with but, at best, only a few more years to live, should find Creffield, and remove him from the earth. . . . I had a family to protect and I could afford to give my life for that of Creffield, if in so doing, I should remove the danger to my family.
George thanked Edwin--who at forty-eight probably had more than a few years to live--but said he had been chosen by God to do this, and he and he alone held “the power to put a stop to the wrongs for which Creffield’s influence was responsible.”
George learned that Maud had a train ticket to Seattle, so went there in search of her husband. Once in Seattle, George went to Louis Sandell, brother of Mollie Hurt and Olive Sandell. George asked Louis whether he’d seen Creffield, and said that he, George, had had a message from God to kill Creffield. “I could see at the time that [George] Mitchell was crazy as a loon,” Louis said.
Neither of them knew where Mollie or Olive were, that at that moment they and other Holy Rollers were waiting for word from Creffield while camped on a beach, subsisting upon mussels, and huddling together at night under four cotton blankets, the only protection they had from cold rains and winds.
George walked the streets of Seattle for five days. And then on Monday, May 7, 1906, he spotted Maud and Creffield in the heart of the retail district. When George saw them, they were walking leisurely up First Avenue, near Cherry Street, arm in arm, on their way to buy a new skirt for Maud. The couple had on all the clothes they owned--on Maud a tattered shirtwaist, skirt, and worn shoes, and on Creffield a cheap black suit.
When they stopped in front of Quick Drugstore, for Maud to weigh herself, George stepped close to the building to allow them to pass without seeing him. He had never carried a revolver before in his life, and had only fired a gun a few times as a youngster. With no hesitation, however, he now raised his weapon, aimed it at the back of Creffield's head, and fired once.
Creffield, who may have been thirty-three, the age Christ was when crucified, fell dead at Maud’s feet.
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
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