From riches to rags
MUNCY – Former history teacher and a resident of Snyder County, Guy Graybill has always been fascinated with the history of Pennsylvania, especially on the life of Prince Farrington, a well known bootlegger from North Carolina who settled in these parts of Pennsylvania to set up his bootlegging stills during the Prohibition period.
While he was teaching social studies at in Middleburg, he discovered that there wasn’t a comprehensive history text to use that was entirely accurate and didn’t devote the entire first half of the text book to the Colonial period. “We would be half way through the book before we were out of the colonial period,” Graybill said during a book signing at the Muncy Historical Society Museum Saturday afternoon. “The 19th and 20th centuries were overlooked, not much of a balance,” he added in reference to writing his first book written ten years ago, ‘A History of Pennsylvania.’ This became a good reference for history students noted Graybill. Williamsport High School bought 30 copies to use in the classroom. It was copyrighted in 2004.
Following this book, Graybill had another idea for his second book, ‘BRAVO’ which focuses on the greatness of Italian music. Graybill said that he is Pennsylvania German and likes music and wanted to follow its history here in America. “The first piece of music to be put on paper was done by the Italians in the year 1,000,” he said. The Italians also wrote the first opera, had the greatest violins ever made and produced some of the best Italian American singers such as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Tony Bennett and Dean Martin.
Late last summer Graybill was inspired to write another book, a biography about Prince Farrington, a well-known bootlegger who sold “moonshine” all around Clinton and Lycoming Counties. “I kept hearing stories about the man from the locals while teaching in Loganton,” said Graybill. “He was a man of such historical significance who made an impact here in Lycoming.” His book turned into a two part volume as the local tales kept coming.
In fact Farrington’s house still remains resting atop an island across from Jersey Shore. Farrington was originally from North Carolina but settled here because his moonshine business was flourishing in these more rural parts of the country.
The book also discussed sights and lists places where the moonshining was done. Over 3 dozen stills were set up here, but not all at the same time. “Farrington did not want to pay the taxes, so he did it illegally. He served in many penitentiaries over the years and has a resume of a long list of frequent imprisonments including one in Springfield, Mississippi. He was married and had 4 children.
The cover of the second volume shows 4 of his cohorts in action. “This book tells of intemperance and disregard for society that appeared during the nation’s Prohibition Era (1919-1933),” Graybill explains. The setting is Clinton and Lycoming counties and depicts the bizarre life of America’s moonshine business. He wasn’t really a ‘prince’. Prince was his given birth name, named after a doctor who lived in Guilford County in North Carolina.
The book also has a copy of Farrington’s moonshine manual “How To Make It” with recipes for brandy, cordials and whiskeys.
Eventually Prince Farrinton resided in Antes Fort and died in Williamsport Hospital in 1956 at the age of 66. He was a true farmer and was considered to be a good welder. Graybill went on to explain, “The moonshining business was a need for survival. Although there were protests, it bought a new roof for the church, and put food on the table during hard times.”