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Centento’s Junkyard

Location: 42.62517, -76.18192

At its height, the Sig Sautelle Circus, that had once begun with just an old blind horse and a broken-down wagon, now boasted 225 employees, 14 cages of exotic animals (including tigers, lions, zebras and hyenas), 150 horses and ponies, and most notoriously, two African Elephants. It eventually required 44 train cars to transport this magical menagerie from town to town.

Unfortunately, the circus isn’t all cotton candy and unicycles. Sometimes it’s murder and mayhem. Such is the unfortunate tale of Duke, Sig’s African Elephant.

As reported by the Cortland Republican on November 30, 1905 –

“Duke” Sig Sautelle’s Ugly African Elephant Breaks from His Moorings at Headquarters, and One of His Keepers Narrowly Escapes His Murderous Attack.

There was plenty doing at the animal house at Sig Sautelle’s headquarters last Monday morning. Soon after daylight, “Duke” the big and ugly African elephant which was chained to a big post in the animal house, made a lunge at one of his keepers. The post to which he was attached broke off under strain and liberated him. Mr. Marrow, the expert animal man, and manager, was quickly summoned and hastened to the quarters. “Duke” had chased one of his attendants into a corner, knocked him down, and made a vicious lunge at him with his single tusk. The tusk providentially missed the man’s body and went below his legs. Another attendant with pikes attacked the elephant and made him back away, and Mr. Morrow secured a long pike in use by telephone linemen, who were working close by, and hastening to the rescue drove it into the elephant’s trunk.

As soon as the man was rescued from his perilous position and the others had found places of safety, about 100 grains of morphine was administered to the elephant. It was given in water first, but “Duke” detected something wrong with the water and drank only a few swallows. Then the bread was soaked in the water and fed to him, and more was placed in apples which he seemed to relish. About fifteen minutes were required to get the desired amount of the drug down the big brute. Fortunately, with the exception of smashing up some woodwork, little damage was done. The stoves, fortunately, were not overturned, and as soon as possible, the fires in them were extinguished. After some time, the morphine began to take effect and along in the afternoon, “Duke” became drowsy enough so that he was able to be again chained securely to a post which it will be very difficult for him to break. The other animals in the house were greatly excited during the elephant’s rampage, and there was a lively time all around till the morphine took effect and quieted the angry elephant. The beast has been Sautelle’s property for about a year and has given much trouble by his treacherous and ugly disposition. Mr. Morrow said he was a sorry looking beast Tuesday morning, the morphine having evidently given him considerable distress. Mr. Morrow said enough was administered to kill 150 men.

Local lore has it that Duke was buried at this site, formally Contento’s Junk Yard. Less than a quarter mile from the elephant barn, it stands to reason that this would indeed be poor Duke’s final resting place.