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.
May 16, 1906: Holy Rollers Starving Near Heceta Head
HEADLINES IN DIFFERENT PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Morning Oregonian (Portland) 5/16/1906 p1
Starving Near Heceta Head
Five Women Followers of the Notorious Creffield in a Pitiable Plight. Subsist on Shell Fish. Were Told to Stay Till He Returned and Are Afraid to Disobey the ‘Second Messiah,’ Whom They Believe Living.
Seattle Daily Times 5/16/1906 p4
Creffield Said To Stay
Five Women, Followers of the Second Messiah, Are Found on the Beach in Oregon Awaiting His Return. Are Living on Crabs and Mussels and Are in Grave Danger of Starvation Unless Soon Rescued.
Corvallis Times 5/18/1906 p1
Deluded Women of the Holy Roller Persuasion in a Sad Plight. Discovered by George Hodges, a Timber Cruiser--Women Subsist on Shell Fish--Tells of Their Delusion--Other News.
PORTLAND, Or., Wednesday, May 16.
Five women and a tiny little baby, emaciated, worn out and haggard, and with hardly enough clothing to cover themselves were discovered last Saturday on the beach in the vicinity of Heceta Head by George Hodges, a timber-cruiser, of Salado, this state, who was forcing his way through the rough country to inspect some timber. The women has subsisted on crabs and mussels for days and were in a pitiful plight. Mr. Hodges supplied them with some sea biscuits and condensed milk and had to make his way to the nearest settlement without a bit of food.
The women told Hodges the had been sent out in the wilderness by “Second Messiah” Creffield, and while they had heard that he had been killed in Seattle, they knew that such was not the case, for no one but the Lord could have the power to take his life.
TELLS OF THEIR DELUSION (Morning Oregonian)
RESCUE IS NEEDED (Seattle Daily Times)
Mr. Hodges arrived in Portland yesterday, and he believes something should be done to rescue the fanatic women whose minds have been turned by the hypnotic influence of the man who a few days ago was shot down like a dog by young Mitchell, whose sisters Creffield had succeeded into bringing into disgrace.
“These women will starve to death or expire from exposure,” said Mr. Hodges. I found them in a most inaccessible spot on the beach, and they had nothing to eat but a few mussels gathered on the beach. They had two tents, and had prepared as best they could to await the return of Creffield, who they said had gone to Queen Charlotte’s Sound to select a location for a colony on one of the many islands there.
“’Creffield is the Second Messiah,’ they told me, and they would rather starve to death than disobey his instructions. He had told them to remain where they were until his return, and they refused every offer that I made to see them safely back to civilization.
HAIL FROM CORVALLIS (Seattle Daily Times)
“Four of the women hail from Corvallis, for I have seen them there, but I cannot recall their names, although I think Frank Hurt’s wife is one of them.
“I was cruising timber in the vicinity when the women came and asked me to help them raise their tents, which had been torn down by the strong winds that sweep in from the ocean. They told me they had lived in the isolated spot for three weeks.”
“Creffield certainly knew where he was going when he took those women into the wilderness for a more secluded place could not be selected. It is four miles by the roughest trail imaginable from the nearest settlement, and about 14 miles from Waldport, the nearest town. The people of Waldport refuse to assist the unfortunate women, and I can see no other fate for them than starvation unless they are rescued before many days.”
Mr. Hodges expects to return to Waldport in a couple of days.
Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 5/17/1906 p7
Holy Rollers Return Home
Female Followers of Joshua Creffield Rescued from Retreat Near Waldport.
PHILOMATH, Or., May 16.--(Special to the Statesman.)--Early this afternoon five women, one carrying in her arms a babe, in charge of an elderly man, rode into town in a wagon and ate dinner at the hotel. It soon became current in the town that the quintet of women were Joshua Creffield’s holy rollers returning from their forest-hidden hermitage near Waldport. It is reported that when told that their leader was dead they persistently rejected such an event as impossible. They finally accepted the inevitable and abandoned their retreat and started with their rescuer for their homes.
Seattle Star 5/16/1906 p7
Attack on Mitchell Fails to Carry
E. Shorrock, the prominent local banker, introduced at the meeting of the Chamber of Commerce this afternoon a resolution condemning the position taken by the press in the Mitchell case as encouraging murder as a means of redress for private or family wrongs. The resolution created considerable discussion, but failed to pass and was thrown out. The resolution was as follows:
“Resolved, That we hereby deplore and condemn the action of the public press in the Mitchell case as tending to encourage the crime of murder as a means of avenging private or family wrongs.”
Sara Robbin, Adeline Christensen & Jon Ashley Hall as
Mollie, Ruth & Frank Hurt
HEADLINES IN DIFFERENT PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Evening Telegram (Portland) 5/16/1906 p1
Abandon Hope For ‘Messiah
Deluded Women Are Returning Home From Camp. All But Famished. Mrs. Burgess Starr, of Portland, Among ‘Holy Rollers’ Followers. Waited and Watched a Week for Resurrection of Creffield.
Seattle Star 5/17/1906 p7
Were Half Starved But Still Faithful.
Five Women, Dupes of Creffield, Reach Corvallis From Holy Roller Camp, Still Believing that “Messiah” Will Arise---Were Boycotted by Farmers and Lived on Shellfish---Two Seattle Women in Party.
[Telegram Coast Special.]
(Seattle Star) CORVALLIS, OR, May 17.--The deluded followers of “Joshua” Creffield, the dead Holy Roller” leader who were destitute and almost starving in the camp at Heceta Head, founded by him, arrived her from the coast last night..
Although they had been stranded there for several weeks they appeared to be little the worse for the experience. They are still faithful to Creffield, and expect him to rise from the dead.
(Seattle Star) CORVALLIS, Or., May 16.--Over at Heceta Head, five women, one with a babe in arms, have been vainly awaiting the resurrection of Creffield.
These five are the remnants of the Holy Roller followers formerly camped at the mouth of the Yachats. They are Mrs. Frank Hurt and baby, Olive Sandell, of Seattle; Mrs. Burt Starr, of Portland, and Mae Hurt and Attie Bray, of Corvallis.
When Creffield fled from Waldport in fear of his life, Farmer Hosford, on whose land the Holy Rollers had camped, ordered them off his premises. Frank Hurt, who remained with them, moved the camp several miles down the beach near Heceta Head.
Leaving them to await the resurrection of Creffield, he went to Seattle. Since the apostle’s death, relatives of the women have been trying to persuade them to return home, but for more than a week such efforts have been without avail.
This morning, however, word has reached here that they have broken camp and are returning via Alsea to Corvallis. With Creffield forever out of their lives, it is believed by relatives that Holy Rollerism will with them be a thing of the past.
Boycotted by the residents of the surrounding country, who would neither sell nor give them anything, the five women who were awaiting the return of the “Messiah” Creffield were in a fair way to starve to death. Timber Cruiser George Hodges, who found the women, said today that Farmer Hosford almost refused to give him shelter because Hodges had given his provisions to the women.
The dwellers along the beach feared an outbreak of Holy Rollerism among them more than the plague and would rather have let the unfortunates starve than do anything to encourage the male Rollers to return to that part of the country.
Hodges found the women in a secluded spot on the beach, half clad and subsisting on shellfish. He at once dumped down his bag of provisions, which they refused at first to touch, but later they reconsidered and ate as if starving.
There were two young girls and three older women, the oldest being not more than 30. One, identified by Mr. Hodges as Mrs. Starr, of Portland, did most of the talking and refused to believe that Creffield was killed by mortal hand.
Upon reaching the open country Hodges went to Toledo, the county seat, and endeavored to have assistance sent to the women, but failed. The people all seemed to fear that the slightest act of kindness toward the women would encourage the men of the party to return.
All of the women seemed cheerful and without fear for the future. They spoke perfectly rational on all subjects except their peculiar creed.
Burgess Starr, brother-in-law of George Mitchell, the man who killed “Holy Roller” Creffield, is convinced that his misguided wife is one of the five women reported to be starving on the coast of Southern Oregon, near Heceta Point.
Starr had no definite report of the women when seen by a Telegram reporter this morning, but at once said that the fifth woman, whom George Hodges did not recognize as being from Corvallis, was undoubtedly Mrs. Starr.
“It is now nearly three weeks,’ said Starr, “since my wife left her home in this city some time between 11 and 1 o’clock at night. She went to Corvallis, walking, it is reported, the whole 90 miles. Later I heard that she was camped with a party of “Rollers” at the mouth of the Yachats River, 10 miles from Alsea Bay.
That the party has moved down the coast to a point where Hodges reported seeing them is entirely probable. I recognize the little child he saw as being young Hurt’s baby.
“I do not think I shall make any effort to get my wife back. As long as the spell of that scoundrel is on her my efforts would be futile. there is a home for her whenever she abandons this folly and returns voluntarily, but until then she must follow the path she has chosen.”
Morning Oregonian (Portland) 5/17/1906 p1
Women Rollers Denied Shelter
Father of One Victim Turns Party Away. Rain Soaked and Hungry. Creffield Followers Camp by Ocean and Eat Clams. Rescue by Corvallis Man. O. V. Hurt, Related to All the Deluded Females, Sends for Them and Welcomes to His House.”
CORVALLIS, Or., May 16.--(Special) The story of the privations of a portion of Creffield’s band of Holy Rollers, as related in today’s Oregonian, is confirmed here in almost every detail. When Creffield took flight from the vicinity of Waldport and made his way to Seattle, other members of the sect soon followed, but there were left at camp Mrs. Frank Hurt and babe, 5 months old, her sister Miss Sandell, Miss May Hurt, Miss Atta Bray and Mrs. Bert Starr, the latter being a sister of Creffield’s slayer, George Mitchell.
The inhospitable treatment accorded these people at Waldport induced the remaining members to make their way southward, with their meager belongings, hoping to find shelter at the home of Atta Bray’s parents, who reside on the coast, 15 miles below Waldport.
FATHER TURNS AWAY DAUGHTER
About a year ago, while visiting at the Hurt home in this city Atta Bray was converted to Rollerism, and she is one of the girls sent to the state insane asylum as a result of Creffield’s teachings. A number of Corvallis people have reason to believe that the girl’s father was in the city gunning for Creffield about the time the apostle went into hiding under the Hurt residence.
With fresh memory of the injury wrought in his family by the Holy Rollers it is not strange that Ira Bray refused to give aid and comfort to the straggling members of the sect, even though his daughter was of the number.
NOTHING BUT SHELLFISH TO EAT
Without money, without food, having scant clothing and three or four cotton blankets only , the remnant of Rollerism went into camp where Cummings Creek empties into the ocean just south of Cape Perpetua and a few miles north of the Bray ranch on Ten Mile Creek. Here for more than two weeks they subsisted upon clams and such other food as they could gather along the beach, and having slight covering to protect them from the cold rains and winds which are usual in that vicinity.
O. V. Hurt, of this city, who is related to all the members of the straggling party, either by marriage or otherwise, having become interested in the whereabouts of his relatives, discovered their situation, and at once took means to have them rescued from what would appear to be an uncomfortable if not a perilous situation. Mr. Hurt arranged with William McMillan, of Waldport, to transport the party to that point.
RESCUE OF THE WOMEN
A portion of the way was made on foot over a narrow trail built through shell rock around the face of Cape Perpetua. From this trail a stone may be thrown into the ocean, which thunders at the promontory’s base a thousand feet below. McMillan landed the refugees safely at Waldport Sunday evening last. The following morning the party came by boat to the head of tidewater on Alsea Bay, thence by wagon to Corvallis, arriving here this evening at 4 o’clock, with 60 pounds of baggage.
Milton Beem, of Lower Alsea, who transported the party from tidewater to Corvallis, states that upon the trip he heard no reference to Creffield whatever, nor to the holy roller religion. The party conversed upon general topics, and spoke frequently of the enjoyable time they had in camp on Cummings Creek.
WET, BUT WITHOUT COMPLAINT
On the way, although Beem was well protected by slicker and gum boots, he became thoroughly soaked from rain, still no complaint was heard from the thinly clad women in his charge. The entire party is now at the home of Mr. Hurt, in South Corvallis, and there is no decision concerning future movements of the various individuals excepting as to Mr. Hurt’s daughter who will remain at home.
MUST RENOUNCE HOLY ROLLERISM
So incensed is Burgess Starr, of 429 East Main street, at the conduct of the “holy roller” sect that he will make no attempt to rescue his wife, unless she is willing to return to her home and give up her fanatical religion. Mrs. Starr is one of the five Creffield followers who were camped at the mouth of the Yachats River, in the firm belief that the fanatic would join them there.
“If Mrs. Starr returns to her home and gives up the teachings of the ‘holy rollers,’” said Starr yesterday, “the house will be in readiness for her, but I will take no steps to bring her back. She must return of her own will.
The quintet of fanatics have about given up hope of Creffield’s return and are now at Corvallis. The last act in the “holy rollerism” has probably been played.
Morning Oregonian (Portland) 5/16/1906 p6
Sister Is Against Avenger
Esther Mitchell May Be Witness for Prosecution in Creffield Case.
SEATTLE, Wash., May 15.--(Special.)-- The unusual spectacle of a sister in the role of a witness for the prosecution of her brother and defender of her honor may be witnessed when George Mitchell is placed on trial for shooting Edmund Creffield, the ex-leader of the Holy Rollers.
Miss Esther Mitchell has indicated that her brother, who says he killed Creffield to protect the honor of his two sisters, need expect no help from her at the trial. She was closeted with Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh and his chief assistant, John F. Miller, for two hours, and today Mr. Miller said it would all depend upon the attitude of the defense as to whether the girl would be called upon by the prosecution to testify.