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 5, 1904: He Does Nothing Unless Directed by God
Joe Haege as Edmund Creffield
Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/5/1904 p14
Roller Faith In Salem
Creffield Says He Prayed Five Months, Then Light Came. He Does Nothing Unless Directed by His Religion.
(A blurb in a box)
Edmund Creffield, the imprisoned founder of an unaccepted faith, says his every act is inspired from on high. His creed is:
To do nothing, however trivial, without querying heaven and receiving directions from above.
To do nothing for money.
To read the Bible early and late.
To commit no sin: for he says he cannot sin.
His peculiar form of religious worship came to him after five months of prayer.
“After tarrying in prayer for five months, I received the Holy Ghost, which directed me to leave the Salvation Army and follow evangelistic work. That was when I was in Salem and I prayed five months our of the eight that I was there.”
Leaning against the bars of his prison cell and watching a reporter for the Telegram closely to see that he made no mistakes, Edmund Creffield, living exponent of a religion that is dead, who awaits trial by the Grand Jury on a charge of adultery, gave out the above statement of the way he came to formulate a new belief to teach newer and stranger things to the same old world.
“The newspapers have been telling some lies about me, and I shall refuse right here to make any further statement for publication if you are not going to print exactly what I say,” the Holly Roller high priest said.
When informed that his exact conversation would be printed, he spoke freely about the way he claimed to have received the power from God.
LIGHT BUT NOT THE POWER
“While in the Salvation Army I had the light, but I did not have the power. I was teaching his works, but was still in the darkness. I did not experience the fullness of his power until I had tarried long before God in prayer. The light came.
“The Holy Ghost told me that I should live a life of pure faith. I was to do everything by faith. I could no longer work for the army because its people are not entirely of God. I could not take part in soliciting for funds. I was directed by the Holy Ghost not to solicit for money. It is not right to hold ice cream socials and other special gatherings where money is taken.
“When one is living in the Holy Ghost he cannot sin. He lives a pure life. We are told in the Bible that the Apostles lived without sin. They lived by faith. I can live the same way.
UNDER DIVINE CONTROL
Yes, God revealed himself to me. He came in the form of messages. He spoke to me. I heard his voice.”
Creffield was asked to explain more definitely as to how God appeared before him; that is, if he came in person, spirit or in whatever form. Creffield’s reply was:
“That cannot be explained or described. It can only be experienced. I do no do anything unless I am directed by a message from God. If I wish to do anything I always pray about it first, the answer comes and I act accordingly.
Creffield carries his bible about with him all the time. When he was arraigned in Police Court yesterday morning he had the book in his pocket. He spends most of his time reading.
He has greatly recovered, and talks rationally on nearly any subject. He likes to talk about his religion better than on anything else. He does not look like the same man who was brought here from Corvallis one week ago.
Brownsville Times 8/5/1904
May Hurt, daughter of O. V. Hurt, who was turned over to the Boy’s and Girls Aid Society a month ago, because she had gone wild over the Holy Roller religion, was released from the Home Monday afternoon. To the officers she gave some damaging evidence against Creffield, and on their arrival home Mr. Hurt will go before the prosecuting attorney and have a warrant sworn out for the arrest of Creffield, probably on the charge of criminal assault on his child. Misses Hester Mitchell and Florence Seeley were the two other girls crazed by the holy rollerism who were confined in the home. They have also been released.
HEADLINES IN DIFFERENT PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/4/1904 p1
Creffield To Answer
Holy Roller Prophet Does Not Attempt Any Defense. Says He Is Willing to Let the Lord Decide His Case. Judge Hogue Remands Him to Jail, Waiting Grand Jury.
Corvallis Times 8/6/1904 p3
HEADLINE IN ANOTHER PAPER FOR THE SAME ARTICLE, BUT MUCH ABRIDGED ARTICLE
Brownsville Times 8/12/1904 p1
To The Grand Jury
In Two Thousand Dollar Bonds Creffield in the Portland Courts.
[(Corvallis Times) Creffield has been bound over to await the action of the grand jury of the Multnomah County circuit court in $2,000 bonds. The grand jury will be in session in September. The action was taken in the police court in Portland Thursday. The story of the proceedings is told as follows in The Telegram: ]
“John Doe” Creffield, as he is known in the cold verbiage of the law; Edmund Creffield, as his mother christened him in the incipiency of his troubled career; “Joshua” the prophet, self-styled in the weird and fanatical fancy of the man whose deeds have shocked the religious world must go before the grand jury and answer to the charge of adultery, contrary to the laws of the land and the Decalogue of the books he worships. This man was brought before Judge Hogue in the Municipal Court this morning and upon waiving the right of a preliminary examination was bound over to the tender mercies of a higher court under $2000 bail. After this formal procedure this man who says he is a prophet was led back to the gloom of his prison cell.
The old dingy Police Court room was crowded to the doors all forenoon by a staring, morbid crowd, bent on catching a glance of the religious crank, who, fleeing from the demands of the law, skulked under the house of the man whose family he almost annihilated and starved himself to a pale and sickly wretch.
WOMEN CAME TO SEE HIM [Evening Telegram (Portland)]
Women there were in the usual number, some of whom were there as witnesses of this and other cases, and some who were said to be there for a look at Creffield. All morning the crowd hung around the courtroom, half of them unable to procure seats, but still they stayed until after the stroke of twelve when the “prophet” appeared, was led away and the court room cleared itself with a rush.
CALLED INTO THE COURT (Corvallis Times)
“Bring Creffield,” said Deputy District Attorney Haney, and there was a stir in the court room. “Come on, Creffield,” said the officer in waiting on the court as he beckoned to an invisible object in the culprit’s room, and immediately through the doorway emerged the form of the Holly Roller leader. Pale in complexion and insignificant in form, he walked slowly toward the bench upon which sat His Honor, Judge Hogue. The crowd stared and the eyes of B. E. Starr, the complaining witness, flashed the hatred he avows toward the man, charged with violating the sanctity of his home.
“Creffield, you are here to be given a hearing, do you want one?” queried Deputy District Attorney Haney, as the pale man leaned against the bar and roller his big eyes at the court on high.
WANTED NO HEARING [Evening Telegram (Portland)]
“No,” came the response in a weak voice.
“You want to waive a hearing then?” commented the prosecutor, and the pale man assented.
“Do you understand what is meant by waiving a hearing and going before the Grand Jury?” asked Judge Hogue from the bench, and Creffield said he did.
“You understand then, that you are to go before the Grand Jury when you leave this court? You are sane; you are not insane, are you?” asked the court.
Creffield blandly replied that he was not insane, and that he understood.
“You understand the charge that stands against you, do you not?” asked Judge Hogue.
“Yes, I understand,” came the weak voice of the “apostle” in returo (sic).
After a short conference between the court and the Deputy District Attorney the amount of bail was fixed at $2000, and Creffield was led to the waiting room to await transportation to the County Jail where he will languish until the sitting of the jury court in September.
PITIABLE SIGHT [Evening Telegram (Portland)]
It was a rather pitiable sight enacted in the courtroom, exemplary of the proverbial remark of the might fallen. There, under the sting and disgrace of a criminal charge, the center of morbid curiosity, and the contempt of the law, stood this man, who, but a few months before, held forth at the town of Corvallis--like a prince feeding upon the fat of the land as did Belshazzar of old--now forsaken per force by his erstwhile followers and locked in the confines of iron bars with common criminals.
“I shall not ask for a lawyer, but if the state demands that I have one, then it must be so,” said Creffield, after leaving the courtroom.
“How do you expect to receive justice without a lawyer” was asked.
“How do I expect to get justice? God will be with me all the time. If he desires to have me found guilty, I shall receive it joyfully. I have no feeling of animus toward anyone. I love all men with a divine love. Not as the world loves, but with a divine love. If they were to sentence me for life, hurt or kill me, I would still love them. all hatred has left me, but the world cannot understand this.”
When asked why Starr should have preferred against him the charge he has if he were not guilty, Creffield acted uneasy and replied that he did not know. He refused to talk on this point, but declared that he is not guilty of the crime charged.
CREFFIELD NOT INSANE
Creffield is not insane, but that he is a religious fanatic there is not the least doubt. He answers questions and carried on a conversation in a perfectly rational manner, but talks after the fashion of a pronounced fanatic when speaking of religion. He resents the story printed in the Telegram yesterday speculative as to his being possessed of hypnotic power. He declares that he knows nothing whatever of it. Knows nothing of the rudiments and has never practiced the art at all.
“I feel certain that Creffield has the power of hypnotism, or the ability of casting some strange influence over people,” said B. E. Starr, husband of Mrs. Donna Starr, the woman with whom the “apostle” is accused of criminal relations. “I am sure he has this power,” continued Starr, “because the people he has under his influence were good people and trying to do right.”
Starr says that his wife is gradually regaining her normal condition. She now eats pork, pickles and other edibles, forbidden by the Creffield creed. Her former coldness toward him, says Mr. Starr, is abated in a measure, although she still adheres to the faith and believes that she with all the other followers of this man, will have the power to cast out devils and perform other miracles, reputed of fact in Scriptural story.
Mr. Starr declares he believes his wife to be under hypnotic influence at the hands of Creffield.
HIS PAST HISTORY (Corvallis Times)
Some of the past history of Creffield has been dug up by the Portland newspapers. a sample of it is given in the following from the Portland Telegram:
(Excerpts from Evening Telegram (Portland) Wed 8/3/1904 p14)
Chapter of Holy Rollers where these articles are some of the sources:
Chapter 11: God Will Plead Creffield's Case
August 4, 1904: Creffield Says He Is Entirely Purified
August 6, 1904: Creffield Believes in Satan and Eternal Punishment
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)