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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.

July 19, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail


Maud Hurt CreffieldSeattle Star 7/19/1906 p1

Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail

Says Her Heart Is Breaking When She Thinks Of The Sorrow That Has Come To Her Aged Parents.


For a brief half hour immediately after noon today, Mrs. Maud Creffield charge with the murder in the first degree sat in the corridor of the county jail and drank in the fresh air and feasted her eyes on what she could see of the doings of the outer world.


For this brief period she wanted to try to forget the events of the past few weeks and months and think of the time when she was in happier circumstances. She has talked so much about these events that they have become loathsome to her.


“There is one thing the reporters don’t ask me about,” she said. “Everybody seems to think that I am a hardened criminal without the least bit of feeling and sympathy. I don’t shed tears the way other people do, but my heart is almost breaking.”


And as she said the words, tears came to her eyes, and she averted he head.


“Won’t you please tell the people that no woman ever felt for her bereaved old parents more than I do. Tell them that I would gladly give my life if I could return them half the comfort that has been stolen from them.”



Seattle Daily TimesSeattle Daily Times 7/19/1906 p6

Cheap “Economy” Talk


Those busybodies who are endeavoring to work up a case of insanity against Esther Mitchell, the slayer of her brother, and against Maud Creffield, accessory before the fact--under the plea that, if insane, the can be sent out of the State to Oregon and the county save an expense of fully $5,000 in trying the charge of murder, may just as well pull in their horns.


Seattle is not dodging her responsibility.


These people came from Oregon, it is true. But they committed a crime in Seattle--and violated the laws of this State.


Washington is not only ready, but anxious to stand the necessary expenses of the trial for the simple reason that Seattle and the State of Washington do not propose to permit this to be a dumping ground for the criminal elements of other States.


When men or women commit wanton violations of the law of the State of Washington, the State of Washington will do its best to punish such criminals to the full limit of the law.


The question of the saving of a few dollars in costs is not to be considered for a moment.


People who know the two women concerned do not believe they are insane. They have certainly been guilty of no act since being committed to prison that would lead one to believe they are insane--except to aver that they were ready to suffer for the crime committed--and that is such strange honesty for murderers to display that it may seem a little queer to many persons.


Lets stop this “cheap talk” about insanity and about saving a few dollars in court expenses. It’s law and order we want, and we cannot have these without a strict enforcement of the penalty for their violation.





Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/19/1906 p2

Holy Rollerism is Dead Forever

Widow of Joshua Creffield Says Its Creed Has Lost Its Followers.

Leader Had Eliminated Objectionable Features

At Time He Was Killed Apostle Intended to Settle in Seattle and Live Quiet Life, Having Completely Revised His Teachings.


Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/19/1906 p5

Says Roller Creed is Dead Forever

Old Practices Abandoned Before Husband’s Death Claims Mrs. Creffield.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal)


”I believe the religion is dead forever” is the declaration of Mrs. Maud Creffield, widow of the dead leader of Holy Rollers, given at the county jail to a reporter for the Post-Intelligencer yesterday. Mrs. Creffield forever asserts that she and her husband had, at the time his life was taken by George Mitchell, already made alterations in their religious beliefs, and had discontinued the practices which has rendered their faith obnoxious to the communities in which they had been established.


It has been their intention, she states, to make Seattle their home and to lead new and totally different lives.




“Our religion is a faith,” she said, “because we believed as we do it is no cause for saying we are insane. Why not say all religious people are insane? I don’t believe I should discuss Holy Rollerism at all. This much I will say: I have changed my belief since the time my dead husband was leading us in Oregon. We had both changed and we believed differently at the time of his death than before. There are several things regarding which our belief has changed. I might say that we eliminated all the things the public generally condemned and had reorganized our creed.


“We had resolved to make a new home in Seattle, away from the scenes that had become obnoxious to us both, and it was with the intention of establishing ourselves and getting along in the world that we were remaining in Seattle when my husband was killed.




“Yes, it was our intention to continue in our faith there, but it would have been a revised faith and one against which there could not have been a breath of suspicion. Membership would have been taken in as our plans developed and we would have been happy, for we had determined upon new lives.


“It would not be right for me to say what features of our practices were eliminated after the reunion in Seattle this spring. When we were doing what we did in Oregon we thought it right, and this being the case, and having changed when we found further light and viewed our practices as wrong, it is not for the public to know what the inner workings of our religion was.


“Holy Rollerism is not spreading and there is little danger of it doing so. In fact, it has not been practiced by us for more than two years. Other than we two women there are none in Seattle. The report that four are living in Everett is untrue, and for that matter, other than those who have remained faithful in Oregon there are no Holy Rollers, and I believe the religion is dead forever.”



Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/19/1906 p1

Roller Religion Dead Forever

Mrs. Creffield Says She sees Now Practices Were Wrong.

Intended to Reform

With Murderess Esther Will Plead Not Guilty When Arraigned Monday.

Will Elect to Be Tried Separately; Counsel Secured.


[Telegram Coast Special.]


SEATTLE, Wash., July 19-- “Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield will be arraigned Monday morning if Judge Frater is here then,” said Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh today. The court has announced his intention of being in Seattle on that date.


Baxter & Wilson, who were retained by Alfred E Clarke of Portland, will represent Esther Mitchell. It is probable that at this preliminary, Will H. Morris, who defended Esther Mitchell’s victim, will appear. Mr. Morris says he has been asked by O. V. Hurt of Corvallis, to secure counsel for Mrs. Creffield.


“It is out of our great respect and sympathy for Mr. Hurt,’ said Attorney Morris, “that we are willing to do this much. We will not appear at the trial, but if no counsel has been engaged for the preliminary proceedings we will plead for her.”


The women will elect to be tried separately, and will plead not guilty.


“I believe the religion is dead forever,” said Mrs. Creffield. “We had intended to continue our faith here, but it would have been a revised faith, and one against which there could not have been a breath of suspicion. What we did in Oregon we thought right at the time. We have found further light since, and view our practices three years ago as wrong. It is not for the public to know what the inner workings of our religion were. Holy Rollerism is not spreading, and there is little danger of it doing so.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/19/1906 p2

Holy Roller Family is Leaving Corvallis

Mrs. Hartley and Daughter Sophia Will Abandon Their Home of Many Years.


(Special Dispatch to the Journal)


Corvallis, Or., July 19.--With mysterious secrecy as to their plans for the future, Mrs. Hartley and daughter Sophia, formerly members of Creffield’s Holy Roller band, are preparing to abandon their home in this town. They are selling their household good and it is believed intended to start for Washington.


Perry Mitchell arrived in Corvallis yesterday and spent the night here, the guest of Mr. O. V. Hurt, father of Mrs. Creffield, the woman who instigated the murder of George Mitchell by his sister Esther, who is now held in Seattle to answer for the crime.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/19/1906 p2

Will Defend Women

Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell Will Have Attorneys in Trial.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal)


Seattle, Wash., July 19.-- Alfred Clark of Portland and the law firm of Baxter & Wilson of this city have been employed to defend Esther Mitchell on the charge of murder for slaying her brother George in revenge for his killing of Joshua Creffield, leader of the Holy Rollers. Mrs. Creffield, who is held jointly with the Mitchell girl for the crime, will probably be defended by Morris & Shipley, the attorneys who were successful in acquitting George Mitchell when he was tried for killing their prospective client’s husband, Creffield.


It has been announced by the firm of Morris & Shipley that they will represent Mrs. Creffield throughout the preliminary proceedings, and is believed that in case their client is bound over they will undertake her defense in the trial to follow.



Corvallis Times 7/19/1906

Portland Attorney to Defend Esther Mitchell


Alfred E. Clarke, of Portland, has been engaged to assist in the defense of Esther Mitchell for the murder of her brother George, at Seattle. Attorney Clarke has nothing to do with the defense of Mrs. Creffield, who confesses that she instigated Miss Mitchell to commit the act. It is understood that none of Miss Mitchell’s relatives have secured the services of the Portland lawyer, but that some man living here, who is interested in the case, notified Attorney Clarke his fee would be taken care of it he would conduct the defense. In compliance with this commission, Mr. Clarke went to Seattle Monday and had a conference with Miss Mitchell.



Stanford WhiteSeattle Post Intelligencer 7/19/1906 p10

Information Filed in Mitchell Case

Both Women Charged With First Degree Murder by Prosecuting Attorney.

Prisoners Have Counsel.

Baxter & Wilson to Represent Esther Mitchell-Morris to Aid Mrs. Creffield.


Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John F. Miller is not in favor of having an insanity commission examine into the mental condition of Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield, though he does regret that King county should be put to the expense of prosecuting for alleged crimes which had their incipiency in Oregon. Mr. Miller assisted in the preparation of the information against the women, and these were filed yesterday afternoon.


Just when the prisoners will be arraigned has not been decided; but when they are, they will be represented by counsel. For Esther Mitchell, C. L. Baxter and John R. Wilson, of Baxter & Wilson, a local firm, have been retained; Alfred E. Clarke, of Portland, appearing for Oregon friends of the girl. Will H. Morris, of Morris, Southard and Shipley, is acting temporarily for Mrs. Creffield, at the request of the woman’s father, O. V. Hurt, of Corvallis.


“It is entirely out of our regard for Mr. Hurt,” said Attorney Will H. Morris, last evening, “that we have been induced to secure counsel for his daughter. If we cannot get aid in time for the arraignment, or other preliminary proceedings, we may appear, but on no account shall we appear when the matter comes to trial. We shall, however, assist counsel as far as we can, acting as friends in the matter. I have seen both Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield, and each expressed herself as pleased that we should take this part in the case.


Speaking of the possibility of removal of the women to Oregon, as insane patients, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John F. Miller said yesterday:




“This phase of the case has been considered by Mr. Mackintosh, Judge Frater and myself. I do not see what would be gained by having an insanity commission. It would cost a lot of money anyway to get evidence from Oregon such as is necessary to prove insanity, and the county might thus spend $1,000 only to have the commission report, what I think is undoubtedly true, that the women are sane. The only good that would thus be done would be that the record would be admitted at the trial to be considered along with other evidence. A series of scientific observations as to the prisoners’ mental condition is being conducted.



Harry Thaw Killing Stanford WhiteSeattle Post Intelligencer 7/19/1906 p6

The Insane of Criminal Impulse


The suggestion to have Esther Mitchell and Maud Creffield examined by a commission to have their sanity determined in advance of a trial is sound. If these women are insane, they should be deported to their homes in Oregon and turned over to the authorities of that state for safe keeping. If they are sane, they should be given a speedy trial and their guilt or innocence determined, if it is legally possible, without the issue of insanity being left to the determination of a jury of laymen having no knowledge of the subject.


If the law does not permit of the question of insanity being determined definitely and finally, in advance of a trial for murder or other crime, it is high time that the law be changed. It is not such an issue as should be left to a lay jury; nor is it altogether a satisfactory method to have it determined by a post-mortem examination; although the latter process has some obvious advantages.


The recent killings in this city and the killing of White by Thaw in New York suggest the advisability of certain changes in the criminal laws. If a man murders another while insane, the safety of society requires that he be incarcerated, so that he may have no further opportunity to commit such offenses. This would operate to the safety of society in more ways than one; for if an insane asylum for life loomed up before every victim of emotional and homicidal insanity, it is a safe guess emotions would be restrained and the homicidal impulse would be considerably modified, if not held completely in check.


In New York, apparently, there is some provision of this character, for the dispatches announce that Thaw’s sanity is to be determined by a commission of alienists, and that if he should prove to be mentally unsound, he will be sent to the asylum for the criminal insane and the proceedings against him will be dropped. This would be an eminently proper disposition to make of his case if the man is in fact insane.


The public injury does not come from the fact that an insane person escapes the consequences of a crime committed by him; but from the prevailing popular (Rest of article is cut off)

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Newspaper Articles about Creffield & the Holy Rollers

1897-1899:Local Lore, News Of Corvallis and Vicinity Told in Brief B. C. (Before Creffield)

1900:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1901:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1902:Holy Rollers' Lives Creffield

January 18, 1903: Fred Mitchell Attempts Suicide

June 10, 1903: Salvation Army Major Deserts and Joins the Holy Rollers

October 31, 1903: Zealot Worshipers Burn Furniture, Dogs & Other Things

November 2, 1903: Fanatics In Court

November 3, 1903: Had Promise of Tar and Feathers

November 4, 1903: Flight of The Apostles

November 5, 1903: Once-Esteemed Family No Longer Has the Sympathy of the Community

November 6, 1903: Rollers Take On New Life

November 7, 1903: Is Creffield Back?

November 11, 1903: “Apostle” Creffield Still Under Cover

November 24, 1903: Girl of Sixteen Almost Insane

November 25, 1903: In Pursuit of Creffield

November 27, 1903: The Lord May Starve Them

November 28, 1903: Holy Rollers Receive Unwilling Baptism

December 7, 1903: Demented Woman Suffers

December 8, 1903: Hurt Seen In Portland

December 11, 1903:Holy Rollers Roll Into Eugene Church

December 21, 1903:Holy Roller Victim Worse

December 22, 1903: Linn County Holy Rollers

December 23, 1903: Is Crazy Now

December 29, 1903: Holy Rollers’ Not Liked at the Dalles

December 30, 1903: Owner of Property Refuses to Permit Séances

January 6, 1904: Holy Rollers Tarred and Feathered

January 9, 1904: Their Welcome Departure

January 12, 1904: Editorial Comment: “Put yourselves in our place!”

January 13, 1904: Where Brooks Went

January 19, 1904: Our Brainy Contemporaries

January 25: Holy Rollers’ in Hobo Camp Life

February 1, 1904: Camp In Linn County Is Broken Up By Officers

February 6, 1904: How They Tell The Holy Roller Story In Far Off Scotland

February 11, 1904: Medium Mystify Corvallis People

March 1, 1904: The “Holy Rollers” Offend Humanity

March 16, 1904: Holy Rollers to Be Arrested on Serious Charge

March 17, 1904: Where is the Apostle?

March 21, 1904: Reward For Creffield's Capture

March 23, 1904: Fugitive Creffield

March 28, 1904: Reward is Offered

April 1, 1904: “Holy Roller” Chief Very Badly Wanted

April 18, 1904: Holy Roller High Priest Is Seen

April 29, 1904: Urania Seeley is Arrested

May 2, 1904: Frank & Mollie Hurt are Committed to the Asylum

May 4, 1904: Maud Hurt-Creffield & Sophia Hartley are Committed

May 7, 1904: Attie Bray &Rose Seeley are Committed

June 11, 1904: Attie Bray Escapes

June 17, 1904: Mae Hurt is Committed

June 29, 1904: Sarah Hurt is Committed

July 22, 1904: Holy Roller on Death Row

July 29, 1904: Creffield Found Half Dead Under Hurt’s House

July, 30 1904: Armed Guards Protect Creffield

July, 31 1904: Corvallis Could Not Raise a Mob

August 1, 1904: Creffield says, "I am Elijah"

August 2, 1904: Creffield Does Not Dislike Prison

August 4, 1904: Creffield Says He Is Entirely Purified

August 5, 1904: He Does Nothing Unless Directed by God

August 6, 1904: Creffield Believes in Satan and Eternal Punishment

August 9, 1904: No Flowers For Creffield

August 13, 1904; The Holy Rollers And The Man Who Made Them

August 16, 1904; Creffield Reward Will Be Returned

August 19, 1904: Followers in Asylum Stick To Faith

August 23, 1904: Creffield Will Fight His Own Case

August 28, 1904: Creffield Destroys His Revelations

September 16, 1904: Creffield is Guilty

September 21, 1904: Holy Rollers go in and Out of the Asylum

March 22, 1905: Prison Life Of Joshua Creffield>

April 8, 1905: Life In Corvallis Returns to Normal

December 12, 1905: Frank & Mollie Hurt Have a Baby Girl

April 24, 1906: Creffield Establishes a Camp Near Waldport

April 30, 1906: Donna Starr Leaves Children to go to Her Spiritual Love, Joshua Creffield

May 1, 1906: Creffield Takes Credit for The San Francisco Earthquake

May 3, 1906: Creffield In Fear Of His Life

May 7, 1906: Holy Roller Shot Down Like A Dog

May 8, 1906: Medal to Be Given Mitchell in Recognition of His Killing

May 9, 1906: Oregon Prosecutor Would Aid Mitchell

May 10, 1906: Shows No Emotion At Husband’s Grave

May 11, 1906: Bail Is All Ready

May 12, 1906: Mitchell Denied Bail

May 13, 1906: Creffield is Due To Rise Today

May 14, 1906: Creffield’s Widow Watches At Grave

May 15, 1906: Corvallis Starts Fund for Defense of Mitchell

May 16, 1906: Holy Rollers Starving Near Heceta Head

May 17, 1906: Public Sentiment Favors Mitchell

May 18, 1906: Creffield Railed in Vermont

May 19, 1906: Mitchell to Enter Plea of Not Guilty

May 27, 1906: Joshua Says Not to Worry

June 1, 1906: Morris Claims Mitchell Rid World of a Fiend

June 16, 1906: Prosecution and Defense are Making Last Preparations

June 19, 1906: Many Witnesses For Mitchell

June 24, 1906: Trial Will Cost Taxpayers Ten Thousand Dollars

June 25, 1906: George Mitchell on Trial For His Life

June 26, 1906: Mitchell Jury is Selected With Care

June 27, 1906: Mitchell Trial Held Up By Squabble

June 28, 1906:  Jury is Secured to Try Mitchell

June 29, 1906: Trial is Now on in Earnest

June 30, 1906: Mrs. Creffield's Testimony

July 1, 1906: Creffield’s Ghost Controls His Flock

July 2, 1906:  Esther Mitchell on Stand Refuses To Aid Brother

July 3, 1906: Hurt Tells of Debauched Wife and Debased Sisters

July 4, 1906: Creffield’s Unsavory Record Presented to the Jury

July 5, 1906: Expected Admissibility of Evidence Will Arouse Controversy

July 6, 1906: Others Testify They Wished to Kill Creffield

July 7, 1906: Insanity Expert on the Witness Stand

July 8, 1906: Plan To Revive Holy Rollerism

July 9, 1906: Killing of Judge Emory May Effect Mitchell

July 10, 1906: Mitchell Case Goes To Jury

July 11, 1906: Not Guilty

July 12, 1906: General Rejoicing at Mitchell’s Acquittal

July 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Kills Her Brother!

July 14, 1906: Mitchell Boys Are Done With Esther

July 15, 1906: Hurt Will Come to Aid of His Daughter

July 16: 1906: Will Mortgage His Home for Daughter

July 17, 1906: Let’s Think When We Talk

July 18, 1906: Mrs. Starr’s Life Threatened

July 19, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail

July 20, 1906: George Mitchell’s Attorney Offers Aid to Murderesses

July 21, 1906: Mitchell Boys to Stand by Esther

July 22, 1906: Hurt Thinks Both Women Are Insane

July 23, 1906: Frater Favors a Commission of Alienists

July 24, 1906: Mackintosh Will Oppose Calling Commission

July 26, 1906: Is Reconciled to Holy Roller Wife

July 27, 1906: Holy Rollers Seek Home in Wyoming

July 28, 1906: Mitchell Juror is Insane

July 30, 1906: Esther Will Deny Committing Murder In The 1st Degree

July 31 1906: Esther Mitchell Says Not Guilty

August 1, 1906: Relatives to Help Esther Mitchell

August 4, 1906: Creffield Greatly Hurt True Religion

August 6, 1906: Mitchell Boys in Drunken Row

August 8, 1906: St. Louis Woman Coming to Convert “Rollers”

August 12, 1906: Esther Mitchell Close to Death from Typhoid

August 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Not Seriously Ill

September 1, 1906: Four Charged with First Degree Now in County Jail

September 10 1906: To Examine Minds of Slayers

September 12, 1906: Hurt Thinks His Daughter Insane

September 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Objects to Help

September 14, 1906: Women Not Agitated

September 15, 1906: Mrs. Creffield’s Trial Set for Next Month

September 17, 1906: Mrs. Creffield on Stand

September 18, 1906:  Maud Creffield Anxious to Hang

September 19, 1906: Are They Sane of Insane?

September 21, 1906: Both Women May Go Scott Free

September 22, 1906: Where is This Thing to End!

September 23, 1906: Murders Must Be Tried

September 24, 1906: Must Not Deport

September 25, 1906: Judge Frater is in Very Small Business

September 28, 1906: Insanity Board Not Paid

October 1, 1906: Holy Roller Woman Dies While in Trance

November 9, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Said to Be in Very Nervous State

November 17, 1906: Maud Creffield Dies in the County Jail

November 18, 1906: Death May End a Hypnotic Spell

November 19, 1906: Reviews Findings in Examination of Brain

November 20, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Killed Herself with Poison!

November 21, 1906: Poison Is Found In The Stomach Of Mrs. Creffield

November 22, 1906: Esther Says Maud Did Not Kill Herself

December 4, 1906: Washing Dirty Linen

December 17, 1906: Sad Christmas For Holy Roller

February 21, 1907: Esther Mitchell Goes to Asylum

April 30, 1907: Esther Mitchell Still Believe in Creffield & His Return

April 6, 1909: Esther Mitchell Leaves Asylum

April 9, 1914: Esther Mitchell Marries James Berry

August 3, 1914: Esther Mitchell is Dead By Own Hand

1953 Stewart Holbrook's Murder Without Tears

1951 Startling Detective Magazine: Nemesis of the Nudist High Priest

A List of All the Articles


Sample Chapters from Holy Rollers:
Murder and Madness in Oregon's Love Cult


The Cast of Characters
Photos and Bios of the Holy Rollers


Holy Rollers' Asylum Commitment Papers


Info for Book Groups

Book Reviews


1903 to 1907 Newspaper Articles About the Holy Rollers

1906 Editorial Calling for Gun Control
After Multiple Murders Involving the Holy Rollers

Stewart Holbrook Holy Rollers Article

Advertisements from 1893 to 1913


Oregon Insane Asylum
Where the Holy Rollers Were Committed

Creffield, Brainwashing & Thought Reform

Early Cases of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

1906 Autopsies Of Holy Rollers
Forensics Before CSI

Holy Roller Bizarre Divorce Decree
Hartley describes trying to kill his wife's lover


Comedians on Edmund Creffield

The Shadow Testament
A Play About The Holy Rollers

How the Fire Fell
A Movie About The Holy Rollers


Life in Corvallis in the early 1900s

Life in Waldport, OR in early 1900s

Heaven's Gate

Facts & Stats about 1906
And How The Holy Rollers Measured Up

Oregon State Penitentiary
Where Creffield Was Incarcerated


Info about Cults

Could you ever be lured into joining a cult?

Share your thoughts about, and experiences with, cults


Creffield's Preachings

Creffield Vs. Crefeld

The Salvation Army Opening Fire in 1886

Holy Roller Theology

Reverend Knapp's Bible Songs of Salvation & Victory
Songs Sung by the Holy Rollers


About the Authors

Theresa (T-) McCracken

Robert B. Blodgett

In addition to writing, McCracken is a cartoonist.

To see some of her 'toons, go to the Home of McHumor Cartoons mchumor.com

McCracken's Blog

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Theresa (T-) McCracken
890 North Bayview Loop
Waldport, Oregon 97394

(541) 563-3112


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