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, 31 1904: Corvallis Could Not Raise a Mob


Edmund Creffield
Joe Haege as Edmund Creffield

Sunday Oregonian (Portland) 7/31/1904 p10

Could Not Raise Mob

Corvallis People, Despite Hatred of Creffield, Would Not Violate Law.


CORVALLIS, Or., July 30. --(Special)--

An effort was made here last night to raise a mob for the purpose of doing violence to Creffield. Four men arrived from Portland during the night, and it is known that it was their desire to wreak vengeance on the apostle. The officers had notification of their presence and their purposes. A canvass was made for followers, but not enough volunteers could be secured. Absence from town of some of the men who have been deeply wronged by the teachings of Creffield, and into whose home deepest sorrow has been brought by him, made the perfecting of an organization more difficult than would otherwise have been the case. Discouragement was also thrown on the enterprise by the attitude of one man, who more than all others, has cause to have fiercest hatred of the bogus saint. He has the hatred, but has with it a deep respect for the law, and his counsel is known to have been for peace.


Warned by outsiders, the authorities were on their guard for every emergency. The county Jail is of the latest design and the hated prisoner was locked securely in the innermost cell. The keys to the jail were locked in a safe known only to the officers, and no mob could have secured them Much time would have been required in battering down or cutting through steel bars of the cages, and meantime a close watch was kept by officers, and arrangements perfected for summoning help from various quarters by telephone in case of need.


Sunday Oregonian (Portland) 7/31/1904 p10

May Cure His Disciples

Creffield’s Capture Expected to Have Good Effect on Rollers in Asylum.


SALEM, Or., July 30. --(Special)--Physicians at the State Insane Asylum are very hopeful that the capture of Creffield will have a good effect upon his followers who are now confined at that institution. Before Creffield went into hiding he told his band of Holy Rollers that they need have no fear for his welfare for the Lord would protect him. He assured them that it would be impossible for the officers to arrest him. Subsequently, events seemed to prove his claim to be true, for many weeks of zealous search failed to bring about his apprehension. The apparent fulfillment of his prophecy served to increase the faith of his followers. It is hoped that his capture will be accepted as proof that he is an impostor and that his followers will lose the delusion by which they have been controlled.


The asylum authorities have not informed the Holy Roller patients of the arrest of their leader, but will leave them to find it out as they probably will in a few days; from other patients, when they will be left to think the situation over by themselves and without any argument or persuasion on the part of physicians or attendants.


During their confinement, the subject of their peculiar religious beliefs has not been mentioned to them, except when it became necessary in compelling them to dress and wear their hair as other people do. The Holy Roller patients have given comparatively little trouble.


Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 8/2/1904 p4

(Editorial Page)

No Mob At Corvallis

THE JOURNAL did not believe the story printed in the morning paper to the effect that a mob of Corvallis people gathered with the purpose of lynching Creffield, and that he was only saved from that fate by the active efforts of a Portland detective and the pleading of Mr. Hurt, one of the crazy fellow’s victims. It was incredible that a mob of Corvallis people, “leading and well known citizens,” collected for any such purpose. The very circumstances under which the demented creature was found, and his appearance, would have restrained any such effort on the part of the citizens of Corvallis, even if they had entertained such a design. It would take a very extreme case to cause such men as those of Corvallis to form themselves into a mob; and while they were naturally incensed and indignant at the results of the “Holy Roller” craze, they are far to sensible, level-headed and law-abiding a collection of people to engage in any such act of outlawry on this occasion. Doubtless some strong language was used; perhaps some hot-headed persons said the fellow ought to be hanged; but there was neither any attempt to carry this suggestion, if it were made, into execution, nor any design or intent to do so. The detective evidently was trying to make a hero of himself, and Mr. Hurt has had so much trouble in consequence of Holy Rollerism that it is easy to excuse him for imagining a state of affairs that did not exist.


If Creffield was legally sane, his actions deserve very severe punishment; if insane, there is a proper place provided for him. That he is entirely sane nobody supposes; but even if he had been so, and even in view of the enormity of his offenses and their dire consequences, he would not be lynched by the people of Corvallis, nor any other similar Oregon community.


A column next to this title “Small Change” has this quote;

“To every new Elijah, ever other one is an impostor. To this extent they are right.”



Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/2/1904 p10

Did Intend To Lynch Creffield


Detective Lou Hartman takes strong exception to the statement of Mayor B. F. Irvine, of Corvallis, who says there was no intention of the people to lynch Creffield, the Holy Roller leader, when the detective went to Corvallis to bring the prisoner to Portland. Detective Hartman said this morning that he was notified that a mob would be ready to lynch Creffield. For this reason he said he laid plans to keep the prisoner from the crowd. Mr. Hartman would not talk much about the communication sent out by Mayor Irvine, but said he would write a letter to the Mayor.


Corvallis Times 8/3/1904 p3

The Bogus Prophet

Taken to Portland--Incidents of His Going--Effect of Capture.


Corvallis has parted company with Creffield, and there is a fervent and universal home that it may be forever. Supported between two officers, Creffield walked out of the door of the Benton County jail shortly after one o’clock Saturday afternoon, and the West side train hurried him, a prisoner, to Portland. When the jail door swung open, the apostle looked into the faces of perhaps 100 boys, women and men, gathered in curiosity to see what the man looked like. Either from weakness or otherwise, he walked with some difficulty, and required the assistance of the officers to get along. In the three months period of hiding under the Hurt house, there was but little exercise for his legs, and it is but natural that they should be shaky for a time. If he never got out from under the building at night to shake out his plumage and drink in a breath of fresh sea breeze, he must not, during the long period of his sneak, have once been able to raise himself to the full of his majestic stature. To have lain so long on his back, on one side or the other or on his face with but twenty odd inches of space between earth and floor to operate in, is illustration in itself of the manly character of this latest and funniest of all the Elijahs. Probably no other man on earth, whether on in complete touch with the Almighty or just an ordinary sinner, would have devoted so much time to so noble a calling, to-wit; hide under a man’s house, be fed by foolish women, in avoidance of a simple, plain charge of adultery. Any man with spirit of a seven-year-old boy in him, would have quit the spot any dark night, and have fled to some other place where at least he could stand on his pins and look the world in the face.



But it is a different sort of fiber in the make up of Creffield and the crowd that watched him leave the jail saw his slender figure, surmounted by Victor Moses hat, shambling along between Deputy Sheriff Wells and a Portland detective named Hartman. O. V. Hurt and Chief Lane were escorted to the procession and when the outfit moved from the jail steps, the crowd followed.

From the jail the prisoner was taken past Mrs. Burnett’s house to Sixth Street, where it had been arranged for the train to stop. The train had not left the station house when the track was reached, and Creffield was allowed to seat himself on the edge of the sidewalk while the party waited. At the station meantime, many other curious people had gathered to see the apostle take the train. The seaside passengers of whom there happened to be many were likewise craning their necks for a sight of the dashing Elijah, this one that doesn’t go up in a chariot in the clouds, but hides under the floor of a man’s house. His fame was in every mind about the station and his name on every lip, and each arrival who traveled in company with somebody else was guessed to be Creffield. One man thought J. R. N. Bell might be the apostle, and another stranger thought he had him sure when he allowed that S. N. Lilly was the man.




While he sat on the sidewalk, waiting for the train, Creffield did a little stunt at singing. His voice was low, and his words undistinguishable, save that once was heard “Jesus hath the victory.” He paid no attention to the crowd, which was constantly swollen by new arrivals. People in the vicinity and afar had seen the procession, had guessed its meaning and they came in twos and threes, small boys, housewives, and others, all eager with curiosity for a view of the man with the champion sneak to his credit. Perhaps a hundred had gathered when the train finally came along, slowed up for a second and waited for its notorious passenger. A big man with a big mustache on the platform signaled to the passengers streaming out of the aisles to move back, a white-haired figure under Clerk Moses cast off hat was helped up the steps, the officers pushed him through the door, down the aisle and into a seat and Creffield was gone. The good humored bystanders hurled many a sally of repartee after him and turned from the sight of the speeding train and Passenger Elijah with a sigh of thankfulness and relief.




The night after the prophet was lodged in the Benton county jail there were suggestions of violence. The suggestions did not come from Corvallisites, and few if any of them expected any trouble on that score. Hundreds of them felt the man deserved more than he can get in the way of punishment from the law, but their idea was and always is to abide and obey the law. Accordingly, the scenes about the streets were not other than usual. At six o[clock, business houses closed, and everybody went home. Before that hour, the stragglers who had hung round the county jail all afternoon, had dispersed. By nine o’clock in the evening, there were not half a dozen men on Main Street. A number of drummers sat in front of one of the hotels and talked until a late hour, and this was the only sign of life save an occasional citizen who passed along the thoroughfare.


Nevertheless, there was a proposition to do violence to Creffield, but it did not come from Corvallisites. The authorities heard of it early in the evening. Four men left Portland on the evening train and drove over from Albany. They were men who have full occasion to hate Creffield. Among them was B. E. Starr, who is plaintiff in the case which Creffield must answer in Portland courts. After arrival in Corvallis, the Portlanders went to O. V. Hurt, and proposed a settlement with the man in the jail. They argued that the punishment to be expected from the law couldn’t be adequate, and inquired if Mr. Hurt would be a party to the plan. The latter took poison at once against it.




Mr. Hurt advised peace at all cost. It was good advice, and the men from Portland accepted it as such. They gave up the plan without further effort, and there the matter ended.


Meantime, however, the jail was under constant surveillance by an officer. In the absence of Sheriff Burnett, Deputy Wells was on duty. It was arranged with the Corvallis police to render aid in case of need. Private partied were made conversant with plans for preventing violence. Deputy Wells spent the night in the county clerk’s office where from a window and under a favorable moonlight, every object in the vicinity of the jail was plainly discernible. The watch there was kept up until five o’clock in the morning, but no suspicious circumstances occurred. Nobody approached the jail, and even passersby ceased to appear after ten o’clock. At half past one, a buggy drove along the street, going west from the direction of the ferry, but it passed the jail without halting. As it approached, the deputy had visions that the time had come for trouble, but as it drove swiftly by and disappeared to the westward, everything lapsed back into a silence and peace that continued until the morning. By use of a convenient telephone, it was proposed for assistance to have been summoned if the Portlanders had succeeded in the plan for violence. Deputy Wells had a newspaper man as a companion in his vigil.




No disposition has been made of the reward. The sum offered was $340, of which $200 was for the capture and $150 for the capture and conviction. Roy Hurt, 14 years of age, is the person who discovered Creffield and mad his capture possible. Under the terms of the offer, he is entitled to $200 now and $150 later id there is a conviction. O. V. Hurt, however, has given it out that he does not want the boy to have the money, and the lad has assumed a similar attitude. Mr. Hurt said yesterday: “It was Creffield that we wanted; not money. Several of those who are contributors to the reward fund have expressed to me their willingness for the boy to have it, but I do not want him to have it. It is not yet known what disposition will be made of the sum.




It is believed that the removal of Creffield from the community will give his followers a chance to recover mental balance. As long as he was able to remain in communication with them and play the martyr before them, they became worse. It was always mysterious to those who suffered from conditions Creffield made, how it was that his followers grew worse instead of better, after his disappearance. They did not know that, as they do now, that from his pit under the northeast corner of the Hurt house, he was giving out revelations and apostolic decrees to his victims. It is an explanation of why after Creffield disappeared, hats and shoes were discarded by members of the sect, all of whom knew his whereabouts, and of his orders. If now, the law puts him where he can no longer communicate with them, it is believed that they will gradually pass out from the diabolical influence that he seems to have over those foolish enough to accept him as a real man of God, instead of the monumental humbug and viper that he is.

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