Location: 18 North Main Street, Homer NY 13077
The Sig Sautelle Circus was a great many things, but more than anything, it was a love story. Like so many other love stories, theirs is bittersweet.
George Satterlee (soon to be known as Sig Sautelle) married his great love, Ida Bella, in 1874. The love story would spin into an adventure tale as soon as they sealed the deal with a kiss. For two years, they traveled the eastern seaboard, performing a Punch & Judy Show routine at fairgrounds and halls. Their talents were quickly recognized, and they eventually joined Barnum and Bailey. After eight years on the road, they decided to create their own circus, The Sig Sautelle Circus, and took it on tour via tugboat.
As their love grew, traveling along the Erie, Chemung, and Champlain canals, so did their show. While Sig was the heart of the circus, Belle was its sharp and clever mind. She presided over the ticket wagon, handling all the income and accounts. Together they were unstoppable.
Until the unthinkable happened. In 1904, Belle suffered a stroke. Unable to keep up with the traveling circus life, Sig sold his entire outfit to the Barnum Circus and brought Belle home to a small farm in Homer to recover. For the next few years, they lived a quiet life, raising chickens on the outskirts of town.
By 1911, Belle seemed to have entirely recovered, and they once again hurtled towards a life of adventure. This time they would escapade along the rails. From the ground up, they rebuilt their circus, bigger and better than ever, including such fantastic acts as a wild animal show. The circus grew to such a spectacular size that by 1913 it required 40 railroad cars.
At the height of their success, tragedy struck again. Belle fell profoundly ill. Sparing no expense, Sig tried anything to save Belle. The medical bills would eventually lead to his undoing, and in December of 1914, Sig filed for bankruptcy. Again, they returned to Homer as small lot farmers. In 1916, Sig’s beloved Belle slipped from this life. Devastated, Sig drifted from one job to the next. In this sad old building, Sig briefly attempted to revive his circus. But, without Belle, his heart simply wasn’t in it, and the show closed the same year it began.
Until his dying days, Sig continued to share the magic of the circus with the children of Homer. He jokingly called it the “Great Sig Sautelle Suitcase Circus.” You can take the showman out of the circus, but never the circus out of the showman. Generously, he would perform tricks, puppet shows, and ventriloquism at small local events or gatherings until he was nearly 80 years old.
In June of 1928, Sig was laid to rest in the Union Cemetery, next to the only woman ever to hold his heart. According to Union Cemetery caretakers, whenever a circus toured the area, they would always stop to pay their respects to one of the circus greats, the ever-gregarious Sig Sautelle, and his guiding light, Ida Belle.
1. Sig Sautelle: A Circus and an Era by Curtis Harris. www.crookedlakereview.com/articles/67_100/91oct1995/91harris.html. Accessed 23 Sept. 2022.2. “Sometimes You Never Know Where You’re Going Until You Get There.” Warrensburgh – Thurman Historical Society Archives, Warrensburgh Historical Society Quarterly, 2015, www.whs12885.org/archives.html.