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.
September 16, 1904: Creffield is Guilty
Rachael Perrell as Donna Starr
HEADLINES IN DIFFERENT PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 9/16/1904 p1
Creffield Is Guilty
High Roller Offers No Defense--Says God Is On His Side. Mild Court Sensation. Evidence Against Leader of Peculiar Sect Is Overwhelming--He Quotes the Bible in Extenuation of His Actions.
Brownsville Times 9/23/1904 p4
Creffield Found Guilty
Holy Roller Apostle Offers No Defense.
Edwin Creffield was adjudged guilty in Judge Sears’ court at 11:30 this forenoon.
At 2 p.m. he was sentenced to serve two years in the state penitentiary. This is the maximum sentence.
“In the eyes of your law, yes, I am guilty. In the eyes of God I am innocent. I know He is on my side. And while you may lock me in my prison cell, I can still cry ‘Glory to God!” and rest secure in the knowledge that when my time comes God will plead my case!”
Facing his accusers and a judge and jury the “Holy Roller” thus wound up a passionate address in his own behalf. But it had no effect.
The jury retired for 15 minutes and returned with a verdict of guilty as charged. The trial of the preacher of extraordinary doctrine was behind closed doors and was sensational from the beginning. He forsook no principle of his religion. He admitted his guilt freely, according to United States law, but declared that God was on his side and would see to his vindication.
When asked if he had an attorney or desired on, Creffield replied negatively, saying it was against his religious beliefs to employ a lawyer; that all he asked for was the jury to listen to his defense.
Mrs. D. E. Starr, whose husband made the accusation against the preacher freely confessed her guilt, saying she participated in the crime because she was inspired by God to do so “for the purging of her soul of devils.” She did not regret it in the least and still knew that she was right. She acted of her own free will and volition. While testifying Mrs. Starr smiled frequently. In her lap she held an infant.
The woman’s husband testified that he first heard of the illicit relations between his wife and Creffield in March and at once made the complaint against him.
Mrs. Coral Worrell of Carson Heights said she was a member of the church until she heard of the objectionable doctrine, as was her husband.
Both then withdrew. They testified regarding the conduct of the wife and the preacher in their presence. The real name of the church, said Mrs. Worrell, is the Bride of Christ, and Creffield is the apostle. Mr. Worrell had notified Creffield to stay away from his house after hearing of his practice.
WIFE IN ASYLUM NOW
Louis Hartley of Corvallis testified that his wife and daughter were members of Creffield’s congregation and the latter is in the asylum at Salem as the result.
The defendant then made his defense. He quoted Scripture at great length in an endeavor to justify his strange faith, after affirming, rather than swearing, the truth of what he was to say. The laws of the country, he said, are founded on the Ten Commandments and he had never violated one of those commandments.
“Six months ago,” continued Creffield, “God called me to preach His will. My first assignment was to the Dalles and then to Corvallis. I was threatened by mobs, but I stayed there until God told me to go to another station. Among my converts was this woman. It was all an individual matter, a matter of conscience, as she has told you. God teaches that one must have direct connection with him before he can be saved.”
The court--You don’t claim to be God, do you?
“No, but one had to have direct connection with Him.”
QUOTES THE BIBLE
After this mystifying attempt to explain, Creffield quoted from Corinthians, from Paul, from Genesis and from St. Mark and asked the jury to turn to the passages he had designated. He denied that he possesses any hypnotic power. His defense was founded on the Holy Bible, he said. Judge Sears was by this time scanning the good book closely, evidently impressed with the belief that the preacher was insane.
“God called me to do all I have done and I am obeying Him.” Creffield went on.
“The gospel He put on me was to purge the body and I have done so. Jesus Christ, I tell you, has chosen me to purge the flesh from sin of all those who are willing.”
“You admit this crime, then, according to the law of the land?? queried the court.
“Yes, in the eyes of the world, I am guilty. But God is on my side.”
“How do you reconcile the two?”
“Well, when Christ came on earth the first thing he did was to break the Sabbath, in the eyes of the Jews and they crucified him. I have broken the laws of the land, and I don’t expect the jury to understand me any better than the Jews understood Christ. If I were a court in a case of this kind, I would act just as you are about to act. I would convict. I don’t expect to be freed. I know the prison cell is staring me in the face, but I am not ashamed of God’s command and will do what he has told me to do.”
The jury had returned with the verdict, having been out just 15 minutes and Creffield stood erect, his lips parted in a smile, while the word “guilty” was read. He sat down and a moment later walked calmly back to his cell, murmuring, “Glory to Jesus, glory to God.”
A large crowd stood in the hallway awaiting news of the verdict, but no demonstration was made.
The jurors in the case were S. D. Paddock, J. H. Leader, William Denhohn, Owen Martin, Hans J. Mickleson, Michael McNulty, J. D. Neer, John S. Kocher, S. L. Stone, J. N. Ross, Jacob Spiegl and Louis Floss.
Evening Telegram (Portland) 9/16/1904 p12
Goes To Salem For Two Years
“Holy Roller” Creffield Is Placed Where He Can Do No Harm. Takes a Jury Just Twenty Minutes to Find Him Guilty.
It took a jury just 20 minutes to determine that Edwin Creffield, the leader of the “Holy Rollers,” was guilty of adultery this morning. Creffield was tried before Circuit Judge Sears, and he refused to call any witnesses in his behalf, preferring to place his faith in the Lord. The witnesses for the state were Mrs. B. E. Starr, whom Creffield was charged with having wronged her husband, B. E. Starr; Mrs. C. E. Worrell, who was an ardent Holy Roller until Creffield made an improper proposal; her husband, J. F. Worrell, and Lewis Hartley.
As some of the testimony was indecent, Judge Sears ordered the doors of the courtroom closed. Mrs. Worrell testified that she had seen Creffield and Mrs. Starr kiss each other, and also that she had seen them in a room together. As for herself, she said that she was a member of the sect until Creffield declared its doctrine, which she though was improper. In public the sect was known as the “Holy Rollers,” in private, “The Brides of Christ.” The testimony of the other witnesses was substantially the same.
The case was presented for the state by Deputy District Attorneys Moser and Adams. Creffield acted as his own attorney. He made a rambling speech to the court and the jury in which he said that all his actions had been guided by the Lord. He might be guilty in the eyes of the people, but not in the eyes of God. At 11:05 the case was submitted to the jury and at 11:25 a verdict of guilty was returned. the only questions to be determined under the charge of Judge Sears was whether Creffield was insane or whether under the evidence he had been proved guilty. It is understood that the jury gave up 15 minutes of its time to a discussion of the question of insanity and the remaining 10 minutes to a discussion of the evidence.
When the verdict was rendered Creffield said that he was ready to receive sentence, but Judge Sears decided to postpone the matter until this afternoon. At 2 o’clock Creffield was arraigned, and when asked if he had anything to say replied in the negative. Judge Sears then sentenced him to two years in the penitentiary, the longest sentence prescribed by law.
“God Bless you,” said Creffield when the sentence was pronounced, and he left the courtroom with the deputy sheriffs who had him in charge without saying another word.
HEADLINES IN DIFFERENT PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
HEADLINES IN DIFFERENT PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Morning Oregonian (Portland) 9/17/1904 p8
He Goes To Prison
Creffield, the Holy Roller Confesses His Crime. His Victim Admits Guilt. After Quoting Scripture and Haranguing the Court He Is Sentenced and Goes to Penitentiary, Unmoved in His Creed.
Corvallis Times 9/21/1904 p1
Now In Penitentiary
Holy Roller Creffield Confesses His Crime. His Victim Also Makes Confession After Quoting Scripture and Haranguing the Court, He Is Sentenced for Two Years to the Penitentiary.
Edwin Creffield, the apostle of the Holy Rollers, after a sensational rambling speech in Judge Sears’s court yesterday, in which he confessed, and quoted Scripture in extenuation of his crimes was found guilty by a jury of having sustained improper relations with Mrs. L. Starr. While admitting his guilt and saying it was hard to be confined to a lonely prison cell, Creffield said God was on his side, and will see his vindication.
Judge Sears instructed the jury that Creffield might be acquitted if he was found to be insane, and this should be stated in the verdict. The jury returned a verdict of guilty at 11:30, after 15 minutes deliberation, and at 2 o’clock Creffield, having requested that sentence be pronounced, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment in the penitentiary, which is the maximum penalty. When asked if he had anything to say why sentence should not be pronounced, he answered, “Nothing,” and after the Judge had passed judgment the prisoner said “God bless you.”
He was taken to the penitentiary on the evening train.
Mrs. Starr, seated in the witness chair with an infant in her lap, in a smiling way made a confession. She said she was inspired by God “for the purging of her soul of devils,” and knew she was right.
B. E. Starr, the woman’s husband who made the complaint against Creffield, also testified.
Mrs. Coral Worrel, of Carson Heights, testified that she and her husband had been members of Creffield’s church until she learned of the objectionable doctrine, when they withdrew. She said the name of the church was the Bride of Christ, and Creffield was the Joshua.
J. F. Worrel, who notified Creffield to keep away from his wife, and Louis Hartley, whose daughter is in the asylum as the result of Creffield’s religion, were also witnesses.
Creffield then began his speech, standing erect on the witness stand, facing the jury and spectators, of whom there were about 30, comprising the witness, court attaches, lawyers and newspaper reporters. He quoted Scripture a great deal and said:
“Six months ago God called me to preach his will. My first assignment was to the Dalles and next to Corvallis. I was threatened by mobs, but I remained there until God told me to go to another station. Among my converts was this woman. It was all an individual matter, a matter of conscience, as she has told you. God teaches us that we must have direct connection with him before we can be saved.”
Creffield quoted more from the Bible and then said man was composed of the spirit, soul and body, and it was necessary to purge the body. “God called me to do all I have done, and I obeyed him,” he said.
“You admit this crime, then?” remarked Judge Sears.
“Yes, in the eyes of the world I am guilty, but God is on my side.”
In conclusion, in explaining his position, the prisoner said:
“When Christ came on earth the first thing he did was to break the Sabbath, and the Jews crucified him. I have broken the laws of the land, and I don’t expect to be understood any better than the Jews understood Christ. If I were a court in a case of this kind, I would act just as you are about to act, I would convict. I don’t expect to be freed. I know the prison cell is staring me in the face, but I am not ashamed of God’s command, and I will do what he has told me to do. This is why I did not want a lawyer.”
The jury which tried the case was composed as follows: S/ D/ Paddock, J. H. Leader, William Denholm, Owen Martin, Hans J. Mickleson, Michael McNulty, J. D. Neer, John S. Kocher, S. L. Stone, J. N. Ross, Jacob Spiegl, Louis Floss.
A man who has known Creffield ever since he came to Portland states that Creffield deserted from the German army. He never worked, but was a tramp, and after a while joined the Salvation Army. He says Creffield does not like to be controlled by others, but wants everything his own way, and that is why he left the Salvation Army and formed the holy Rollers sect.
Creffield has a strong voice, which he uses to good advantage, and has a good flow of language, and a dramatic manner.
(Under this is an article cut off with the headline “Five Couples Divorced.)
Corvallis Times 9/17/1904 p3
--The trial of Creffield began in a Portland court at 9:30 o’clock yesterday morning. News from the scene of the trial is awaited here with much interest. The universal hope is that there may be a conviction, and that the longest sentence the law can impose may be meted out to the bogus saint. The charge against him is adultery, his victim being one of his followers. District Attorney Manning, according to reliable accounts, has assured persons in this city that a conviction is almost certain, the evidence in the case being very strong. The penitentiary, the walls of which close the world to its inmates, is an elegant place for this saintly impostor, whose teachings send his followers through a pearly gate into the asylum for the insane.
--A dispatch just received as the Times went to press announces that Creffield was tried in a Portland court yesterday and found guilty of adultery. He is to receive sentence this Saturday morning.
Evening Telegram (Portland) 9/17/1904
However the public may approve of the promptness with which Edwin Creffield has been brought to book for the commission of unmentionable crimes, under the guise of religious leadership, there will scarcely be avoided a sentiment that the punishment he is to receive is not commensurate with the sorrow he has caused and the damage for which he is responsible. The proceedings in Creffield’s case have been entirely within the limitations of the law, as they very properly should be, but one cannot escape the conviction that the penalty imposed is in no wise adequate to the public protection against a man of this character.
Creffield’s record has proved him to be nothing more nor less than a lazy and dissolute knave, who has lived upon his fellows by the profession of most revolting sacrilege. As a result of his masterly depravity ruin has fallen upon peaceable and respectable families, and his victims are to be numbered among those who will possibly pass the remainder of their lives in the insane asylum. so degenerate is this monster that he fails to experience anything like contrition at the havoc he has wrought. In lieu thereof he poses to the last as a martyr, the victim of persecution, albeit his indulgences have been of a character that forbid public exploitation. The two years in the penitentiary that this miscreant will serve will have passed and he will emerge from prison as dangerous to the peace of the community as he is at present. There is, of course, the possibility that Creffield may be insane. If such fact has been found, it would have been rather to the public advantage. His detention in an asylum under such circumstances would have been measured by his insistence upon the view of martyrdom, and his return to confinement immediate upon the repetition of his nefarious practices, or even the preaching of his doctrine of degeneracy. When all the circumstances in this remarkable case are considered, it is to be regretted that the law does not impose such penalty on this moral pervert as would effectually shield society from further manifestation of his devilishness.
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 9/17/1904 p7
Creffield Goes To Penitentiary
Edmund Creffield will be sent to the penitentiary this afternoon. Sheriff Word thinks it probably that Special Deputy Clyde Evans will act as his custodian. Creffield has spent his time since being sentenced by Judge Sears yesterday in walking up and down the corridors shouting “Glory be to God” and singing hymns. The other prisoners, in mock religious zeal, march in his wake and echo all his utterances.
Evening Telegram (Portland) 9/17/1904 p10
Creffield To Go To Penitentiary
Order of Commitment Issued This Afternoon by Clerk of Court.
According to an order of commitment issued this afternoon by Marion Johnson, deputy clerk of the State Circuit Court, Edmund Creffield, convicted of the crime of adultery, will be taken to Salem tonight to commence a two years term in the State Penitentiary. This ends a religious drama which started nearly two years ago and which resulted in many wrecked homes.
Edmund Creffield, self-styled “Joshua,” the originator of a peculiar sect of fanatics who were given the name of “Holy Rollers,” still preserves his imperturbability, although faint signs of nervousness now and then are evident.
“It served him right,” was the verdict of the spectators in the courtroom, and then speculation was rife as to whether his followers will adhere to him while he is in the penitentiary, a convicted felon.
Creffield’s followers are scattered throughout the state. One or two are in the asylum for the insane at Salem.
Whether the others observe the tenets of the faith which has ruined their homes in many instances and which has heaped ridicule and persecution on them is unknown. Possibly they meet and observe their religion in secret.
Oregon Sunday Journal (Portland) 9/18/1904 p2
Holy Roller Is Taken To Salem
Edmund Creffield, the high Holy Roller sentenced to serve two years in the penitentiary by Circuit Judge Sears, was taken to Salem yesterday afternoon by Special Deputy Sheriff Clyde Evans. He was handcuffed by the deputy.
When Creffield left the jail the other prisoners hooted and hissed him. He shouted “Glory be to Jesus!”
Corvallis Gazette Tue 9/20/1904 p3
Creffield Gets Two Years
The lecher Creffield, self-styled Elijah II, bogus prophet of God, religious hypnotist, impostor and all-round dangerous individual, goes to the Oregon state prison for two years for the crime of adultery. This was the decision of a just tribunal that tried his case last Friday. Until the very last, this brazen moral leper, claimed innocence and in the face of overwhelming testimony of his guilt claimed that he was not guilty and further added to the sacrilegious infamy of his cause by asserting boldly that God would plead his cause. What grounds he had for claiming innocence or by what interpretation of Scripture he justified his assertion is a mystery. If God plead his cause his whole scheme of religion has met with divine disapproval, unless he considers disgrace and prison life and ostracism as an evidence of divine favor, which he may yet claim in order to further delude his unhappy victims.
By the judgment of an impartial judge, an unbiased jury, by eye witnesses and by the force of his own acts for more than two years, Creffield has been pronounced guilty and has been sentenced to suffer for the wrongs he has committed.
The sentence is too light. It is not commensurate with the enormity of the crime. The work of this dangerous man has been far more extensive and far-reaching in its results than most people allow themselves to think.
The stigma of the insane asylum will never leave those who are there even though they in time gain their liberty. The dangerous religious doctrines inculcated will probably never be eradicated from their minds. The very fact that the city of Corvallis has endured him and his sect for so long without making pronounced effort to have them removed has had a baleful and deadening effect upon public morality.
Corvallis Times 9/21/1904 p2
Newspaper accounts of the Creffield trial tell how the scoundrel confessed his crime, and how he claimed he was ordered of God to do the deed. It appears also that he regularly taught the practice of adultery as a part of his doctrines. His example is an extreme case of depravity, robed in the livery of Heaven, posing as a saint and mouthing of sacred things while secretly playing the libertine. His like in perfidy and dishonor would be hard to duplicate on the face of the earth. The man who lies in wait and shoots his victim down is a gentleman compared to this man-shaped reptile. The fire-bug is one of the lowest and most despicable of offenders, but he is even more respectable compared to this rotten Creffield. The ordinary libertine who enters a home and contaminates it is vile beyond compare, but this offense is trivial in contrast with that of him who does the same thing on a false pretense of Christianity and with the name of Jesus and God on his dirty lips. In vileness, diabolism and all-round deviltry, Creffield is unmatched, and matchless as his own avowals and the desolate condition of his asylum victims so faithfully prove. In his brazen confession, there is full and satisfactory explanation of why those he had wronged drove him, tarred and feathered from Corvallis, and a wonderful exhibition by them of self control and respect for legal authority, in that they did nothing worse.