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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.

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

 

Maud Hurt CreffieldHEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE

 

Seattle Daily Times 11/20/1906 p1

Mrs. Creffield Killed Herself with Poison!

Maud Creffield Died By Her Own Hand

Widow of Holy Roller Leader Committed Suicide by Taking Strychnine in Her Cell in the County Jail.

Chemical Analysis Of Stomach Shows Poison

Jail Officers Say Drug Could Not Have Reached Her Except Through Visitors Who Had Called to See Her.

 

Corvallis Times 11/23/1906 p1

Died From Poison

Strychnine Found In Mrs. Creffield’s Stomach.

Esther Mitchell Declares Her Cell Mate Did Not Commit Suicide.

Coroner Accepts the Report of the Commission.

 

AN ABRIDGED VERSION OF THE SAME ARTICLE ALSO APPEARED IN

 

Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 11/21/1906 p1

Case of Suicide

Chemists Find Strychnine Cause Death Of Mrs. Maud Creffield,

Analysis of Contents of Dead Woman’s Stomach Reveals More Than Enough Poison to Cause Death--Cousin Last Visitor Before Suicide.

 

Maud Creffield committed suicide! Her sudden death in the county jail last Friday night was caused by strychnine poisoning. That fact was positively determined this afternoon when Osseward & Rubenstein, chemists, who analyzed the stomach of the woman, made their formal report to Coroner Frank M. Carroll, who immediately signed the death certificate assigning the cause of the demise as suicide by strychnine poisoning.

 

An exceedingly careful analysis of the stomach was made under the personal direction of Dr. Carroll, and the completion of that test today showed beyond all question of doubt the presence of strychnine, one of the most effective poisons known to chemists. Just in what form it was taken the chemists are unable to say, but it is the opinion of Dr. Carroll that the crystallized form was used.

 

The finding of the strychnine confirms the original opinion of Dr. Carroll that some irritant in the stomach was responsible for the congestion at the base of the brain that brought on convulsions. There was proof at the autopsy that the woman had bitten her tongue, this having occurred as the convulsion from the poison took hold of her. The statement from Esther Mitchell that Maud Creffield suddenly became ill and instantly straightened out, her muscles then expanding and afterward contracting, goes to bear out the symptoms now proved by the analysis.

 

JAILERS MAKE SEARCH

 

At the county jail this afternoon it was stated that immediately after the death of Mrs. Creffield the closest search of her cell was made to see if any means could be found by which she could have ended her life, and that search after search was made, and nothing was found. So far as the jailers can remember, Mrs. Creffield had no visitors on Friday. The day before, however, a cousin, Miss Laveney (sic) of Seattle, visited her. Miss Laveney, the officers believe, was the last person with Mrs. Creffield except the jailers and the prisoners. It may have been possible, they admit, that a visitor gave her the strychnine many days before the day of death.

 

Sheriff Smith was not at his office this afternoon. His chief deputy, Ed Drew, said the finding of the chemists was a total surprise to him, but that he did not care at this time to make any further public statement than that issued on the morning following the woman’s death, when the sheriff said he could not believe that death was caused by suicide.

 

“The finding of the poison in the stomach proves conclusively that Mrs. Creffield did not die of natural causes,” said Coroner Carroll this afternoon. “There can be no further question about her suicide for the analysis proves it positively. How the woman got the drug, is of course unknown to me, but I do believe death was by suicide, and shall officially find death from that cause.

 

HAD THOUGHT OF SUICIDE

 

The discovery that Mrs. Creffield came to her death by suicide justifies in a remarkable way the statements published in The Sunday Times made by Dr. Kenneth Turner, who was chairman of the court commission which recently examined into the sanity of the woman. Dr. Turner stated that in his physical examination, less than two months ago, he found every organ in Mrs. Creffield’s body in healthy condition that made the development of any fatal disease in such a short period exceedingly improbable. Continuing, Dr. Turner said:

As to the suicide theory, I have not ventured even to form an opinion. I do not know. I can’t satisfy my own mind. During the hearing, the woman admitted that she had often considered committing suicide. In despondent moments she said that the thought had often come to her. She said that she would have killed herself had she not been commanded by a voice from Heaven not to yield to the thought. If she heard the voice of her husband calling to her to commit suicide, I would not be at all surprised if she did.

 

“When I read the report of Mrs. Creffield’s death, the first thought that occurred to me was, ‘How long will it be before Esther Mitchell commits suicide.”

 

Mrs. Creffield’s body was buried yesterday afternoon in Lakeview Cemetery in a lot purchased by her father, O. V. Hurt. Tomorrow the body of her husband will be disinterred and laid beside that of his wife.

 

ESTHER MITCHELL DENIES IT

 

Esther Mitchell this afternoon emphatically declares her belief that Maud Creffield had not committed suicide and insisted that she was so intimate with Mrs. Creffield, that she would have known about it if the Holy Roller’s widow planned self destruction.

 

“Maud never took poison,” declared Esther Mitchell. “We were very intimate and knew each other’s innermost secrets. If Maud had planned to take poison, I certainly would have known about it, and she never told me anything of it.

 

“Maud Creffield believed suicide was cowardly and always insisted that she could not take her life. I do not believe that she could have changed her views.

 

“It would have been impossible for Maud to have taken poison without my knowing it unless she did it that night when she went out to take a bath. She was gone only a few minutes, and this was the only time she was out of my sight. She certainly did not take the poison when I was around.”

 

MRS. LEVINS’ STATEMENT

 

May Hurt, sister of Mrs. Creffield, and Mrs. Levins, called at the jail this afternoon to see Esther Mitchell. Mrs. Levins had seen Mrs. Creffield the afternoon before she died.

 

“I saw Mrs. Creffield, but certainly I did not bring her any poison,” said Mrs. Levins. “Maud Creffield did not want poison. We had talked several times of suicide and Mrs. Creffield always said that self-destruction was cowardly. But for the fact that it was cowardly and that God had forbidden her to commit suicide, Mrs. Creffield frequently said she would like to kill herself, for she had no desire to live. But she always told me that it was her duty to live and meet whatever punishment was given her, and declared she was going to do it.”

 

Jail officers say Mrs. Levins and the parents of Mrs. Creffield are the only persons who could have smuggled in the strychnine, and they discredit the findings of the physicians. Chief Deputy Sheriff Drew declares that every precaution was taken to prevent Maud Creffield’s death.

 

 

Sarah & OV Hurt
Alana Crow and David Poland
as Sarah & O.V. Hurt

Seattle Star 11/20/1906 p1

Maud Creffield Died By Her Own Hand

Analysis of Contents of the Stomach Shows the Presence of Strychnine in Sufficient Quantity to Cause Instant Death--Coroner Carroll Will Certify That Woman Took Her Own Life.

 

Strychnine in sufficient quantities to have caused instant death has been found in the stomach of Mrs. Maud Creffield.

 

In view of the finding a verdict of suicide is to be returned by the coroner, probably today.

 

The presence of the poison in Mrs. Creffield’s stomach was determined by Chemists Osseward and Rubenstein, who were engaged by Coroner Carroll to make the chemical analysis.

 

Chemists Osseward and Rubenstein made their report in writing, and in official form, although their investigation is not yet entirely complete.

 

It is believed that when the analysis is entirely complete that enough of the poison will have been found in Mrs. Creffield’s stomach to have caused the death of at least three persons.

 

SURPRISED THE CORONER

 

The findings of the chemists came as a surprise to the coroner, who at the time of Mrs. Creffield’s death in her cell at the county jail declared it his belief that she died of heart failure.

 

This story was shattered somewhat when, at the post mortem examination, as told exclusively in The Star, the heart was found in good condition, and the indications of the suicide became more pronounced.

 

In view of the results of the analytical investigations it is now believed by the police that Esther Mitchell, who murdered her brother, knew all the while that it was a case of suicide.

 

It is even believed from the intimacy that existed between the two women, that Mrs. Creffield told the Mitchell girl of her desperate intention, and that the girl’s horrified expressions of grief as she held the dying woman’s head in her lap were merely the utterings of a consummate actress.

 

ESTHER MITCHELL PLEADS IGNORANCE

 

Esther Mitchell, on the other hand however insisted when seen at the county jail this afternoon that she did not know that Mrs. Creffield killed herself, and she even went so far as to state that she does not believe it now.

 

“Mrs. Creffield often told me that she wanted to die, but I do not believe that she killed herself.

 

“She was not afraid of the law. I swear to God that she never told me she was going to kill herself. I would have prevented her.”

 

Despite the girl’s denials the police do not believe her, and she will be doubly watched to prevent her from also committing suicide

 

“The theory of suicide is correct,” said Prosecuting Attorney Kenneth Mackintosh to a Star reporter this afternoon. “I shall not order an investigation. That must be ordered by Sheriff Smith. If he needs any assistance, of course my services will be donated.

 

JOHN F. MILLER DOUBTS IT

 

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Miller, who was actively engaged in the case against Mrs. Creffield, does not look with favor on the suicide theory.

 

“I do not believe that Mrs. Creffield took poison,” he said. “If she did why didn’t Esther Mitchell? The two were boon (sic) companions.”

 

“If Mrs. Creffield did take poison, as the coroner’s autopsy intimates, then it must have been given to her the day before she died. Mrs. Levins, Mrs. Creffield’s cousin, who lives on Pike St., was the last relative to visit her. She was with Mrs. Creffield the day before she died, which was last Thursday.

 

BROTHER NOT INTERESTED

 

Frank Hurt, brother of Mrs. Creffield, when seen this afternoon by a Star reporter and informed of the probable suicide of his sister, stated that he had nothing to say. He appeared to take no interest in the report one way or the other.

 

When asked to explain how it was possible for poison to be smuggled into Mrs. Creffield’s cell, if it was smuggled, Jailer Larson declared this afternoon that it was as great a mystery to him as to anybody else.

 

“We are very careful about such things,” he said, “and persons who are liable to kill themselves, as well as everyone else, is closely watched all the time they are here.

 

“Mrs. Creffield’s cell was searched only a few days ago, and we are certain there was no poison concealed anywhere at the time.

 

Jailer Larsen insisted that every package coming into the jail is closely watched, but this is contrary to what daily visitors to the jail have observed.

 

 

HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE

 

Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 11/20/1906

Creffield’s Widow Died From Poison

 

Corvallis Gazette 11/23/1906 p1

It Was Poison

 

Autopsy Shows Stomach of Dead Woman Contained Evidence of Murder or Suicide

 

Probably Killed Herself to Prevent Trial, as She Had Often Threatened to Do in Past--Esther Mitchell Supposed to Have Known Cause of Death.

 

(Special Dispatch to The Journal)

 

Seattle, Wash., Nov. 20.-- The coroner’s physicians who analyzed the stomach of Mrs. Maud Creffield, the widow of the late Edmund “Joshua” Creffield, the Holy Roller leader, reported this afternoon that enough poison was found in the stomach of the dead woman to kill several persons. It is therefore evident that the woman was either murdered or committed suicide, probably the latter.

 

Mrs. Creffield was the daughter of O. V. Hurt of Corvallis. At the time of her death she was in prison with Esther Mitchell, both charged with the murder of Esther’s brother, George Mitchell, who was killed by his sister in revenge for the murder of Creffield. She died suddenly about midnight last Friday night, supposedly from heart disease. She was buried yesterday beside the body of her husband. Esther Mitchell, who attended, exhibited the first sign of emotion she has shown since her crime, and it was believed that the hypnotic spell under which Esther had been held by the elder woman was broken.

 

Suicide was threatened by both women when first arrested and a close watch kept over them to prevent them from carrying out their threats. Both expressed a desire to die frequently. Later, however, officials have been off their guard by the changed demeanor of the women which is believed now to have only been a ruse to secure the poison.

 

How the poison was smuggled in is a mystery. It is believed, however, the Esther Mitchell is in the secret. The closest kind of a watch is being kept upon her to prevent her following in the footsteps of her friend the mentor.

Holy Rollers

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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

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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

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Comedians on Edmund Creffield

The Shadow Testament
A Play About The Holy Rollers

How the Fire Fell
A Movie About The Holy Rollers

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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

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Info about Cults

Could you ever be lured into joining a cult?

Share your thoughts about, and experiences with, cults

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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

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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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