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 11, 1903: “Apostle” Creffield Still Under Cover
Joe Haege as Edmund Creffield
Evening Telegram (Portland) 11/11/1903 p6
“Apostle” Creffield Still Under Cover
Leader of the Holy Rollers Holds the Fort and Denies Himself to All.
[Telegram Coast Special]
CORVALLIS, Or., Nov. 11 -- With all the exposures that have been made of the “Holy Rollers” religious fanatics, the organization still remains a puzzling mystery. Their declaration that they are training for the missionary field in explanation of the fact that no new converts are wanted at this time is but a lame excuse for keeping the public in ignorance of what is transpiring in the “Church of God,” as the Hurt home has been dubbed by the fanatics and adds interest to the case. Apostle Creffield’s Keeping within the walls of the Hurt home as closely as if he were a prisoner is another matter giving the public goof for comment, as is also the fact that he positively refuses to submit to an interview of any kind.
The fanatics have practically severed all connections with the outside world, and are leading a life of seclusion in the midst of a thickly settled community. Rules of etiquette have been discarded. The members apparently are drifting back to the mode of existence of people upon whom the stamp of civilization has not yet been place. By burning their furniture and destroying their trinkets of value, they attempt to place themselves upon the level of primitive man in order, as they assert, to follow the unadulterated teachings of the Bible in its entirety, without entering into a compromise with the world.
By pure accident O. V. Hurt consented to discuss the motives of the “Holy Rollers” yesterday for the first time since he became a member of the strange band, but he failed to throw any light on the subject inasmuch as he appeared totally at sea so far as the basis of the organization was concerned. Instead of the neatly dressed man of a few weeks ago, Hurt now wears the poorest kind of clothes, and his face is partly hidden behind a sprouting beard of several days’ growth. He wears a soft shirt and a slouch hat, and his general appearance betrays a heavy mental strain.
But the man who once was chairman of the Benton County Democratic Convention (sic) either did not know why the Holy Rollers roller, or else he had reasons for keeping his knowledge within himself.
“We follow the Bible,” was all that was to be deduced from the interview, which, by the way, was cut short through the interference of one of the Misses Hurt, who did not “think it necessary for her father to answer any questions propounded by the newspapers.”
Judging from the humble way in which the man of the house obeyed this admonition, he is under complete control of the fair members of the Rollers, who in turn seem to center their utmost faith on Creffield, the apostle.
Joshua Creffield is said to be possessed of some hypnotic poser. He is a German vationist (sic). It was through his connection with the Salvation Army that he became acquainted with the Hurt family, and worked his way into their graces. He came to Corvallis about a year ago, after having been absent from the Valley town for some four years. Frank Hurt was at that time a soldier in the Army, and two became close friends. Gradually the rest of the Hurt family was induced to enroll in the ranks of those who give their testimony on the street corners. Last summer Creffield discovered that he had the “power of receiving messages from God,” and so began his new sect or creed. Not caring or perhaps daring to begin work openly in the city, he took his followers to Kiger Island, a short distance from Corvallis, and there in the open commenced practicing the rites for which the organization has since become famous. In Campbell and Levins he found two ardent supporters. The indolent life of a summer camp in the woods surrounded by entrancing scenery was inducement enough for them to remain loyal to the cause, and they are still acting as pillars in the “Church of God.” Enjoying the hospitality of the Hurt home, they roll with the rest at night, and in the daytime, spend their time leisurely in their tent sleeping, and at times reading the Scriptures. Seldom are they seen on the street except when making their way to the Hurt home, about a half mile distant.
The personnel of the Holy Rollers now numbers six men and about 15 women. The men are Creffield, Brooks, O. V. Hurt, Frank Hurt, Levins and Campbell. Brooks and Creffield are star boarders at the Hurt home, and for several days, in fact, since their return, after being warned to leave town, have not been seen on the streets. Brooks, a man about 34 years of age claims to have seen much of life, and he is considered a “smooth article.” Both Brooks and Creffield refuse to be seen. It was these who were arrested and subsequently released. At that time, it is alleged, Creffield made the statement in answer to a direct question that, if God so commanded, he would no hesitate to burn a child.
Those who have seen the rolling performance describe it as most disgusting. Stretched out their full length on the floor, the Rollers will beat the floor with their hands and feet , moan and groan, and at irregular intervals yell at the top of their voice, “Oo, God; oh Jesus.” For hours this will be kept up without cessation. Speaking of this matter, one living in the vicinity of the Hurt home said: “In the early stage of the game I was invited to attend one of the meetings. The fanatics certainly acted strangely, and it was shocking to see that people could become so indifferent to all the laws of propriety under the cloak of religion. It was simply ridiculous the way they carried on. I did not attempt to conceal my disapproval of the scene, and since then there has been a wide breach between me and the Rollers.
Despite the fact that Frank Hurt declares that the Rollers view of marriage is identical to that of other sects, if has leaked out that one particular person in Corvallis refused to have anything to do with them because of the alleged reason that “he knew that they did not observe the marriage vows.”
After summing up the situation, it becomes clearly apparent that the Holy Rollers have no intelligent basis for their organization except the broad statement that they follow literally the teachings of the Bible. This commendable qualifications, however, is outweighed by the fact that instead of being willing to accept sinners and give them the opportunity to share in their blessedness, the Rollers are exclusive and jealous of the way which they claim leads to happiness in life and Heaven hereafter.