People

A Tale of Two Princes

During a recent research of South Williamsport’s history, I remembered someone whose name was Prince. For me, that person must have been Prince Farrington. I located this prince’s biography documented by author Guy Graybill. While reading and searching for any connection to South Side, I did find a few connections to the area but not anything concrete. It seems this prince convinced a few local businessmen to invest large sums of money to produce substantial quantities of illegal whiskey. One of those investors, Jake Kohberger, owned the Minnequa Club along the Susquehanna River near South Williamsport. Also, at one time during Prohibition, Farrington operated at least 30 stills in Lycoming and Clinton Counties, but none were confirmed to be located in or outside South Side. Also, in 1948, he was indicted on liquor law violations and his trial was scheduled at the Post Office Building in Williamsport.

Who then was South Side’s prince? Thanks to those South Williamsport residents whose memories included OUR PRINCE, “the lion man.” He was Prince El Kilgordo, who was born Jared William Reaser in 1916, who became a circus performer as an adult for nearly 30 years. Prince kept his lions in South Williamsport until his death in 2000. He caged these performing circus animals outside the borough near Mountain Beach Park. A young boy’s adventure’s memory: “when it was feeding time, his big cats could be heard roaring blocks away”…in South Side.

There IS an interesting connection, though, between these two princes-Sugar Valley, Pennsylvania. It seems that Prince El Kilgordo, as a child, was sent by his parents in Buttonwood to work on a farm in Sugar Valley, Clinton County. Residents still remember Jared’s flamboyant style of clothes even as a child. Prince Farrington, whose home state was North Carolina, moved his bootlegging business to Sugar Valley in 1925 where farmland provided an abundance of corn needed for whisky production, pristine streams and isolated ravines. Was it even possible that young Jared, nine years old when Prince Farrington relocated to the Sugar Valley, would have worked on one of the farms that Farrington bought produce to make his famous whisky?

Today, Prince El Kilgordo, South Side’s prince, is buried in a small cemetery  beside the Sugar Valley Church of the Brethren where his tombstone lions on each side of the marker keep vigil.

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