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Hidden History: Angry mob tarred and feathered investor attempting a foreclosure

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Editor’s note: This column ran Dec. 31, 2015, in the Times-News and at Magicvalley.com.

Porter (P.J.) Pringle never got justice after being assaulted by an angry mob.

Pringle moved from Iowa to Twin Falls in 1915 and lived with his wife and two children at 202 Blue Lakes Blvd., where BLIP Printers stands today. He was an investor who owned considerable farming property in his home state and in Hansen.

During the Great Depression, Pringle developed a reputation for unsympathetically foreclosing on financially troubled farms.

On a cold morning in January 1933, Pringle threatened to foreclose on a chattel mortgage on Ira Foster’s potato crop. Foster was a tenant of John T. Parish, which put Parish’s farm at risk of a sheriff’s sale.

But locals, tired of the foreclosures, rebelled.

Pringle was blindfolded and kidnapped at gunpoint, then taken to a remote location on Hansen Butte west of Murtaugh, where a mob horsewhipped him until he agreed to stop the foreclosures.

The mob — described by The Associated Press as a “secret organization formed to prevent mortgage foreclosures” — then tarred and feathered Pringle and left him to find his way home.

Seven months later, Pringle accused Hansen service station operator John Goertzen of the kidnapping. Goertzen was charged, then released on a $2,500 bail bond paid by Charles Casey and Carl N. Anderson.

Sentiment in Twin Falls County was so bitter against foreclosures that a fair trial in Twin Falls was impossible, said Prosecutor O.W. Witham. District Judge Charles F. Koelsch transferred Goertzen’s trial to Ada County.

Defense attorneys established a strong alibi for Goertzen. Numerous witnesses, including noted Hansen residents E.N. Pettygrove, H.G. Lauterbach and J.C. Osgood, testified they had seen him at work on the morning of the abduction. Witnesses recognized Goertzen by his big nose, they said.

Assistant Prosecutor Ray Agee insisted “it was unlikely so many witnesses could recall 10 months later exactly where they were and what they and Goertzen were doing,” the AP wrote in November 1933 from a full courtroom.

J.M. Maxwell, a former cashier of the First National Bank of Twin Falls, told the court that Pringle had a bad reputation. He also told the court his opinion was derived from talking to people unfriendly to Pringle.

But, “I never talked to anyone who was friendly to him,” Maxwell said.

When the defense prepared for a second round of testimony with new witnesses, Judge Koelsch said he and the jury were tired of testimony and he called for the end of the trial.

The jury found Goertzen not guilty. That Pringle was abducted, tarred and feathered was never contested.

Pringle died four years later in a car crash in Nebraska.

Mychel Matthews reports on rural issues for the Times-News. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday in the Times-News and at Magicvalley.com. If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at mmatthews@magicvalley.com.

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