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.
November 7, 1903: Is Creffield Back?
Corvallis Times 11/7/1903 p3
Is Creffield Back?
They Tell That He Has Returned to Corvallis--Some Roller Incidents.
Is Creffield the prophet of the Holy Rollers again Corvallis? That is a question with people on both sides of it. Some relate that the apostle crossed the ferry Tuesday evening and that he is again in town. Ferryman Michael, though not positive on the point, has the impression that the man he crossed is Creffield. A lady who claims to know him asserts positively that she saw Creffield at a certain place late Wednesday afternoon. James Horning, who lives near the Hurt house, believes that the prophet is here. Mrs. Hurt is said to have told a caller at the house who went to buy cattle yesterday morning that Creffield is here. The general uncertainty about his presence however, and the relapse of the members of the sect into comparative quiet has so far aroused but little interest in the question of the apostles whereabouts. With another eruption like that of last week, the condition might be otherwise.
A LATE INCIDENT
One of the young women who was a participant in the late manifestations at the Hurt house, is slowly recovering from an illness which the events of the time seem to have occasioned. She was an eager participant in the meetings at the Hurt house. At the time of the burning of personal effects and furniture, she packed a trunk of her clothing and effects, and placed it on the porch at home. It was the plan to have a drayman remove it to the Hurt house. Word was sent to the father, and he prevented the removal. The young woman however went to the Hurt house , and remained there. When the apostles were on trial before the county board as to sanity, she was subpoenaed as a witness. After she had finished her testimony at the courthouse, she was taken by relatives and friends to a carriage that was in waiting, and driven to her home. There she has remained ever since being most of the time confined in bed with illness. The intense nervous and mental excitement through which she passed during the meetings is ascribed as the cause of her trouble.
WHIPPING THE DEVIL OUT
The late upheaval at the Hurt house has awakened curiosity in the summer meetings in the tents on Kiger Island. The worship there was in a wigwam built of boughs and about twenty feet square. It was closely enclosed with a curtain for a door. the private tents of the worshipers to the number of half dozen were scattered promiscuously about, and laundry and other evidences of human abode were visible among the surrounding trees. In the wigwam the lamentations rolling and singing incident to worship were carried on. The story is told that one of the young men was believed to be possessed of the devil, and all the company labored in vain to pray old Nick out of him. Salvation by that method was finally given up, and Prophet Creffield took the lad out into a private tent tow “whip the devil” out of him as the sect styles the process. Ed Sharp who has since backslidden raised the flap of the tent to see how the two were making it, so the story goes, and the apostle and his patient saw the act. In the dim light they took Ed for the devil and both took after him. Ed ran his best, but was overtaken according to the account, and given such a beating that he appeared in town next day with two black eyes. The story has not been confirmed by the Times, but it is given as a sample of what goes rounds with reference to the summer meetings on Kiger Island.
WANT NO SYMPATHY
The members of the sect are confirmed in the belief that they have the true and only faith and have not patience with those who proffer advice or sympathy. A friend undertook to convince a new convert that the worship is folly. Both had served together among the Indians on the reservation at the Siletz agency. The friend remained the convert of the incantations in which the Indians periodically indulged, and of the similarity between the savage manifestations and of the practices incidental to the new worship. He reminded the convert of the doings of Indian medicine men when they worked with patients and that the Indian doctors if possible did not permit white men to be present when they went through their orgies. The refusal of Creffield and Brooks to permit friends of the sect was instanced as identical with the ideas of the Indian medicine men. Arguments were offered and representations made to show the convert the character of present conditions, and finally the friend remarked that many friends sympathized. “I don’t need their sympathy. It is they who need sympathy,” was the stoical reply, and the interview closed.
WIDE INTEREST ELSEWHERE
The late eruption among the Rollers has attracted attention all over the United States. Coast and Eastern papers are beginning to arrive with full accounts of the destruction of furniture and clothing and the burning of cats and dogs. The various peculiarities of belief and the manner of worship is recounted about as it appeared in Oregon Newspapers. Most of the dispatches relative to the affair are dated from Portland, having been sent there by the Associated Press and special correspondents. A Corvallis man’s letter from the interior of California inquired what kind of religion the people up in Corvallis practiced and asked if the recipient had joined yet. He had been reading the San Francisco papers. Another letter written from San Francisco and received here joked a Corvallis recipient with reference to the new religion. It is doubtful if any outbreak by religious enthusiasts at any time in the past, especially in which so few people were involved, has attracted such wide attention and comment.
David Poland as O.V. Hurt
Evening Telegram (Portland) 11/7/1903 p2
Excess of Holy Rollers May Yet Lead To Serious Clash If They Continue
Sentiment Strong at Corvallis Against the Fanatics. Deluders. Meetings Still Held Under Leadership of Creffield, So-Called Apostle. This Man and Hurt Disregard Warnings of Possible Violence.
CORVALLIS., Or., Nov 7. -- Warnings, threats and even open manifestations of violence in the way of stoning the house wherein they are quartered, fail to frighten away “Apostle” Creffield and Frank Hurt, leaders of the “Holy Roller” sect of religious fanatics. Repeatedly they have been warned by officers of the law that their safety is in jeopardy, that public sentiment is strong against them, and that any day may bring forth an organized movement to drive them out of town by force. Calmly and consistently Creffield and Hurt disregard all such warnings; daily almost hourly, they lead their deluded followers in so-called worship. At all time of the day and night, particularly in the early morning and evening, the air about the Hurt place is rent with groans, screams, wailings and shouts.
Public sentiment has grown so bitter against the leaders in these disgusting proceedings that there seems serious danger of trouble, unless Creffield can be persuaded to leave town. People are convinced that the “Apostle” is a faker, and the harm he has done in disuniting families has made him an object of general hatred.
The fact that so many women have been inveighed into the ranks is regarded with suspicion, as the sincerity of the leaders is generally doubted. Creffield is spoken of as a home-breaker. In more than one instance, it is said, he has persuaded women to desert their home, and his orders are that when a wife becomes connected with the “Rollers” her husband must follow, or the family ties are severed, until such time as the obstinate family head accepts the spirit. This more than anything else, perhaps, has given rise to the ill feeling against the new sect.
TALK OF TAR AND FEATHERS
Tar-and-feather talk originated when it was openly circulated about the streets that one night a young woman, prominent in society circles, had been held prisoner in a room in a building on Second Street while in a trance. This, the young woman is alleged to have related, was at the instance of a message from God. She did not hesitate to speak of her experience to friends, and apparently could see no reason for secrecy. So wrought up were the citizens at this exposure that mob law was talked of and an attempt was made to get 20 men to band together to apply a tar and feather coat to the “Apostle.”
While this movement was finally put to rest, a large crowd gathered at the Hurt home, and under the cover of darkness invited Creffield to emerge from the house. He was called upon for speech. Creffield responded to the invitation, and stepping upon the porch began to quote Scripture. “Let us duck him!” came the yell from the revengeful crowd. “Take him to the river!” Creffield withdrew without harm and it was on the following day that he quietly slipped away in a buggy.
With his going it was supposed that the trouble would end, but his reappearance on the scene has again aroused the community. Indignation is expressed on all sides, and now that he has resumed his work, a revengeful spirit again prevails.
Alana Crow as Sarah Hurt
MEETING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Last night’s meeting commenced as usual at 7:30 and continued to a late hour. Mr. Hurt was too busy seeking God to be seen, and Creffield, who was leading the meeting, had no time to spare. While there was a light in the house, the windows were heavily veiled with sheets and blankets, giving no one a possible chance to witness the proceedings within. A rap on the door was answered by Miss Hurt, the eldest of Hurt’s three daughters. Holding a lamp in her hand and opening the door sparingly, she inquired what was wanted. Then she said:
“It would not be possible for any one to speak to Mr. Hurt as he is busy seeking God. He has not as yet spoken to any one of the world, and I could not disturb him at present.
A BABEL OF WEIRD SOUNDS
Out on the porch could be plainly heard the shouts and wailings of those within the walls of the dilapidated cottage. Some were praying, others were singing, the effect to the uninitiated being extremely weird. Suddenly the voices of those in prayer blended with the singers, all joining in the refrain of one of “Apostle” Knapp’s songs.
“Possibly you may be able to interview Mr. Creffield tomorrow,” Miss Hurt Added, for an excuse to close the interview, but he has no statement to make to the press. We do not care what the newspapers have to say; in fact we expected them to misrepresent us. We have not taken the trouble to read their accounts of us and our sect.
CREFFIELD A SMOOTH HYPOCRITE
Creffield, the self-styled apostle, is looked upon as a hypocrite of the first water, possessed of sufficient hypnotic power to bring his followers under his influence. It is said that he holds them as by a spell, and that his biddings are law. It is after receiving alleged messages from God that he speaks to his flock.
Brooks, the ex-captain of the Salvation Army, is branded as a faker of the worst kind. Campbell and Levins are disciples assisting in keeping the organization together.
Creffield steers clear of the main thoroughfares, and refuses positively to be interviewed by any one outside his followers, excepting those whom he cannot possibly evade.
THE CASE OF FRANK HURT
Frank Hurt, son of O. V. Hurt, whose residence has been turned into a prayer house, is the man with whom Creffield returned to Corvallis after his hurried departure. Young Hurt is about 30 years of age, and was married some three months ago. He appears honest in his convictions and seems rather anxious that the world should know and understand the motives of the Church of God, or the holiness people, as he is pleased to term the sect. He occupies a small cottage in partnership with a relative and his family, and has given space in his yard to a tent occupied by Campbell and Levins , his two close followers.
Frank Hurt is affable, and has a clear understanding of the Bible. He is well posted on Scripture, having for four years taken an active part in the Salvation Army. Prior to his enlistment in that body he was a devout member of the Methodist Church.
“I left the Salvation Army because I found it had compromised with the world,” explained the young man when asked for a statement in explanation for his taking up the new work.
Maren McGuire, Brighid Thomas and Rachael Perrell
as Maud Hurt, Esther Mitchell and Donna Starr
CREFFIELD A REAL APOSTLE
“Joshua Creffield, our leader, is an apostle, the same as those mentioned in the Bible. He came here about a year ago, and, being a preacher, joined the local body of the Salvation Army. My acquaintance brought him in contact with our people, and eventually we decided upon organizing what is known to the world as the Holy Rollers. That, however, is not the right name. We have not decided upon a name, but I should think the Church of God or the Church of Christ would be explanatory of our purpose. To follow the Bible in its entirety is our object; to do as the book bids is our one purpose.
“No, we have no regular preachers. The leaders speak as the spirit leads them. The members do not fall into a trance. There is no truth in that. The Lord speaks to us as his children and reveals his will through the spirit that is in us.
NO LAW BUT THE BIBLE
“We have no laws except the Bible. There is nothing in our organization commanding us to burn our property.”
When reminded of the fact that a number of the members had destroyed various pieces of furniture, etc., Mr. Hurt looked somewhat startled, but went on to explain: “It has been said that we burnt the furniture at my father’s house. We did, but only old pieces in order to secure more room for the meetings. Some trinkets and goods of no particular value were destroyed because we do not believe that those saved and having their names inscribed in heaven should enjoy luxuries. We killed a dog and a cat, I admit, but did so because we wanted to get rid of them. We had for a long time endeavored to give the pets away, but failed. The ground was hard and dry and it was difficult to bury the remains, so we threw them on a bonfire. It was purely for sanitary reasons. The burning of the animals had no connection with our religion. You find nothing like that in the Bible. As to marriages, we observe the same rules as other denominations.
TO SEND OUT MISSIONARIES
“Our object in holding meetings daily is to train for missionary work. When the proper time comes we will go out and teach our doctrine. We will have no particular field to work in, but will go wherever the spirit directs, and will remain as long as the spirit desires. There will be absolutely no restrictions. Our purpose is to teach our religion to the world. Of course, should the Church of God find favor, as I believe it will, then we will establish houses of worship and appoint leaders. We are all preparing to go in the field, and for that reason are not seeking new members for the present. Our expenses we will be able to meet by doing occasional work, as we are doing at present. We will ask the public for no contributions. I have been cutting wood this summer and have a little money put away. Our expenses are kept down to the minimum. We don’t smoke or drink, for those habits are considered filthiness of the flesh and in violation of the rules of the Bible.
“We accepted new membership up to a few days ago, and were willing to help any one wishing to join, but it was necessary that they have the spirit of God.
“We can feel the very will of God,” Mr. Hurt exclaimed with enthusiasm, “by praying either in silence or aloud. We learn his will. At times we pray alone; at times in a body, just as we feel about it. We dress as other people do, only we do not wear clothes of the kind that will soil by praying.
ADMITS THE ROLLING CHARGE
Here the young speaker admitted that the “Rollers” did roll about at their meetings, but amended his statement by adding that they always knelt in prayer and sometimes lay with their faces to the floor in accordance with teachings of the Bible, which say that one should fall on one’s face to call for different things.
“Our religion is to help one another: if a brother is in need, then we will assist him, if possible.”
STUDY THE BIBLE CONSTANTLY
Lee Campbell declines to give out any information regarding himself. He appears deeply imbued with religion, and was decidedly opposed to having his photograph appear in print. He as well as his partner, Levins, are studying the Bible during their work as missionaries.
Levins maintains that for several years he took a deep interest in the Methodist Church, but failed to find his heart’s desire. He said it did not astonish him in the least that the leaders were arrested and examined for insanity, for Christ himself was persecuted. He referred to the stoning of John, of whom he said he had read with much interest.
TALK OF A FANATIC
“I tell you,” he said with an air of assurance, “when a person is right with God and his name is written in heaven, that’s all that is necessary. When a person gets the real Holy Ghost, then he will love all sects and creeds.
“Some people think ours is a strange doctrine, but John Wesley was attacked by mobs when he founded the Methodist Church. He displayed his power, however, by melting the crowds with his words of wisdom. Of course, the church is not now as he left it.”
LEVINS LIKENS CREFFIELD TO THE APOSTLE PAUL
“Creffield could not have been arrested,” he remarked, “had he not voluntarily gone with the officers, for Paul appealed to Caesar, and Creffield could have appealed to the Governor of the state.”
Corvallis Times 11/7/1903 p4
Like Our Rollers
Creffield Sect Blossomed Fpr a Time Many Years Ago
Were Known then as Holy Rollers--They Rolled About on the Floor and Thereby Took Their Names--Other News
Portland Nov.. 3--The Oregonian says: “There is nothing new under the sun; not even the “Holy Rollers.” A small band of fanatics known as the “Holy Rollers had a brief career in 1837 in the town of Hardwick Vt. The leader whose name was Bridgeman having had his mind discomposed by frequent attendance upon prayer meetings in the neighborhood professed to be inspired from on high and was not long in enlisting several followers. The exercises at the meetings of these fanatics consisted of the most ludicrous and foolish performances, such as frightful barking in imitation of dogs and foxes, mimicry of cuckoos and other birds, jumping swinging the arms and rolling on the floor and from the last circumstances they were called Holy Rollers. Their leader declared that they must not shave, and they suffered their beards to grow for several months, when it was revealed to another of their number that they must all shave, and it was done.
These fanatics were [illegible] and encouraged by large numbers of the inhabitants of Hardwick and the neighboring towns. The pastor of the Congregationalist church, Rev. Chester, preached a vigorous sermon against these absurdities which was published and widely circulated in 1838. Some of their number were imprisoned for disturbance of religious worship.
These facts are set forth in much fuller detail in Thompson’s History of Vermont published in 1841. The author was a clergyman of the Episcopal Church and professor of natural history in the University of Vermont and his narrative may be accepted as a proof that in the modern Holy Rollers history has only repeated itself. When the Holy Rollers appeared in Hardwick it was a town of 2400 inhabitants and had been organized over forty years, had good schools and three churches, and is distant only twenty one miles from the capital of the state, but no civilization, no environments will ever be proof against sudden outbreaks of fanaticism on the part of ignorant, weak minded people who, if not deranged, have unarranged brains.