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 17, 1906 Public Sentiment Favors Mitchell


1899 Ingersol Watch advertisementWeekly Herald (Albany, Oregon) 5/171906 p7

A Reminder of Creffield


. . . While here yesterday he [Louis Hartley] exhibited a gold watch, a present from him to his daughter when she was graduated from college. The watch had been taken by Creffield, and at a time when he sought to impress his followers with the sinfulness of luxuries he took a hatchet and mutilated the timepiece. This watch was later recovered by Mr. Hartley and is now in his possession, a mute reminder of the fanatics teaching of the recently slain Holy Roller humbug.



Seattle Daily Times 5/17/1906 p5

Holy Roller Wife Would Be Forgiven.

Her Relations With the Prophet Creffield Has Not Destroyed Portland Husband’s Affection.


PORTLAND, Ore., Thursday, May 17.-- Love for the dead Holy Roller prophet, Joshua Creffield, has not destroyed the remnants of B. E. Starr’s affection for his straying wife. Mrs. Starr’s today expressed regret that he had not heard from his spouse, who left him after taking $1 (sic) from his pocket one night a week before Creffield’s murder and started for the Holy Roller camp on the seacoast near Nehalem, expecting to walk ninety miles across the mountains to reach her destination. Mr. Starr is ready, even yet, to receive his erring wife into his home again should she return.


“It depends upon circumstances whether or not I will receive her again,” he said. “If she comes in the right spirit she shall return. I know nothing more of her whereabouts than anyone else, for I have heard nothing and know only what I have read in the papers. I may go to Seattle later, but am waiting to hear from her.”


It was on account of his relation with Mrs. Starr that Creffield was convicted and spent two years in the Oregon penitentiary.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 5/17/06
Holy Rollers in Corvallis

Seattle Daily Times 5/17/06
Five Refugees Return

Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 5/12/1906 p1
Holy Rollers in Corvallis

Seattle Daily Times 5/12/1906 p1
Five Refugees Return

Deluded Victims of Late Apostle Break Camp and Return to Old Home. Now Stopping at the House of O. V. Hurt. Contrary to Reports They Are Neither Ragged Nor Hungry--Still faithful to Teachings and Believe Creffield Will Rise From Dead.”
 Corvallis Women, Followers of Joshua Creffield, Brought Back to Civilization From the Wilderness. Now That They Are Home It Is Hoped That the Hold of the Belief Will Be Ended in the Oregon City.

(Special Dispatch to The Journal)
Corvallis, Or., May 17. -- The Holy Rollers who were stranded at Creffield’s camp on the coast reached Corvallis last night apparently but little worse for their experience. Frank Hurt left the camp last Friday and when he left there was a week’s rations at the place, the supply consisting of flour, rice and other groceries. Upon reaching Corvallis Hurt sent $5 back to the camp for supplies and left here Monday for Seattle.

The refugees were brought from their secluded camp by a farmer to Tidewater Saturday. Monday morning they were at the home of Milton Beem, who had received word from Corvallis from O. V. Hurt to bring them to Corvallis, and the journey was begun.
Tuesday night en route to Corvallis the party stayed at the Chandler home in Alsea and the trip was finished yesterday.  While it rained a part of the way, the women had some blankets and were made comfortable.

The victims of Creffieldism in this party are Mrs. Bert Starr of Portland, Mrs. Frank Hurt and baby, her sister, Miss Olive Sandell, Miss May Hurt and Miss Atta Bray.
All of these disciples are old converts and faithful followers of the late Joshua, but contrary to report, they offered no objection to returning and are neither starved nor ragged. They are at the O. V. Hurt home.

Whether or not they will give up their Holy Roller belief is not known even by the victims themselves, but there is no sign at present of any falling away from their creed.

Lewis Hartley has filed suit in the Benton county court for a divorce from his wife, Cora A. Hartley, and the complaint lodged is of a highly sensational character.

It is reported that the faith still exists in the minds of many of the former disciples that Creffield will arise from the dead, but itis universally hoped that the return to civilization of these women will end the craze in Corvallis.


Evening Telegram (Portland) 5/17/1906 p8
Exhausted Women Reach Corvallis
Creffield’s Victims Sheltered in Homes of Relatives to Gain Rest.

[Telegram Coast Special.]
CORVALLIS, OR., May 17.-- The five women who have been wandering along the ocean shore near Heceta Head awaiting the resurrection of “Joshua” Creffield at Seattle, reached Corvallis last night. They were brought in a conveyance sent by Victor Hurt, a member of the family which has been divided and torn by the passions of the false faith to which they were indoctrinated by the “Holy Roller” prophet.

They will make no statement except that they are glad to get home again. In appearance they are worn and disheveled, having subsisted on shellfish and such other meager fare as they could pick up along the beaches.

Mrs. Burgess Starr, of Portland, and Olive Sandell, of Seattle, will leave for their homes in a few days. The entire party is greatly in need of rest and will remain here until recuperated.

Mrs. Starr and Miss Sandell are at the home of Lewis Hartley. The others of the party, including the little babe belonging to Mrs. Frank Hurt, will be given shelter at the home of Victor Hurt, the man who assisted them to reach this city.


Evening Telegram (Portland) 5/17/1906 p8
Enticed to City
Longing of Cora Seeley for Footlight Fame Brings Her Trouble

Mrs. Cora Seeley, 19 years old, and alleged “Holy Roller,” of Waterville, Lane County, is on her way home from Portland this afternoon under the sheltering carte of L. A. Kanoff, a friend of the family, after a kaleidoscopic whirl of experiences in Portland and other places.

Whether she is a poor, misguided girl, the victim of base deceivers, or partly responsible herself for some of her recent experiences, is a matter not entirely clear in the minds of the authorities who handled the local details of the case.

The events leading up to her discovery at an early hour this morning, in a Burnside street lodging house and later to her being sent home, date back for some time. The first trouble in which Mrs. Seeley found herself seems to have been when she listened to the glib tongue of Charles A. Prall, of Medford, and a vaudeville theatrical impresario. Prall for some time has been organizing a vaudeville troupe, and at Eugene, Or, he poured a mythical tale of visionary fame that was in store for her into the willing ear of Mrs. Seeley, and she consented to become famous. Last Tuesday Prall and the woman were arrested for living together. Prall was yesterday fined $100, but the woman was not molested. She had not been living with her husband for some time, because Seeley would not tolerate “Holy Rollerism” which she had become imbued, and that Prall appeared to her like her soul’s affinity.

When Prall got into trouble at Eugene, Mrs. Seeley, at his suggestion, accompanied Leroy Berry, a friend of Prall, to Portland, yesterday, still believing, so she says, that she was to become a leading light on the stage, the first stepping stone to be a dazzling whirl around the ten-cent vaudeville circuit.

Berry last night showed her the sights of Portland, and after a visit to a concert hall on Burnside street, where she might catch a glimpse of the stage life that Prall held out as being so alluring, Berry took her to the lodging house, where she was later found by the police.

L. A. Kanoff, the friend who notified the local police that the woman had come to town, said that Mrs. Seeley’s maiden name was Nott; that she came of a good family, and had a sister living in Eugene. It was while doing some work for her sister there that Mrs. Seeley met Prall.

No action has been taken against Berry, the man who brought her to Portland, and it is not likely that any complaint will be sworn out against him.



1903 lanterns advertisementSeattle Daily Times 5/17/1906 p5

Religious Fanatic Terrifies Sailors

Demented Man With Loaded Revolver Keeps His Mates Captive While He Reads the Bible.


NEW YORK, Thursday, May 17.-- the Herald today says: Standing at the companion way of the yacht Atreus, owned by George W. Childrs Drexel of Philadelphia, which is tied up at South Brooklyn, John Neilsen, a seaman, suffering from religious mania, with a revolver in hand, compelled the little crew of five men to remain below deck from Tuesday evening until yesterday.


For eight hours Neilsen, by the light of a lantern, read passage after passage from the bible. The terrified men, unarmed, locked themselves in the cabin.

John Larsen, boatswain’s mate, managed to make his escape from the yacht yesterday and telephoned the police. Six officers later overpowered Neilsen, who was sent to a hospital for observation.



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 5/17/1906 p3

Defender of his Honor Released


SEATTLE, Wash., May 16.--(Special)-- Frank Marshall, a Skagit County rancher, found his wife walking on the streets in company with Vincent Ignasiak. He assaulted Ignasiak and was hauled into Police Court for the offense. Admitting the assault, Marshal’s attorney, ex-United States District Attorney Wilson R. Gay, declared the assault justifiable. After hearing the story and the argument, the court turned loose Marshal.

The case is of special significance, following upon Superior Court Judge Frater’s denunciation of Ray McDonald, whom George Beede shot as his wife's paramour, in showing the sentiment of the judiciary that will have to try George Mitchell, Creffield’s slayer.



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 5/17/1906 p3

Public Sentiment Favors Mitchell


SEATTLE, Wash., May 16.--(Special)-- A resolution introduced in the chamber of Commerce today, deprecating sentiments expressed by the daily press condoning the killing of Creffield, were laid on the table after ex-Governor John H. McGraw, I. A. Nadeau and others had spoken against them. E. Shorrock, a banker and school director, was sponsor for the resolutions.


“I have always stood for the defense of law and order, and personally and as president of this chamber, I deprecate all forms of lawlessness, but I can conceive of cases where a man’s duty to family is paramount,” said ex-Governor McGraw in his speech.


“Referring to the case that every man present no doubt has in his mind,” he continued, “I must say that I would not be eligible to sit on a jury in trial of this man for the reason that I would be unable to truthfully answer questions touching my competency as such juror.”



Seattle Daily Times 5/17/1906 p4

Creffield Made No Denial Of His Acts

Deputy Prosecutor Who Conducted Oregon Case Says the Holy Roller Admitted Crimes That Were Charge. Refers to Slain “Joshua” as a Beast Whose Conduct Was Too Low and Degraded to Be Detailed in Court. Seattle Man Makes Offer of $1,000 to Fund for Bail for Mitchell if Court Will Allow His Liberty.”\


G. C. Moser, Deputy under District-Attorney John Manning of Portland, the man who tried Edmund Creffield, when the leader of the Holy Rollers was sent to prison for two years for his conduct with Mrs. Starr, the sister of George Mitchell, Creffield’s slayer, was in Seattle today attending the K. of P. convention and this morning had a long conference with Morris & Shipley, Mitchell’s attorneys.


To a reporter for The Times Mr. Moser declared that there is probably not a man, woman or child in Corvallis or in other towns in Oregon, where the Holy Roller disturbances occurred, who will not be glad if George Mitchell is found not guilty of the murder of Creffield.



“That man Creffield was the worst beast that I ever heard of,” said Mr. Moser. “His acts under the guise of religion, as proved at his trial, were too shameful even for court record. In our state two years is the limit that can be given to an adulterer. Creffield got that and he got it on what amounted to a plea of guilty. He admitted all the accusations, but declared in open court that he was justified by religion. He conducted his own defense at the trial, refusing to allow the court to appoint an attorney for him. The entire trial was held behind closed doors for it would not have done to admit the public.


“Nothing lower or more degraded could be conceived than the acts that Creffield himself committed and forced his silly followers to commit under the pretense that it was religion and that he was the Messiah.


Mr. Moser was asked concerning the letter that Mr. Manning had written to Prosecuting-Attorney Mackintosh asking that he be permitted to appear at the trial and tell what he knew of Creffieldism.




“Mr. Manning has received dozens of letters and telegrams from prominent men all over the state commending the stand he took in desiring to see Mitchell freed of a crime which he committed as revenge for the disgrace that Creffield had brought on his sisters.


Mr. Moser also called upon Prosecuting-Attorney Mackintosh and related to him the stories he had learned of the Holy Rollers. Mr. Moser says that Mr. Mackintosh still insists that the shooting was a cold-blooded murder that should be punished.


“In the eye of the law that is true,” answered Mr. Moser,” but you’d have a hard time to make anyone in Oregon believe that George Mitchell was not justified.”




G. W. Elliot of 1907 Tenth Avenue North, called upon Mr. Morris today and renewed his offer made last week that he would contribute $1,000 to raise bail for Mitchell should the court admit the prisoner to his liberty.


Another man who said he owned nothing but a little home called on the attorney and offered to mortgage his home to raise cash bail to assist. Numerous other offers have been reaching the attorneys daily.


Next Saturday is the date set when Mitchell will enter his plea of not guilty. A purely legal defense will be set up, but the attorneys have not given out on what lines they will proceed.


“We hope to be ready to ask for a trial early in June,” said Mr. Morris. “We feel that our client will be acquitted and we dislike very much for him to be compelled to remain in jail any longer than is absolutely necessary.

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