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.
July, 30 1904: Armed Guards Protect Creffield
Jacob Reehl as Roy Robinett Hurt
HEADLINES IN DIFFERENT PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/30/1904
Mob After Creffield
Portlanders Go to Corvallis Bent on Hanging Holy Roller Prophet. Armed Guards Watch in Jail All Night to Prevent Violence. Leaders Unable to Organize Crowd, and Excitement Dies Down.”
Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 7/31/1904 p4
Creffield, Corvallis Religio-Crank, Was Menaced By Judge Lynch. Jail at Corvallis Watched by Armed Guards, as Mob Demanded That He Be Hanged--Will Be Taken to Portland.
Weekly Herald Disseminator (Albany) 8/4/1904 p7
CORVALLIS, Or., July 30.-- All last night armed guards watched the courthouse overlooking the jail where “Holy Roller” Creffield was confined. A telephone message from Portland last night notified the authorities here that four men had left that city en route for Corvallis to raise a mob and take Creffield out and hang him.
Before dark, Deputy Sheriff Wells had placed the prisoner in the steel cage, locked the doors and hidden the keys. About midnight the men arrived, but after several attempts were unable to get a crowd together, as nearly every one was in favor of letting the law take its course.
The prisoner was taken out of his cell early this morning, photographed, shaved and cleaned up, preparatory to his trip to Portland, which started on the noon train.
Creffield’s arrest and the subsequent developments, have been the sole topic in Corvallis since yesterday morning when he was dragged half naked and starving from the hole under O. V. Hurt’s house where he had lain for three months. The identity of the midnight prowler in Corvallis, whose petty thefts of provisions have worried residents for some time, may now be established to the apostle. These thefts took place principally in the neighborhood of the Hurt home. It was either Creffield or some one similar to him in appearance and craziness who was wandering around after nightfall.
A few nights ago two young women at the Sutherland house heard a knock at the door, and, on answering, were frightened nearly out of their wits when a hairy looking man, apparently with no clothing save a dirty blanket wrapped around his body, accosted them. The caller inquired for Dr. Cathey, and as one of the girls stepped out into the hall to try to identify him, he backed off, stealthily whispering:
Then he timidly ran away into the darkness.
Several others now declare they have caught glimpses of a scantily attired prowler the last few nights, undoubtedly the self-styled “Joshua,” in search of bodily nourishment.
To the Telegram correspondent, O. V. Hurt stated that he had several times had an idea Creffield was not far off. One night some time ago he thought he heard him under the house, and, putting on a suit of old clothes, crawled around under the floor, but was unable to discover anything. At another time he again searched under the structure. All this time the apostle was lying in the little pit he had scooped out for himself, but in the darkness his hiding place was overlooked.
The once fat, sleek “prophet” presented a repulsive appearance in the county jail yesterday. He was hardly recognizable as the once well fed smartly dressed leader of a fanatical faction. He lived on the fat of the land under Hurt’s house before the incarceration of his leading followers in the state asylum for the Insane.
All day yesterday he lay in an apparently comatose condition in the County jail. It is supposed the $400 reward offered for him will go to Roy Hurt.
Weekly Herald Disseminator (Albany) 8/4/1904 p7
[THE ABOVE ARTICLE PLUS …]
O. V. Hurt, of Corvallis, came over last evening and will this morning go to Portland. He is the man who pulled Creffield out from his hiding place and the apostle was under Mr. Hurt’s house. Mr. Hurt says there was no attempt made to gather a mob as stated in the above report, and the only man coming up from Portland was Mr. Starr, who was the complaining witness in the case to be tried in Portland this week. Mr. Hurt’s youngest daughter is in Portland with the Boys' and Girls’ society where she was sent on account of her having embraced the Holy Roller faith. She is now completely restored from the vagaries and will return home as soon as the Creffield case is disposed of, she being a witness in court in Portland against the Holy Roller apostle. Mr. Hurt will on his return stop at Salem and bring from the asylum his son who has been there for the last three months. The young man is entirely restored as are several of the others of the sect, and Mr. Hurt will take the young man home and give him employment that will busy his mind and hands. The old gentleman is happy in the thought that his family is gradually being restored to him, and he can once more see happiness coming his way.
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/30/1904 p3
Holy Roller High Priest Is Coming
“Apostle” Creffield Arrives This Afternoon for Trial--The Ruin One Religious Mania Has Wrought in a Few Months.
Evidence of the most startling character has been place in possession of District Attorney, the official says, showing Chief Apostle Joshua Creffield of the Holy Rollers guilty of crimes which should send him to the penitentiary. The district attorney was at the courthouse this morning looking up a number of legal authorities and making ready to take the proper steps against the apostle when he arrives in the city this afternoon, unless he is found to be insane.
Detective Lou Hartman went to Corvallis after Creffield this morning. He will arrive on the train reaching here at 5:30 o’clock this afternoon. The apostle will first be taken to the city prison and later to the county jail.
“I do not think there is a bit of doubt that Creffield is insane,” said Deputy District Attorney Haney, who will prosecute the so-called apostle, in case the charge preferred against him by B. E. Starr is pressed. “I am of the opinion that the case will never some to trial, but that he will be sent to the asylum.”
LEADERS WERE TARRED
Something less than a year ago the Holy Rollers were at the height of their strength in Corvallis. It was there that Creffield, who was formerly a captain in the Salvation Army, organized his strange band. Never has there been a sect that has brought about such sensational results. In the brief period of time the sect has existed, many believers have been sent to the insane asylum, its two principals have been tarred and feathers, many homes have been broken up and it is believed that E. Brooks, next in importance to Creffield, is lying in the woods near Corvallis, his bones bleaching under the shadows of the firs.
January 5 the citizens of Corvallis, aroused by the orgies of the Holy Rollers then holding forth in the residence of O. V. Hurt in the suburbs of the town, rose in their wrath and went to the house. None was disguised. Calling Creffield and Brooks out, they bade them dress and come along. The Rollers obeyed. The citizens took them to the edge of town, tarred and feathered them and gave them warning never again to return under penalty of death.
Creffield wandered about in the woods then went to Albany where he married Miss Maud Hurt. Brooks managed to secure some linseed oil, with which he removed the tar and feathers from himself and Creffield. Brooks has never been seen since, and it is believed he went into the woods and died.
CORVALLIS UP IN ARMS
When the practices of the sect were first made public, all Corvallis was roused against them, and began at once to curb them. They were holding forth in the Hurt residence, where men, women and children lived, ate, and slept together. According to the teachings of Creffield and Brooks, both of whom claimed to have revelations from on high, every member slept on the floor, and it was their terrible raving, moaning and yelling, together with their practice of rolling about on the floor like maniacs, that gave them their peculiar name.
As time wore on, the “Rollers” became worse in their orgies, still remaining at the Hurt home. November 2, 1903, they built a large bonfire, in which they destroyed every bit of household furniture in their possession, Creffield and Brooks having delivered the message that on that night the world would end, and they would have no need for their effects.
CATS AS SACRIFICE
But not to be hooted down or driven out by sentiment and demonstration of the public, on November 16 the “Rollers” burned cats, dogs and sidewalks in a second fire, and Creffield and Brooks stated that if God should direct them to, they would offer up a child in the flames.
Unable longer to tolerate the actions of the band, and believing that Creffield and Brooks were the cause of all the trouble, citizens banded together January 5, and administered the coat of tar and feathers.
Creffield, undaunted by the “persecution,” as he styled it, still led the band by sending messages from his lonely retreat in the dense forests surrounding Corvallis until at last he wearied and came to Portland. It was while there that he entered the home of B. E. Starr. Starr accuses Creffield of breaking up his home. Creffield fled from Portland, but his wife remained here a short time. Local detectives scoured the city for the “apostle” but he was not to be found, until yesterday he was located by Mr. Mr. Hurt’s son under the Hurt home at Corvallis.
CREED OF THE ROLLERS
Just what are the original doctrines of the Holy Rollers they alone know, but Miss Annie Taylor, a young woman who feel in with them and was finally brought here for treatment at the Boys’ and Girls’, said Creffield taught them that God’s people should restore the garden of Eden; should wear no clothes and dwell together without regard to conventional customs.
The doctrine of the “Rollers” has not spread rapidly, and never was in good favor with the masses. It is to be doubted if at any time during their existence they had more than 100 adherents. The last convert to their strange religion, so-called, is Daniel Norman Williams, suspected of the murder of Mrs. Alms Nesbitt and her daughter at Mt. Hood River three years ago. Through the medium of a woman believer Williams has embraced the faith.
The members of the sect detest the name given their followers by the public, the preferring to refer to it as “the mission.”
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/30/1904 p3
Creffield Takes A Bath
Hurt is Savage Against Destroyer of His Home.
(Special Dispatch to The Journal.)
Corvallis, July 30. -- Curious crowds have besieged the courthouse officials with inquiries and requests for a peep at Creffield, now in the county jail here, but because of his weakened condition, due to the lack of food, but few have had their curiosity gratified.
O. V. Hurt, father-in-law o the prisoner, talked freely to friends today concerning the capture. Mr. Hurt said: “When I went under the house after Creffield he would not at first come out. I said, ‘come out of there,’ and he finally came, and as he crawled towards me from under the building he was the most frightful looking human being I ever beheld. His white hair stood out from his head in all directions, as did also his long white beard and both were filled with dirt. His body was nude, his nails long, and his whole person filthy. I had to grit my teeth to keep off of him, but what could a man do? If he had been well and a man--but if a dirty, sick dog came and crouched at your feet you could not kick it, and I could not kick him.”
Mr. Hurt said that among other things found with Creffield’s bedding in the pit under the house was a letter written by the concealed man to his wife, Maud Hurt-Creffield. The missive was dirty and crumpled, but could easily be read. In this letter Creffield upbraided his wife for depending in any measure on her father. He said: “You are looking to Hurt to get you out of the asylum, but you must have nothing to do with him. Look to God for help. Hurt is a fiend.”
This letter was written, Mr. Hurt presumes, with the intention of having Mrs. O. V. Hurt get it to Maud Hurt-Creffield in some manner, although the latter had already been taken to the asylum.
On a visit to his daughter in the asylum just before Mrs. O. V. Hurt was taken there, Mr. Hurt caressed his daughter and she gladly returned his embraces, which fact was told to his wife on his return home. The mother it is presumed, conveyed this intelligence to the apostle under the Hurt dwelling, which led to the writing of the letter.
It is common belief here that it is a hypnotic influence that Creffield holds over his followers.
Miss Mae Hurt is nearly recovered from the strange influence and Frank Hurt is said to be nearly cured.
Dr. Pernot is attending on Creffield, keeping note of his condition, but Creffield informs the physician: “It is not a doctor that I want; the lord is my doctor.”
Creffield slept peacefully in jail last night. He ate heartily, and this morning shaved, had a hair cut and took a bath. Hurt frequently visits Creffield’s cell. Deputy Sheriff Wells guarded the prisoner last night.
Two photographs of Creffield were taken this morning. He stood in the jail door and as he saw the camera he threw up his hands and shouted “Glory to God.”
Sunday Oregonian (Portland) 7/31/1904 p1
“Joshua” Creffield Arrives Half Dead to Face Trial. Had Narrow Escapes. Several Corvallis Mobs Thirsted for His Life--He Is Happy to Find Safety Behind Bars of County Jail.
When the train from Corvallis arrived at Fourth and Yamhill streets at 6:30 o’clock last night, a man, pale, thin and so exhausted that he was borne by two sturdy men, was escorted from a coach through a crowd of a thousand people to a saloon. He was Edmund, self-styled “Joshua,” Creffield, organizer and leader of the Holy Roller sect and they who supported his trembling form were Chief Deputy Sheriff Wells of Corvallis and Detective Hartman of the Portland police department.
Anticipating an attempt to mob the Holy Roller leader, Chief of Police Hunt dispatched a number of plain clothes men, heavily armed, to meet the prisoner. But, although the crowd that greeted the arrival of the train was large and the people craned their necks in an effort to catch a glimpse of the notorious “prophet,” there was no attempt to do him violence.
IS VERY WEAK
Creffield was seated in a rear room of the saloon, pending the arrival of a patrol wagon from police headquarters. After spending three months in a pit but little longer or wider than his small form, and having undergone not only intense mental agony, but actual hunger for no one knows just how long during his stay under the Hurt residence at Corvallis, he was so weak he could not sit upright in the chair.
After sitting, or rather reclining, in the chair for half a minute, Creffield raised his pale, blue eyes feebly, and to Detective Hartman said:
“Please get me a drink of water.”
A refreshing glassful was brought him, and he drained it. Raising the glass, he said in a voice scarcely audible:
“Being the leader of a religious sect is not much fun, is it?” asked a bystander, but Creffield did not even look up.
“You are pretty faint and weak, ain’t you?” inquired another.
A mere nod of his head was the only answer.
The patrol wagon arrived at that moment and the prisoner was born to it and taken at first to the city jail, but returned immediately to the county prison, where he was placed in a cell. All he asked for was a drink of water, and requested to be left alone. He fell asleep quickly, and remained asleep. He was in a state of complete collapse, both mentally and physically. Perhaps for the first time in three month, since he fled Portland after being charged with a criminal offense, he felt his life was safe, and it is believed that by Monday he will be able to be examined as to his sanity.
APOSTLE’S NARROW ESCAPE
“Creffield was saved from certain death at the hands of the mob at Corvallis last night only by the pleadings of his father-in-law, O. V. Hurt, declared Detective Hartman last night. “Although he had broken up Mr. Hurt’s home, driven Mrs. Hurt to insanity and blighted the lives of the entire family, Mr. Hurt last night and early this morning, when attempts were made to take the prisoner by force, begged the members of the mob to calm themselves and allow the law to take its course. They finally desisted.
“The last attempt to take Creffield from the county jail was made at 3 o’clock in the morning,” continued Detective Hartman. Deputy Sheriff Wells and an armed force of guards stood the mob off. B. E. Starr, who preferred the charge now pending here against the prisoner, was at Corvallis during the excitement. All those interested in the case will come to this city to be present here at the investigations.
“Two mobs gathered to assault the train and take Creffield. I learned of the plot and gave it out that I would not be able to remove him from the jail; that he was too weak. Then I arranged to have the train make a quick stop at the courthouse, and I and Deputy Sheriff Wells hustled him on board before there was any time for trouble. Creffield was badly frightened, and said he expected to be killed. He was very quiet all the way down, and made no remarks, except to say he was German and that he expected to be killed. The mobs that attempted to take him were made up of representative citizens of Corvallis and vicinity. There were men, women and children. A second mob gathered at a railroad crossing just this side of the town, but the train did not slack up, and it was cheated”
HISTORY OF THE SECT
Creffield organized his sect a year ago. About 100 joined. Several went insane, among them Mrs. Hurt whose husband saved him from the fury of the mob. She is now in the asylum. The Hurt home at Corvallis was the chief meeting place for many months. There on November 2, 1903 a fire was built in which all their furniture was destroyed, and November 16 they burned cats and dogs alive, Creffield and E. Brooks, his partner, saying it was God’s will. January 5 enraged citizens tarred and feathered the leaders and drove them out of town, warning them never to return. January 6 Creffield was married to Miss Maud Hurt at Albany. Later he came to Portland, living at B. E. Starr’s home. Starr preferred a criminal charge against him March 16, Creffield fled. He was not located until Friday morning, when he was found by Mrs. Hurt’s son, Roy Robinett Hurt, under the Hurt home. It is supposed he was fed by Mrs. Hurt until she went to the asylum, after which he nearly starved. It is believed he is insane. He is 31 years of age. Roy Hurt will get the $400 reward offered for Creffield’s capture.
Joe Haege as Edmund Creffield
Sunday Oregonian (Portland) 7/31/1904 p10
Prophet In Jail Joshua Creffield, Holy Roller, Brought from Corvallis
Nearly Lynched At Depot. ‘Elijah’ Refuses to Talk, Except to Say That He Expects to say That He Expects to Be Killed--Is Weak From Starvation.
So weak that he could not stand unassisted, his features pallid with sickness and fear, Joshua Creffield, high priest and founder of the sect known as “Holy Rollers,” arrived in Portland last evening at 6 o’clock, in the custody of Detective Hartman, from Corvallis, where the apostle was captured Friday morning. He was taken to the police station, and because of his condition was removed at once to the County Jail, where he was allowed a cot and cell by himself, a thing which was impossible at the police station, owing to the number of prisoners in the City Jail.
A mob of several hundred people, headed by B. E. Starr and relatives, gathered at the depot at Corvallis with the apparent determination of lynching the prisoner, but Detective Hartman evaded the mob and brought his prisoner through in safety.
The former sleek and sanctimonious leader of the “Holy Rollers” has lost his sleekness. He is on the verge of nervous prostration, he is so weak from lack of proper nourishment that he cannot raise his hands above his head, and there is the look of a hunted beast in his eyes, but he attempts to maintain his apostolic dignity and still states that he is acting according to the commands of God.
When asked why he had hidden away from the officers of the law and undergone such hardships as he is known to have undergone in the last few weeks, Creffield looked upward and muttered in an unsteady voice:
“The Lord Commanded me to hide, and I hid.”
When he absolutely refused to talk, and Detective Hartman, while on the way to Portland, attempted to get him to do so by telling him that in all probability he would be met at the station here by a mob, Creffield looked the officer in the face and said:
“I expect to be killed. Men who are not understood are always killed: if the Lord commands it, I shall be killed.”
Creffield was hauled out from under the residence of O. V. Hurt, near Corvallis, at 10 o’clock Friday morning after having been discovered by 10-year-old Roy Hurt. He was as naked as a new-born babe and almost dead from starvation. He had lain in a narrow pit dug in the ground: it was only 18 inches deep and six feet long. In this pit were found two blankets, a pillow and two dozen empty fruit jars, besides a little flour and a cup of milk. Creffield explained after being taken that he had subsisted by mixing flout in the fruit and eating the mixture. Securely hidden in this unexpected place he was fed by infatuated members of the sect he created, and from here he issued his commands. When the members of the sect were sent to the asylum, Creffield’s food supply was cut off, and rather than surrender to the officers of the law, he lay in his narrow pit to starve. This would ultimately have been his end, but for his discovery by the Hurt boy. When captured he looked his captors in the face and said impressively: “I am Elijah.”
NEARLY LYNCHED AT CORVALLIS
As soon as the news of Creffield’s capture was wired to Portland, Detective Hartman, who was originally assigned to the case, was ordered to Corvallis to bring Creffield back to answer to the charge of Adultery preferred against him by B. E. Starr, who alleges that the apostle broke up his home. Detective Hartman left for Corvallis yesterday morning. B. E. Starr and male members of the Starr family also journeyed to Corvallis, with the intention of forming a mob, taking Creffield from jail and lynching him. When the authorities heard of this a guard was set over the jail, and all Friday night men with rifles and shotguns in their hands paced up and down before the Corvallis Bastille to protect the prisoner. Starr did succeed in forming a mob, but it was a small one. Three times during the night they advanced on the jail, but did not seem to have the requisite amount of nerve to attempt to overcome the guards. Finally O. V. Hurt, under whose house the “Holy Roller” was found, and whose home was also broken up by Creffield, addressed the mob and asked them to let the law take its course. After listening to his words, the Corvallis portion of the mob dispersed and went to their homes.
The Starrs then announced their intention of killing Creffield as soon as he emerged from the jail, on at the railway station. When Detective Hartman heard of this threat, he made arrangements with the railway people completely to fool the would-be lynchers. When the train arrived at Corvallis, instead of stopping at the station, it started to run through the town as it usually does. However, it stopped suddenly two blocks north of the station, opposite the Courthouse, where Hartman had Creffield concealed. As soon as the train pulled up, Hartman hustled Creffield across the Courthouse yard and into the car. The train then pulled out of the town, before the men at the station had time to realize that they had been fooled and that Creffield was on his way to Portland.
ANSWERS ONLY “I AM ELIJAH.”
While making the journey here Creffield had absolutely nothing to say. His only answer to questions by the detective was: “I am Elijah.” Only once, when Detective Hartman told him a mob might meet them at the Portland station did he answer, and then to say that he expected to be killed. Hartman asked him about the adultery case. For a few moments Creffield would not answer, then he said that he would tell the whole story today if Hartman would see that they allowed him to have a Bible in the jail. The detective will make an effort this afternoon to wring a part of the miserable story from the erstwhile high priest of the “Holy Rollers.”
Creffield is not in as bad a condition as would be expected from his close confinement. Though he is weak from starvation, he has not the appearance of a starving man. His features are pallid, but they are not sunken. He evidently had plenty of food until his followers were one by one removed, but it was not nourishing food and he got no exercise. When he reached the police station last evening in the patrol wagon he had to be assisted into the office. ??It was plainly seen that he was in a critical condition and that a separate cell and cot would be necessary. As the City Jail was congested with men in durance vile, Captain Moore conferred with Sheriff Word and obtained permission for Creffield to be removed to the County Jail, where there is plenty of room and where he can receive every attention. It is thought that the apostle will eventually recover and stand trial. He will probably be arraigned before Judge Hogue on a charge of adultery as soon as he is able to go to the courtroom.
When seen by a representative of the Oregonian last night, Creffield refused to talk.
“I am Elijah, “ he said. “I am doing as the Lord ordered me to do. I know they tried to kill me; they will try it again. If the Lord wants me killed, I will die.”
Creffield made these statements in a matter-of-fact way, as though he thought it strange that every one did not look at it as he did. When asked concerning the Starr case, the apostle turned away his head, with just the suspicion of a sneer on his lips, and walked to the other end of his cell. He absolutely refused to talk concerning the case, and repeated questions elicited on the response, “I am Elijah.”