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.

August 1, 1904: Creffield says, "I am Elijah"


Edmund Creffield
Joe Haege as Edmund Creffield



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 8/1/1904 p11

Says “I Am Elijah”

Prophet Creffield Maintains His Claim to Title. Rebuked At Jail By Visitors. Prisoners Hurl Curses at the Chief of Holy Rollers, but He Lies In Quilt on His Cot.


Corvallis Times 8/3/1904 p1


“I am not crazy; I am Elijah!” Thus spoke Joshua Creffield, prophet and founder of the “Holy Rollers,” to ministers of the gospel who visited the prisoners incarcerated in the County Jail yesterday afternoon. He raised himself from the cot on which he was lying, propped his head on one hand, batted his eyes at the men on the other side of the bars from his position on the cot and replied, ion a stronger voice than he has used since his capture: “I am not crazy; I am Elijah.”


Creffield spent a comparatively quiet day, save for times when he was subjected to curses and jibes from the other prisoners. To these he paid no attention. Accusations, oaths, ridicule, sarcasm were poured into his ears from almost ever other man incarcerated in the Bastille. At times he turned over on his cot to sneer at his tormentors, at other times he batted his eyes and worked the muscles of his face as though about to break into a torrent of rage, but he spake no word, not even in complaint to the jailer.


The prophet awoke at an early hour, and was immediately given some nourishing food. After eating he lay down on the cot again and apparently fell asleep. Until noon he remained in this mood.


Shortly before 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon he was given more food, and was asked how he felt.


“I feel stronger,” he said. “I guess I will be all right in a few days. I am Elijah.”


There was some color in the prophet’s face yesterday. It was evident that he was feeling better and was recovering his composure. The pallid appearance of his features when he was first brought to Portland was partly due to fear. He seems to recognize now that he is safe, and although he does not say so, it is apparent that the County Jail is most welcome after the pit beneath the Hurt residence in Corvallis. He did not renew the request he made of Detective Hartman on the way to Portland, that he be allowed to have a Bible in the jail. He seemed to want to spend the day in rest.


In the middle of the afternoon Creffield arose from the cot and walked unsteadily around the cell. Once more he was subjected to the sarcasm of the other prisoners, but he made no answer. He remained on his feet for about ten minutes, then lay down on the cot again.


An Oregonian representative visited Creffield during the afternoon, but the apostle would not talk concerning the charge over his head, or concerning his experiences during the period when he was hiding from the officers of the law. He listened to questions asked him with a peculiar look in his eyes and seemed not to hear. At times he looked up quickly as though bringing himself from a reverie, but he answered no question except to say “I am Elijah.”

“But there are other Elijahs” he was told. “Dowie says he is Elijah also.”

“There are many impostors,” replied Creffield. “I am Elijah.”



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 8/1/1904 p1

Creffield Says God Will Protect Him From People

Holly Roller Apostle Confined in a Prison Cell Talks of His Religion and Expresses Pity for Those Who Accuse Him--Tells How the Light First Came to Him and Says He has No Fear.


“I am in God’s hands. He will protect me from this poor, benighted people. Let his will be done.”


Leaning against the bars of corridor No. 2 at the county jail, and gripping the upright iron rods as if to steady himself, shortly before being taken to the police court this morning, Edmund Creffield, high Holy Roller apostle and self-styled Joshua spoke concerning his religion and the plight in which he finds himself.


When summoned from his cell by Sheriff Word he was lying on a cot, face downward, supported by his elbows, poring over a calf-bound copy of the bible supplied him this morning by O. V. Hurt, an elder in the faith, whose family he wrecked. He swayed as if very weak when he came forward.


“How are you feeling this morning, Creffield?” inquired the sheriff.

“I am some better now,” he answered. He spoke in very low tones with a curious little catch in his voice at intervals. A man slightly below medium height, with thin, “taffy” hair and a medium mustache of the same neutral tine, a pale, pasty complexion and rather light blue eyes, he resembles nothing so much as a type of exhorter so frequently seen at street gatherings.




The man’s eyes have a peculiar look as if his thoughts were far away from his surroundings. When he speaks, however, his countenance does not lighten as does that of the absent-minded man suddenly taking cognizance of a question asked him. After a fashion he assumes an air of martyrdom, without throwing any fervor into his language or actions. He makes no gestures whatever, and only at one time displayed any interest in his surroundings.


“Are you surprised to find yourself in this place?” he was asked.


Apostle Joshua looked his interrogator in the face as if partly dazed by the query. His lips moved once as if to answer, but emitted no sound. Half a minute passed before he uttered a syllable.


“I am in God’s hands. He will protect me from this poor benighted people. Let His will be done.”

“What is your trade?” was the next question.

“I am a minister of the gospel.”


What was meant by trade being explained to him, the apostle said that he was a laboring man and had worked on farms. He added that he is still a laborer, “working in the Lord’s vineyard.”


In answer to a query as to where he was born he answered “In Germany.”


How long have you been working in the Lord’s vineyard?”


The self-styled Joshua looked down and shifted his weight from one foot to another as if in weariness.


“Let me think,” he said. “I do not like to answer a question of such importance as that without thinking first.”


A full minute elapsed, during which the apostle gazed dreamily at the opposite wall.


“It must be about six months,” he finally replied. “Then I received the light that I was called to go forth for the Master.”

“How did you receive the light?”

“It came to me mentally at first and then went into my heart where I gained spiritual knowledge. Then I knew I was Joshua. Others received the same light and came and told me I was the appointed one.”


While his voice was still low, Creffield spoke more clearly without a catch in his voice making this answer. The next question brought a faint tinge of color into his cheeks.


“You know what these people accuse you of. Have you committed these crimes?”


There was another pause before answering, and the hesitation marking his answers generally was again in evidence when he spoke.


“Poor benighted people! They are all in the dark.” That was all he said.


Creffield was visited yesterday by the Rev. J. Vertteig who cuttingly advised him regarding his so-called religious practices.


“Get that notion out of your head that you are one of God’s pets. It is that idea which has brought you where you are, and the sooner you are rid of it the better for you.”



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 8/1/1904 p1

Says God Will Plead

Creffield Refuses Aid of Attorney in Presenting His Defense.


“God will plead my case.”

This declaration was made by Edmund Creffield, self-styled prophet, leader of the Holy Rollers and alleged wrecker of many homes, when arraigned before Municipal Judge Hogue this morning by Deputy District Attorney Haney on a charge of criminal assault and asked if he wanted an attorney to defend him.


“You had better secure some one earth to defend you--I’m afraid I can’t hear God,” replied Judge Hogue.


“Do you realize that this charge is a serious one; that there is strong feeling against you and that if the allegations made are true you will go to the penitentiary?” asked Judge Hogue of Creffield.


“I understand it,” replied Creffield in a voice hardly audible.


“And you want no attorney?” urged the court.


“No, God will not justify me to have one,” said Creffield.


When arraigned and the complaint read, Creffield replied that he was not guilty, and to Deputy Haney said he wished to waive examination and go before the grand jury. However, Judge Hogue thought that in the prisoner’s present feeble condition, he was hardly able to say just what he wants, and decided to continue the case until Thursday, to give Creffield time to rest. Judge Hogue said he felt it to be a duty to give him a hearing. It was agreed that the prisoner shall be regarded as standing mute, and the case will be called Thursday as though nothing had yet been done.


Creffield was removed from his cell in the county jail and brought to the central police station this morning at 10 o’clock. It was 11 when he was brought from the prisoner’s room, and led before Judge Hogue. He was very weak, but noticeably stronger than when he arrived in Portland Saturday night from Corvallis. He had to be supported by Bailiff Goltz, and trembled violently at times. He appeared oblivious to all spectators and there was a far-away look in his eyes.


A crowd that filled the courtroom to overflowing was present. When the Holy Roller was led out every one leaned forward, eager to catch a glimpse of the man who had created such turmoil and whose teachings have sent many insane. But if they craved to hear the so-called prophet speak, they were disappointed, for his words were heard only by the few who gathered about him in front of the court’s railing.


Deputy Haney read the complaint charging assault on Mrs. B. E. Starr and asked Creffield to state his plea. He said he was not guilty, and in answer to the court’s questions said God would care for him.


When the high priest of the Holy Rollers was asked what he thought of the advice given him by Mr. Vertteig, he answered:

“He is a good man. He lives according to his light. He has not the same light that I have.”


As his interrogator was about to leave Creffield suddenly stood upright, with both feet resting firmly on the floor.


“Do you hear” ----. He stopped speaking suddenly, and then, lowering his voice almost to a whisper cautiously continued: “Do you know what they are going to do with me?”




He was informed that a good many people believe him insane, that he might be examined by the insanity commission. If determined sane, he would probably be charged with a number of crimes and tried.


“Poor, poor people! They are in the dark” was his comment.


He stood a moment as if in thought, and then, with a slight show of animation, his eyes taking on a look of almost human intelligence, added:

“God usually tells me everything that is going to happen, and this is the first time he has failed to inform me. But I am at peace. I am in His hands and he will protect me from all harm.”


His interrogator had started to move away, when Creffield called him back.

“I ought not to have asked that question,” he volunteered, with a scarcely perceptible cadence of regret in his tones. “If God had wanted me to know He would have told me. I am sorry I asked, but I thank you for telling me. I thank you.”


Returning to his cell, walking unsteadily, the “apostle” lay down in his former position and began to turn the leaves of the Bible supplied by Elder Hurt.


He spoke so low that it was necessary for Deputy Haney to repeat his words to Judge Hogue. After Creffield stated he wished to go to a higher court, Judge Hogue asked Attorney John F. Logan if he would taker the prisoner into a side room and have a talk with him. This was done and again he declared that God will care for him. He said that if it became necessary for him to speak, according to the promises in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy spirit will give him tongues with which to speak and words to utter.


Attorney Logan asked Creffield is he was strong in mind, to which he replied that he felt famished and as though his brain were in a whirl; he wished a few days rest before anything further is done, he said. He reiterated his statement of innocence.


B. E. Starr, who signed the complaint against Creffield, was not present in court, but many others interested were.




O. V. Hurt, Creffield’s father-in-law, came down from Corvallis yesterday morning, together with Mr. Starr. His wife and daughter, Mrs. Maud Hurt-Creffield, are still in the insane asylum at Salem and Miss May Hurt, a beautiful girl of 17 years, was recently released from the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid society here.


It developed this morning that May Hurt knew all the time that Creffield was hiding under her father’s house and that she helped feed him during his three months sojourn there. She had taken a vow not to reveal his whereabouts, and remained true to it. She will go home with he father tonight, having recovered from the effects of the Holy Roller teachings.


“I never belonged to the Holy Rollers, although they met at my house a long time,” said Mr. Hurt. “I never had any use for them, but was unaware of the destructive teachings of the cult until my family had been broken up and my wife and daughter sent to the asylum. At Corvallis, when the mobs sought to destroy Creffield, it was my pleadings and advice that saved him, but I never have believed in mob law and would not give my consent. All that was needed to cause the mobs to take him from the jail was a signal from me.”


After being arraigned, Creffield was removed to the county jail. This morning he appeared in a blue serge suit, a soft white shirt and black shoes. He wore no tie.

There is a difference of opinion among officials as to his sanity. But it is believed that it is only on religion that he is mentally wrong. On other subjects this morning he talked perfectly rational.



Evening Telegram (Portland) Mon 8/1/1904 p5

Holy Roller Chief Says God Will Be His Lawyer

Feeble Of Mind, Creffield Was Given Time To Think Over His Plea.


“God will plead my case. I need no lawyer.”


With a slight wave of his hand, Edmund Creffield, leader of the Holy Rollers, in a low whisper that could be heard but a few feet, used the above expression when he was arraigned before Judge Hogue at the Police Court this morning. Unable to stand alone, the prisoner supported himself by leaning against the desk before which he stood.


Believing the prisoner did not fully realize what he was doing, Judge Hogue continued the case until Thursday morning, hoping by that time Creffield would have gained strength.


The specific charge against the mysterious minister of the gospel is adultery, the complaining witness being B. E. Starr, who alleges that the prophet had undue relations with his wife Donna Starr, religion being the cloak under which he worked.


Creffield’s case is the strangest that has ever come up in the Portland Police Court. Much was revealed when the prisoner was released from his cell in the city jail and was obliged to walk across the court room and take his stand before doings brought stern denunciation, his actions and his condition today touched the humane side of the many spectators who had crowded the courtroom to see him, and they all pitied him.




As he left the prisoner’s box, he stepped carefully and slowly, and as he advanced toward the judge he supported himself against the wall of the room. Supporting himself against the desk, he listened to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Haney read the complaint.


Creffield seemed to stagger as he heard the words. Then he braced up and stood looking into space, apparently hearing nothing. Judge Hogue asked him if he wished a hearing in the Police Court or to waive examination and go before the grand jury. In a low voice he said:

“Waive examination. God will not justify man to have a lawyer.”


Attorney John A. Logan was appointed by the court to have a talk with the prisoner and see what could be done for him. Mr. Logan took the prisoner into a private office and after a few moments returned to the court and said:

“Your Honor, the prisoner needs to be kept quiet until he regains his strength. He is not crazy. He talks rationally (sic) only when the question of religion is approached.”


On this recommendation, Judge Hogue continued the case until Thursday. In the mean time it is understood that some of the officers will take the weak and starved prisoner for daily walks about the streets so that he will regain his strength, through getting wholesome food and sunlight.


Creffield is both mentally and physically weak. Because he had remained under the O. V. Hurt residence for nearly three months, he gradually wasted away, and went into a state similar to that of a child. When any one talks to him, ideas seem to come to him, and slowly he is becoming himself again.


He is not crazy, but he has gone without food so long that he is unable to work his mind readily, and he has to stop and think until things are recalled to him.




Since being brought to Portland from Corvallis by Detective Hartman Saturday night, Creffield has gained considerable strength and if now allowed to go slow he can walk alone, while when he was first arrested he was not able to stand alone. He has more strength this morning, and more animation is noticeable in his features. The expression of his eye is not that of a crazy man.

Creffield is a small man, not over five feet high, and will weigh about 130 pounds and is about 30 years old.

Creffield this morning gave a reporter for the Telegram the first interview since he his away from the searching officers. He talked freely, but slowly. It seemed hard for him to collect his thoughts, and he could hardly raise his voice above a whisper. Led on by many questions, the self-styled prophet told a queer story of his exclusive religion.



“I feel better than I did when they found me under the house,” said the prophet. “I think that I shall get well. Of course, if I am to die, I shall die, but I feel better this morning than I have for a long time.


“No, I am not guilty of the charge. Yes, I know Mrs. Starr, and I did not have any undue relations with her or with any of the women.”


Creffield talked more freely about religion than any other thing, but when doing so, mind seemed to wander.


“I am Joshua, the prophet while on this earth, and when I am called by God I shall be turned into Elijah,’ was his reply. “I went under the house because I was told to hide away by the Lord. I was crucified while I was there. God came to me. I was to suffer for my people. I was to die from hunger and from the cold. Yes, I ate sometimes while under the house, but that was only when God told me to. I crawled to my hiding place on my hands and knees.




“Our religion means the restoration of all things. The restoration of the world will soon come. The seals mentioned in Revelations will soon be broken and curses and plagues will visit the earth. The world will be destroyed by fire and there will be a new world on which nothing but peace will reign. there will be no sin. It will be the same as in the Garden of Eden. Everything will be the same as at the beginning of the world.”


O. V. Hurt under whose house the alleged prophet was hiding is in Portland today. He said: “I guess there is nothing new to say about this man. We found him under the house, and that is all there is to it. Well, if I had known he was there I think that I would have pulled him out. It was about 20 feet from the opening under the house to the little cave in which he was hid. No light whatever could get to him, as he was directly behind a brick basement wall.”


Morning Oregonian (Portland) 8/1/1904 p11

Finds Paradise In Hawaii. Ernest W. Darling, of Portland, Heads New Sect


HONOLULU, July 15.--Special Correspondence.)-- The “nature man” of Hawaii has returned to California after having lived in a most primitive style in the suburbs of Honolulu for more than two months, eating only bananas, coconuts, taro, papaya, poi and other fruits and vegetables so easily obtainable in the Islands.


Hawaii has proved a veritable paradise for the “nature man,” as he styles himself. He has discarded all conventional clothing except only the thinnest net undershirt and a pair of bathing trunks, and has lived in closest communion with Nature. Without hat or shoes and only covering enough on his body to escape the clutches of the law, this strange being has sojourned in the glorious semitropical climate and preached his new outdoor doctrine to crowds of curious but not thoroughly convinced disciples. He has slept in the open fields without the least protection from the night air and subsisted exclusively on fruits, nuts and vegetables. His intelligent face and pleasant conversation indicate him to be an educated and well-read man, his “fad” idea being the only real extraordinary thing about him.




The “nature man’s” name is Ernest W. Darling, of Portland, son of Dr. and Mrs. James Darling. His extreme notions, he explains, have been adopted from a study of the squirrels of the woods and observing that they thrive well on nuts, are comfortable in ground burrows.


From a puny consumptive, weighing less than 90 pounds, although six feet in height, Darling has now a splendid physique, is hard of muscle and tips the scales at over 160 pounds. This transformation he attributes entirely to his primitive style of living. The “nature man” is of fair complexion and wears a mass of long yellow hair, which he keeps well combed. “One might as well look neat and sweet,” he explains. “Always comb your hair toward the crown, not away from it, as nine out of ten people do. This is the way nature intended the hair to be brushed.” His face is covered by a thin beard and mustache and during his visit he has ridden about the streets of Honolulu on the unnatural bicycle.




The beautiful dream of the “nature man,” however, came to a close Tuesday, when the High Sheriff arrested him on the charge of vagrancy, inasmuch as he was without visible means of support, the Hawaiian law being quite strict on that point he was convicted, but sentence was suspended so that he might have time to secure passage for “parts unknown.”


Darling has spent a great deal of his time in writing his experiences, using a peculiar phonetic spelling of his own. The following is his account of his visit at the great volcano of Kilauea, Hawaii: (see Darling file for his odd spellings.)

“After a fine sleep I rose and began looking about the landscape below. I noticed a grate expanse of level lava laying in a circle about 3 miles across. Here & there were flurries of smoke coming up thru the cracks. Over toward the far side was a large crater-like opening from which a whitish smoke rose. A bystander said something about the volcano as I stood looking across. ‘Volcano?’ said I, ‘is that the volcano?’ I was standing on the edge of the crater of the grandest active volcano in the world & yet was not aware of it til I was told while standing there just in front of the Volcano house.

“Kilauea, mighty giant,

Soon 2 sleep I think you'll be,

On thy very brow defiant;

Yet no harm doth come 2 me.


Kilauea, oft I wonder,

Of thy depths, what in them b,

But I we en, no more you'll thunder,

Red-hot lava 2 the sea.


Kilauea, useful giant;

Thou help God make fire Hawaii

A thankful song & not defiant,

We will sing 2 honor thee.




“At 7 o'clock I started 2 cross down toward Hill. The sky was full of cold clouds. While the people living near the crater we very heavily dressed I was content 2 wear but a vale over my breast & a pair of short tights below.

“On each side of the rode we the grandest jungles of tropic vegetation I had ever seen. Towering fern trees (40 ft. hi) sweet guava, banana palms & 100 other trees, vines, shrubs never seen by me before.

“I took a good feed of the big re raspberries plentiful all along the

[the rest of the article was cut off]

FBI Anti Piracy SealThe unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment