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 9, 1904: No Flowers For Creffield
Brighid Thomas & Maren McGuire as
Esther Mitchell & Maud Hurt Creffield
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 8/9/1904 p2
No Flowers For “Apostle” Creffield
Up to date no women have called at the county jail with flowers and expressions of sympathy for Edmund Creffield, self-styled “Joshua,” the high Holy Roller apostle, but one woman has written him from Montana asserting that while she had been ignorant of the fact for a long time, she believes she holds to the Holy roller doctrine and asking for an expression of his views. The apostle is now preparing a concise exposition of his doctrine for the woman.
He received a communication this morning from J. Nowak of McMinnville containing a dissertation on the “New Age.” According to Nowak, the “New Age” is a great spiritual wave, passing over this earth, sweeping away dogmas, creeds, superstition, selfishness, fear, prejudice, narrowness.
Creffield divides his time between reading letters and the Bible. He is cheerful and apparently does not mind his environment.
Evening Telegram (Portland) Wed 8/10/1904 p14
No One Visits Edmund Creffield
Religious Teacher, With Wide Acquaintance, Is Forsaken
Once prominent in the Salvation Army, having many followers in a creed of his own manufacture, and being generally known throughout the Pacific Northwest, Edmund Creffield, the leader of the Holy Rollers, is not visited in jail.
Why is it that this man who has such a wide acquaintance has no friends?
Such is the question being asked by the county officials at the Sheriff’s office and at the County Jail. Jailer Grafton is extremely surprised to find that no one calls on him. During the time he has been in the County Jail--nearly three weeks--he has had but two callers. The first one was O. V. Hurt, of Corvallis, who took compassion on his son-in-law, and carried him a Bible the second day he was confined in his cold cell, much more comfortable, however, than the hole in which he lay for nearly three months. The other man was an officer in the Salvation Army who called upon the weakened leader, partly because of pity and partly because of curiosity.
If any one would call upon him, the officials think it would probably be some of his followers. But, alas, it appears that Creffield has no longer any one to lead, as his flock is broken. Some of his former followers, the young members, have deserted his religion and now worship with their mothers. These are the young girls who were sent to the Boys’; and Girls’ Home. For a while the children hung tenaciously to his creed, but after they had been at the home for awhile they were glad to follow the religion taught by the officials. They were young, and gradually grew out of the belief that had been fixed upon their minds by the strange teachings of their leader, Edmund Creffield, who at that time held his followers by some strong strange power.
Others have been sent to the asylum, from where they will probably never return. Creffield seems to have fallen in the minds of the better class of people, until there is no one to go and see him.
Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/11/1904
All Victims Of Religion
Creffield Declares His Followers Are Being Persecuted. Those in Asylum Are Not Crazy, but They Are Misunderstood.
(In a box)
I do not believe it possible that the followers of Edmund Creffield were hypnotized by him. It was suggestion rather than hypnotism--the influence of a strong mind over those mentally weak or susceptible to fanaticism which has caused all the trouble. Just what manner of man Creffield himself is I do not know, having never met him.--Dr. Andrew C. Smith, president of the Oregon State Board of Health and Northern Pacific physician.
“My people are being persecuted: they have been unjustly imprisoned in asylums for the insane,” responded Creffield, in deep German accents to a question asked him for The Evening Telegram. They were not given fair trials, and the physicians who examined them for their sanity were not competent to judge. It is persecution, 20th century persecution, if you will, but persecution just the same. They are as sane as I am,” and the latest prophet and propounder of new religion the world has seen turned back to his cell from which he emerged at the call of the jailer to talk to a reporter.
The change in Creffield’s personal appearance since he came to Portland is great. He has been shorn of the long whiskers which adorned his face when captured, his head has been carefully barbered, and he had just emerged from a bath when he gave out the above statement. His eye has lost none of its brightness, and he still impresses those whom he meets with that something indefinably mysterious, which has since he became known as the leader of the “Holy Rollers,” marked him as a man apart from his fellow-beings and of an almost different sphere.
“PROPHET” WAS “KANGAROOED
Although “kangarooed” by his fellow prisoners when he entered the jail to await trial on the charge of adultery, Creffield has inspired a feeling of mixed respect and jocoseness among them. He is seldom molested, and spends much of his time in reading the Bible.
He is still in communication with those of his followers who have escaped the clutches of the law by reason of their saner actions, if the letter written yesterday by him to a Mrs. Perry at Gresham, Or., has been allowed to go to its destination by the county officials. The contents of the letter were not revealed to anybody but the jail officials, and they refuse to divulge them.
It contains, however, the ten articles of his faith. Christ gave to the world ten commandments, and now the latest propounder of religion, either by accident or design, sends out to those who suffer for him in silence, or for ought known, continue to practice in secret the tenets of the new faith, ten articles, embodying the principles of his religion and explaining what is necessary to become a true follower of the “faith.”
What manner of man Creffield is nobody really knows. He is called by some of the jailers “the biggest faker on earth,” and this opinion is shared by many others. There are many who claim Creffield to be insane along one line and perfectly rational in all others. what the line of his insanity specialty consists of, nobody has attempted to explain, but that his queer religion is the result of it is confidently asserted. Creffield himself denies he is insane; says with conviction that at the right time the Lord will liberate him, and that he fears not the least the result of his trial. That he looks upon it as one of the persecutions heaped upon him to try him as though by fire, there is hardly a doubt.
YET HE IS HUMAN
Yet there is ever present, as he is watched, that something which, besides being mysterious, gives the keen observer of human nature and inkling that if the veil were lifted Creffield would stand revealed as a man as human as the average man of today.
On account of his peculiar position in the world, the feeling he has inspired in those who see him daily, and his physical condition, as well as his inclination, he is not put to work, but is allowed to remain in peace and quiet in his cell. He seldom talks to visitors, of whom he has had but few--newspaper men and officer of the Salvation Army.
He rises at 6:30 o’clock in the morning to partake but lightly of the prison fare, consisting of potatoes, beef, gravy and coffee for breakfast. During the morning hours he assists in caring for his cell and reads his Bible. Rarely does he say a word to anybody, but Jailer Grafton, to whom he has talked more than to any other person since his capture and incarceration. Jailer Grafton today is probably “closer” to Creffield than anybody except his followers. To him was confided the letter Creffield wrote to Mrs. Perry, of Gresham, and to him Creffield has explained his religion.
PHYSICAL CHANGE GREAT
At noon Creffield, like other prisoners, is given a light lunch of tea and bread. In the afternoon he continues reading his Bible, and in the evening he eats a supper composed of pork and beans and coffee. Regular meals, plain food and plenty of sleep and rest have wrought a wonderful change in the man, who was taken into the jail ragged, emaciated, with a head covered with long, unkempt hair and beard, a man so weak it was necessary to carry him.
“I am feeling all right now, and will be myself again in a week or so,” he quietly replied to a question asked him. A peculiar smile expanded slowly across his face as he made the remark, and without another word he walked into his cell, passing from view of the inquisitive eyes without.
Corvallis Gazette 8/12/1904 p3
Now that it transpires that Creffield got his Holy Roller Start in Salem under the eaves of the Journal, the Democrat takes back everything it has ever said about Corvallis being the Holy Roller City.