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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.

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


James BerryEvening Telegram (Portland) 8/3/1914 p2

Esther Mitchell is Dead By Own Hand

Girl of Holy Roller Fame, who Killed Her Brother, is Suicide.


Newport, Or., Aug. 3.--Esther Mitchell, of Holy Roller fame, who since her recent marriage was Mrs. James K. Berry, committed suicide late Saturday evening at her home at Waldport, by taking a dose of poison, and was dead when found. The killing of her brother at Seattle, after he had killed Joshua Creffield, the Holy Roller priest, had apparently preyed upon her mind continually, and friends and relatives have been keeping a close watch on her for a long time. She was married last March to J. K. Berry, of Waldport, but that did not improve her mental condition, and recently, while visiting relatives at Yachats, she bade them a “long good-bye.” Coroner Carter held an inquest yesterday, and the jury’s verdict is not yet known.


A few days before her suicide Mrs. Berry started from her home to Yachats to visit friends, and failed to arrive there. Later she reappeared at her home and claimed that she was deathly sick. It is now believed that she had then taken poison and because of taking an overdose, or not enough to be fatal, she became ill. Her action in taking a dose sufficient to cause death is believed to have been the result of a deliberate plan to kill herself.





Morning Oregonian (Portland) 8/3/1914 p4

Girl’s Career is Tragic


Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 8/3/1914 p14

Holy Roller Principal Suicide


Strange Control by ‘Holy Roller’ Cause of Brother’s Murder.


Newport, Or., Aug. 3.--Esther Berry, who as Esther Mitchell was the central figure in the Mitchell-Creffield murders in Seattle, almost a decade ago, is dead, a suicide at her home at Waldport. She took strychnine, the same poison by which her sister, Mrs. Maud Hurt-Creffield, took her life in 1906.


Mrs. Berry’s death is the last of the tragic Creffield “Holy Roller” cases which resulted in the killing of Franz Edmund Creffield, founder of the peculiar religious sect, by brother, George Mitchell, and his subsequent killing by Esther Mitchell in revenge, just two days after he had been acquitted for killing the “Holy Roller” in Seattle.


Mrs. Berry committed suicide Saturday night at 11 o’clock at the Berry home. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict of intentional suicide. She was married to James Berry of Waldport about five months ago and appeared happy to all who knew her, but has had despondent spells ever since she shot her brother in Seattle several years ago. Her other brother and sisters feared that she would do something of this kind at some time in her life, and she has been carefully watched. Up till her marriage to Berry she lived with the family of O. V. Hurt at Waldport, and spent some of her time visiting Seattle and Portland relatives.


The Holy Rollers were organized by Creffield near Corvallis in 1903. Creffield seemed to exercise absolute control over women. In 1904 it was learned that the sect’s ritual was such that officers secured Creffield’s arrest on a statutory charge and was given two years in the state’s prison.


Following his release he returned to Corvallis, met Esther Mitchell, who with her sister, later Creffield’s wife, went to Seattle. George Mitchell followed them and finally shot Creffield to death. He was tried for murder, acquitted, and was leaving for Portland when Esther met him at the depot and shot him down in revenge.


Both Esther and her sister were held for their brother’s murder. They were adjudged insane and Mrs. Creffield, in the King county jail, got possession of strychnine and ended her life. Esther was sent to the state hospital for the insane at Steilacoom, and finally discharged.



Daily Gazette Times (Corvallis) 8/3/1914 p4

Esther Mitchell a Suicide


Esther Mitchell-Berry, of “Holy Roller” fame, and well known in Corvallis, suicided last night at Waldport, according to an Oregonian special. She took strychnine. No reason for her act is given. She was married but a few weeks ago to James Berry, and previous to this had been a quiet and respected resident of Waldport.


Esther Mitchell was an ardent disciple of Creffield, the founder of the “Holy Rollers.” Her brother, George Mitchell, followed Creffield to Seattle and shot him dead on the street. Two days after he acquittal Esther Mitchell, still devoted to the dead Creffield’s creed, shot and killed her own brother in the Union depot at Seattle. Mrs. Berry’s death was caused by the same drug which killed Mrs. Maud Hurt-Creffield November 6, 1906. Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell were said to have planned the murder of George Mitchell in revenge for the death of Creffield. Mrs. Creffield died suddenly, and an autopsy showed that strychnine was the cause of her death. Esther Mitchell, then in jail, denounced the coroner’s jury for terming it a case of suicide.



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 8/3/1914 p4

“Holy Roller” Girl Slayer Is Suicide

Esther Mitchell, Who Killed Brother, Who Slew Leader of Sect, Ends Life Parole Granted in 1910 Tragic Death at Waldport Last Act in Career Strangely Controlled by “Joshua” Creffield, Originator of Creed.


NEWPORT, Or., Aug 2.--(Special.)--Mrs. James N. Berry, formerly Esther Mitchell, committed suicide last night at Waldport, Or., by taking strychnine. Mrs. Berry was married in this city a few weeks ago. she became notorious through her connection with the “Holy Rollers” sect and her slaying of her own brother, George Mitchell, at Seattle in 1906, after he killed “Joshua” Creffield.


She lived quietly in Lincoln County since her release from the Steilacoom Asylum under the parole to the Superior Court of King County, Washington, until her recent marriage.


Yaquina Bay News (Newport, OR) 8/6/1914 p1


An empty strychnine bottle and an ordinary water glass at the laboratory of Dr. F. M. Carter, county coroner is grim evidence of the manner in which Mrs. James K. Berry, formerly Miss Esther Mitchell, came to her death at her home in Waldport Saturday evening.


Although the suicide occurred Saturday evening complete details were not available in Newport until the return Monday afternoon of Dr. Carter, who had gone to Waldport Sunday to hold an inquest over the body.


The inquest was devoted mainly in hearing the testimony of Mrs. Cora B. Hartley who, with her little eight year old son, were the only persons in the Berry house at the time the tragedy took place.


Following is Mrs. Hartley’s account of the suicide:

We were all gathered around the supper table at 6:30 o’clock in the evening, Mr. and Mrs. Berry seemed in her ordinary spirits and there was nothing in her actions to lead us to believe that she contemplated ending her life. After the meal had been finished she helped wash the dishes and assisted in dressing some chickens. Mr. Berry had gone down town to help unload a boat.”


“Mrs. Berry went upstairs to her bedroom at 9:30 o’clock. At about 11:00 o'clock I hear a cry of distress from her room and rushing in found her in bed with the bed clothes drawn over her. I spoke to her, asking if there was anything I might do. She said “No.” I then attempted to turn her on her right side, but she said, ‘You hurt me.’ ‘Let me go.’”


“These were her last words. About 15 minutes transpired from the time I heard her cry until she breathed her last.”


“As soon as I saw she was gone, I hurried from the house to arouse the neighbors. Mrs. O. V. Hurt was the first to respond.”


“On a table two feet from the bed was an empty strychnine bottle, with the cork out, near it a common water glass. It appeared as if the poison had been dissolved in water, although no water remained in the glass. A few undissolved strychnine crystals were in the bottom.”


“Besides the bottle and glass was a note addressed by Mrs. Berry to her husband. It read:


Dear James:


Please deed the two lots over to mother and father. Give the piano and ring I sent away today to Martha. The silver watch to Attie. Signed: Esther.”


“P. S. Of course, this place is now free from mortgage and is yours--also the little money in the bank.”


The bottle in possession of Dr. Carter was labeled as containing one-eighth of one ounce of strychnine, whether the young woman took the entire amount cannot be determined. The bottle held 60 grains of poison, while one grain is sufficient to bring about death. It is not known where the poison was procured. The bottle bears the label of a drug manufacturer in Philadelphia, but whether she got the strychnine from there or somewhere else is not known.


Mrs. Berry was 26 years old last January and was married about five months ago.


Interment took place in the Fern Ridge Cemetery near Waldport Monday. Besides her husband, the dead woman leaves a father, mother, two brothers and one sister.


Saturday’s unfortunate occurrence adds another tragedy to the list of misfortunes which have followed the Mitchell family since 1906. . . (the usual recap)



Lincoln County Leader 8/7/1914 p1



News came to Newport from Waldport Sunday morning that Esther Mitchell Berry, wife of James K. Berry, was dead. The investigation of the coroner’s jury showed the following facts: On Saturday evening at the Berry home, about 6:30 the family, consisting of James Berry, Mrs. Berry, Mrs. Cora Hartley and Kenneth Berry, the eight year old son of Mr. Berry, were at the table. There was nothing unusual occurred in the family. Mrs. Berry was cheerful and apparently happy. After supper Mr. Berry went down to town and Mrs. Berry helped with the dishes and also helped to dress a couple of chickens for dinner the next day. At 9:30 Mrs. Berry went to her bedroom upstairs and about 11 o’clock Mrs. Hartley heard a noise up stairs as though someone was in distress. She went up stairs and found Mrs. Berry lying on the bed under the covers and in her night clothes, in a spasm. Mrs. Hartley asked what she could do for her, and Mrs. Berry said, “Nothing.” Mrs. Hartley then tried to turn her on her side and Mrs. Berry said, “You hurt me; let me go,” and immediately expired. The coroner’s jury found the body rigid, the arms drawn upon the breast and the fingers clenched; lower limbs extended and rigid,, eyes, pupils contracted and glaring; body warm, face and hands red. On the stand table two feet from the bed, with a lamp burning on it was found an empty bottle that had contained one dram (60 grains) of strychnine with the cork out. A glass with some undissolved crystals of strychnine in it and it appeared as though water had been used to dissolve the strychnine. It was evident from the condition of the body and the empty bottle of strychnine on the table that Mrs. Berry had coolly and calmly planned to take her own life. It could not be ascertained where she got the poison or how much was in the bottle. Strychnine is a very fatal poison, is quickly absorbed and if taken in sufficient quantity the respiratory muscles are paralyzed and death occurs in a very short time. In strychnine poisoning the muscles twitch, the limbs jerk, violent convulsions set in, the limbs are rigid and death soon occurs. Mrs. Hartley gave the alarm and soon Mrs. O. V. Hurt came and other neighbors and friends, after Mrs. Berry had passed away. Mrs. Berry was paroled from the Steilacoom Asylum several years ago and place in the care of O. V. Hurt, who was appointed her guardian. While in his care she was treated as one of the family, everything being done to make her feel at home and happy. She was a woman of nervous sanguine temperament, of refined, retiring disposition had had a very impressible temperament. She was 26 years old last January. On recommendation of a physician the parole was removed and about two and a half month ago Miss Mitchell was married in Newport to James K. Berry and they afterwards went to Waldport to make their home. Within the last few months Mrs. Berry complained of feeling ill and it was noticed by her friends that she was failing in health and losing flesh. The funeral services were held at the home of the deceased, conducted by Rev. Cook, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Waldport, and the Interment took place at the Fern Ridge Cemetery. Many beautiful floral offerings were placed upon her grave by friends and many tears were shed by those who knew her best. she is survived by two brothers, Perry Mitchell, who lives at Ocean View, a brother in Portland, and Mrs. Donna Starr, who also lives at Ocean View, and her husband.



(Newspaper Source and date not written on photo-copy. The type style sort of looks like the Lincoln County Leader  (Toledo, OR) 8/?/14

Report of Coroner’s Jury


We, the jury empanelled to inquire into the cause of death of Mrs. Esther Berry, wife of James K. Berry, find after careful examination of the evidence produced, that Mrs. Berry came to her death by taking strychnine administered by her own hand, with suicidal intent. We further find that no blame is attached to anyone. J. W. Walker, foreman, W. V. Leeper, S. L. Olsted, O. N. Starr, D. E. Chesley, E. E. Everson, F. M. Carter, Coroner.


The following note was found on the table in the room where Mrs. Berry died:

Dear James: Please deed the two lots over there to mother and father; give the piano and ring I sent away today to Martha; the silver watch to Attie. Esther.


“P. S.--Of course this place is now free from mortgage, and is yours, and the little money in the bank.”



Yaquina Bay News (Newport, OR) 8/13/1914 p3

O. V. Hurt, the Republican candidate for county commissioner was in Newport Monday en route home from a trip out to Oregon City and Portland.

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


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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