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.
January 9, 1904: Their Welcome Departure
Joe Haege & Brighid Thomas as
Edmund Creffield & Esther Mitchell
Corvallis Times 1/9/1904 p1
Their Welcome Departure
By an act of violence the Holy Roller apostles have been sent away from the community. Though every person who participated in the affair that drove them away is guilty of a misdemeanor and liable for prosecution under the state law, there is no enforcement of the penalty. The reason is that the two men had committed offenses against the people of the vicinity that the laws could not reach.
For weeks the community has been made notorious by the fool acts of zealots and their half crazed followers. A system of religion was set up in which this pair of high priests and their followers worshiped behind barred doors and closely drawn blinds, behind which the public could neither pass nor see. Though a shock to the proprieties, it was alleged worship of Almighty God for these two huskies to live in the same locked house with a number of young girls, and do nothing in the world but be religious. Whether as fools of knaves, whether as fanatical zealots or as sinister hypocrites, it remains a fact that the acts of Creffield and Brooks practiced under any other name than that of religion would have led to violent scandals and an interference by the public on the grounds of common decency long ago.
The unfortunate girl demented in a Portland sanitarium, is their victim, and a dreadful testimony of the importance of barring the doors of a community to such men. The halt dozens others in whom nervous shocks and mental agitation have left marks that can never be removed and wounds that will never heal and further victims to a system of religion officered by two ornery galoots, founded by nobody, and followed only by women. Whether honest or dishonest, whether sincere or false in their pretensions, the consequence of the career in this community of the pair and of Creffield in particular has been a succession of disagreeable as well as deplorable occurrences and conditions such as no community deserves and as few would so long tolerate.
The act of violence is deplored, but the departure of the men is welcome.
Corvallis Times 1/9/1904 p1
White Caps Again
They Held up Frank Hurt--Where is Brooks--
An Incident at the Beach House
The tar and feathers administered to Creffield and brooks, the flight of the apostles, and the marriage of Creffield and Miss Hurt have passed into local history and the excitement incident thereto has largely subsided. These events all happened Monday night and Tuesday, and were followed Tuesday night by incidents that to the participants were equally novel and unusual, but of less dramatic detail. That night the White caps were again at large and according to the best accounts obtainable exercised extreme vigilance in the vicinity of the Beach house. They not only watched the movements about the place, but at one time appeared at the barred door, required it to be opened, and to the number of a dozen men walked inside and made a search of every room, closet, and every possible hiding place about the premises. In there unbidden acts, they met with no resistance, and apparently found about the place nobody whom they sought. Half a dozen young women were there, but they paid no attention to the intruders, and the intruders paid no attention to them. It was other game that the White Caps sought.
THEY HUNTED FOR CREFFIELD
For a long time before they entered, and for a long time afterward the White Caps prowled in secret about the house. They manifested far more secrecy than was observed in their movements on the night preceding, when they went to the Beach house and brought the apostles over the river for the coat of tar and feathers. They met at the river bank in different parties, and instead of taking the ferry boat as before, they crossed the Willamette in small boats and by different routes. Mooring their boats on the opposite side of the river, they stole noiselessly up the bank and picked their way to vantage points in the vicinity of the Holy Roller house. There, fully secreted they watched for a long time, some of them across the road in front of the house, and others at different points near at hand. A shrill whistle, like that of Robin Hood to his followers in the Scotch forests directing the movements of the men called them together, or dispersed them under a moon that was dim and partly fog enshrouded, the skulking forms occasionally moved about or simultaneously= rose in a phalanx, scary enough in appearance to make the timid tremble. They were looking for Creffield.
A LONE CARRIAGE
Reports in circulation during the afternoon of Tuesday were to the effect that Creffield and his bride had returned to the Beach house. It was also asserted that Brooks was in hiding about the place. True to the threat uttered when the apostles were told to leave and never return on pain of worse treatment, the White Caps were shadowing the house in the hunt for the apostles.
It was perhaps 10 o’clock of after when a vehicle could be heard approaching from the eastward. The creak of the carriage springs and the hoof falls of the horses in muddy roads was heard. Three men had stood in the road along the fence for some time watching the house, but at the approach of the traveler they secreted themselves in the orchard or beneath the trees at the roadside. The carriage passed to a spot in front of the house and there it stopped. It had a single occupant who threw out several quilts and buggy robes that had apparently been used by other travelers. Then is passes on down the road to the river, and thence over the ferry to Corvallis. A few minutes later the three men reappeared in the road and passed to a spot a short distance in front of the house. A moment later a dozen dark forms rose simultaneously from hiding places on opposite sides of the road, and by a sudden movement surrounded the three. The White Caps, in the dim moonlight thought for a moment that Creffield and Brooks were again in their clutches.
HELD UP FRANK HURT
It was three harmless and lonely newspaper men in search of news that the White Caps had bagged. For a moment the two parties, the news writers and their captors, eyed each other in silence. Visions of smeared tar and sticky feathers had injected themselves into the minds of the quill drivers, while under the dim moon they saw that the White Caps were awfully big and fierce in appearance. “Anything new boys” inquired one of the writers, but there was no response. The White Caps apparently had business on hand, and had no time to talk about news. At last one of them broke the silence. “Why didn’t that carriage stop back there and let somebody out” he asked in a gruff but quiet tone. A brief parley ensued in which explanations were interchanged when a shrill whistle set the White Caps to moving and within a moment they had disappeared, leaving the newspaper fraternity alone under the shadow of the Holy Roller settlement.
The man in the carriage was Frank Hurt. After he crossed the ferry the White Caps satisfied that Creffield and Brooks were out of reach followed him. They caught him, and took him to the spot where Creffield and Brooks were tarred and feathered, but just what happened there is not certainly known.
HURT DIDN’T DISROBE
Different stories are afloat as to what they did to Frank Hurt and no direct statement can be made here as to what is authentic. The doings of the White Caps on Tuesday night were far more secretive than when Creffield and Brooks were disciplined. One version is that when they reached the bridge Hurt was ordered to disrobe and that he refused point blank to do so. Also that he told them that they were of superior numbers, but that he would not obey their orders. It is also stated that he finally secured possession of a club, and that with it he forced a truce.
Another version is that the captive was given to understand that two alternatives were open to him, and that upon his decision rested the result. These were that he must either promise to leave the Holy Roller headquarters and desist from the late manifestations, or that he must take tar and feathers. Also, that he said that he would never give up his religion, but that he would hereafter live within such regulations as would put an end to the Holy Roller troubles. That one or the other, or a part of both the above versions happened is certain. Hurt was captured somewhere on the streets after he had brought the vehicle to the livery stable. He had arranged with the ferryman to leave a small boat on the Corvallis side of the river so that he might return from Corvallis to the Beach house without calling the ferryman. His capture and abduction was so quietly effected that neither Chief Lane nor Officer Osburn were aware of it, though both were on duty until midnight or after.
NO TIDINGS FROM BROOKS
Nothing is known concerning where Mr. and Mrs. Creffield went. After their marriage at Albany, they returned with Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hurt to the Beach House and tarried there for a brief time late Tuesday afternoon. Then they left again and it is asserted went in the same carriage to Tangent where they reported to have taken a train for unknown parts. It is also supposed that Frank Hurt was just returning from the trip to Tangent when he arrived at the Beach house Tuesday night where a dozen pair of eyes were watching him from roadside just before his capture in the streets of Corvallis.
Nothing whatever has been heard of Brooks since Monday night. The last seen of him so far as known was when his captors released him wearing a new coat of tar and feathers as well as his usual habiliments, and hastening to the northward along the Albany road. Tidings from him have been and are still awaited with more or less interest. He must have asked for assistance in the removal of the tar and feathers and for food at some farm house to the northward, and it is anticipated that news of this will ultimately be forthcoming. If not, then there will be suspicion that he returned with Creffield to the Beach house the night of the affair and there got relief from his unwelcome coat and subsequently left for parts unknown.
NO MORE NOTORIETY
It is very probable that the events of the past week will put an end to the Holy Roller movements as recently conducted in the vicinity. So far as heard no word of sympathy has been uttered for the disciplined apostles. On the contrary, there have been many outspoken expressions of satisfaction that means had been found to send them out of the community. To them is ascribed all the blame for such undesirable notoriety as has come upon the community. They too are held generally responsible for such unpleasant incidents as have been brought to many family circles. Their influence in general is regarded as the beginning and end of Holy Rollerism hereabouts. The discipline administered to them is said to have had a wholesome effect on a number of their female followers who have determined according to numerous accounts to remain within reasonable bounds in the pursuit of their religious belief. The general idea is that it is well because if it had continued, the mental derangement of others and continuous notoriety of an unpleasant and unnecessary kind must have been the sequel.
Chapters of Holy Rollers where these articles are some of the sources:
Chapter 7: Esther, The Chosen One
Chapter 8: Tar and Feathers
January 6, 1904: Holy Rollers Tarred and Feathered
January 12, 1904: Editorial Comment: “Put yourselves in our place!”
Newspaper Articles about Creffield & the Holy Rollers
1897-1903: B.C. (Before Creffield)
October to December 1903:Holy Rollers Burn Furniture & Pets
January to March, 1904: Holy Rollers Tarred and Feathered
April to June 1904: Holy Rollers are Committed to the Asylum
July 1904: Creffield is Found & Arrested
September 1904: Creffield's Trial
April 1906: Men are Gunning For Creffield
May 1906: Creffield is Murdered, Murderer is Considered a Hero
May 1906: Holy Rollers Found Starving Near Heceta Head
June 1906: George Mitchell's Trial Begins
July 1906: Hurt Testifies of Debauched Wife and Debased Sisters
July 1906: Esther Mitchell Kills Her Brother
August to October 1906: Seattle Prepares for another Big Trial
November 1906: Maud Hurt Creffield Commits Suicide
April 1909-August 1914: Esther Leaves the Asylum
1953 Stewart Holbrook's Murder Without Tears
1951Startling Detective Magazine, Nemesis of the Nudist High Priest
Holy Rollers: Murder & Madness in Oregon's Love Cult
Part 1: The Seduction
Chapter 1: Trust Me, Brothers And Sisters
(Life Before Creffield [B.C.])
Chapter 2: God, Save Us From Compromising Preachers
Chapter 3: The Flock
(Profiles of the Holy Rollers Were)
Chapter 4: The Holy Rollers
(Things Start to Get Wild on on Kiger Island)
Chapter 5: Housecleaning
(There's a Sacrificial Bonfire)
Chapter 6: Community Concerns
Chapter 7: Esther, The Chosen One
(Creffield Plans to Marry 16-Year- Old)
Chapter 8: Tar and Feathers
(The Men of Corvallis Act)
Chapter 9: Sane People Don’t Go Bareheaded
(Holy Rollers are Committed to the Asylum)
Chapter 10: More Beast Than Man
( Creffield is Arrested)
Chapter 11: God Will Plead Creffield's Case
(Creffield in Court)
Chapter 12: Scandal
(Shocking Testimony at the Trial)
Chapter 13: Calm Before the Storm
(The Holy Rollers Resume their Lives)
Chapter 14: Giving Up The Ghost
(Men are Gunning for Creffield)
Part Two: The People V. Creffield
Chapter 16: The Widow Creffield
Chapter 19: An Inherited Streak of Insanity
Part Three: The Madness
Chapter 23: Seeking Reconciliation
Chapter 24: Another Holy Roller Page One Murder
Chapter 25: What Can Papa Do For You?
Chapter 26: Human Life is Too Cheap In This Community
Chapter 30: The Final Chapter
(What Happened to Everyone Afterwards)