The Killer Indian Was a Con Artist – The Story of “Creeping Bear”

The headline from the January 17, 1903 edition of the Commercial Appeal read:

“Heap Much Mad When Pale Face Called Him “N—er”. Police Prevented a Massacre and Escorted Creeping Bear to the Station”

“Creeping Bear,” a full-blooded Cheyenne Indian has been a resident of Memphis for several months”.

He said he came here with Buffalo Bill’s Wild west show, although that fact has not been verified.

It was common practice in the day for all traveling show, carnivals, circuses, theater stock companies, bands and other events to have their last show in Memphis. The reason? Because in 1904 we had 11 railroads with convenient stations and more than a few steamboat lines. Getting home was not an issue.  

The facts as quoted in this article.

Last New Years Eve George Millard, an ex-policeman, with companions, was celebrating the passing of the old year and the advent of the new year. Creeping Bear, a Cheyenne Indian, wrapped in his blanket, moccasins on his feet, tomahawk in his left belt, came along. Millard addressed the Indian with a remark, which the latter resented. He accentuated his wrath with his tomahawk, and Millard fell to the pavement.

The location of the beating was at Fire Station 4 located at 283 N Main Street. Engine 4 had just left the station on a fire call. Anytime the roof bell tapped out the location of the fire by Ward or by Alarm Box, a crowd always gathered to watch the Engine and Hose Wagon respond.

After the assault Creeping Bear made tracks to the Iron Mountain Railroad Station, located on the southeast corner of Tennessee Street at Calhoun Avenue (G. E. Patterson Blvd), where he was stopped by Police Officer John R Crawford. He offered no resistance.

“Creeping Bear said, “he called me a “bad N—er” and several other bad names.”

Millard was treated at St Joseph’s Hospital, and at first, what seemed like only a scalp wound progressed and after a few days the injury got worse. George Millard dies at St Joseph’s Hospital. Murder will be charged.

Ernest Miller the County Coroner convened a jury. 

Commercial Appeal, March 13, 1903, Page 7

Evidence in arguments begin today.

“He cursed me and called me a D—n negro S—of a—- I asked him not to say such things of me, I did not know him, and had not offended him”. He again repeated his words, adding more.  “I told him that if he did not stop calling me such names, I would break his neck, he made at me, as if to draw a gun, and I stepped back and struck him on the head”.

The courtroom was crowded. Many were standing in the halls all wanting to see what was happening.

He said “My name is Creeping Bear, it’s the only name I have ever had. The officer who took me from the train gave me the name of Joe Weinbaum. I’m a Sioux full blood from Pine Ridge agency in North Dakota. I was educated at Carlisle Institute in Pennsylvania. I was there six months and then left, I am 17 years old”.  He added, “I have “No negro blood in me” I came here November 8, 1902”. The attorney asked him “where he had been during your life”?  “All over the world Africa, England and Europe and the United States”. He said, “I have a partner here, Wahoochie, who is sick in bed now at our place in Ft Pickering“. 

Commercial Appeal, November 12, 1903, Page 1

Several witnesses said that George Millard was quite a quarrelsome character for the Indian victim.

Commercial Appeal November 23, 1903, Page 1

An Indian expert is called in to determine if Joe Weinbaum is actually a real Indian.

Miss. M Burgess had been an official at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle Pennsylvania. She was considered a world-renowned expert on the various traits, languages and habits of all tribes in the United States. She interviewed Mr. Weinbaum during an all-day interrogation at the Police department. She spoke to him in several languages and asked many questions. His answers were vague and unintelligible. He could not identify the director of the school. The director was Colonel Richard Henry Pratt who has been there since the school was started in 1892. Colonel Pratt is well known to every Indian in the US. Mr. Weinbaum could not confirm that he had recently been with Buffalo Bill’s, Wild West Show but said he was with him in England but didn’t remember the dates. 

She said, “Well talk to me in Sioux”, he could not. He failed to comprehend any Indian language she spoke to him.

She said, “I was completely satisfied that Creeping Bear was never a student of the Carlisle School”. She also said his birth is a complete mystery. She said, “I know he is not a Sioux; He must be Cheyenne or Arapahoe. The truth is he is a half-breed. He is Indian and Negro mixed, the Indian probably predominating”.

He did not know any of the names of any of the Indian Chiefs of the Sioux. Or any high-ranking members of the Sioux tribe”. He walks like an Indian, speaks with broken English, has the lips of an Indian but his nose, eyes, and talk are Negro. He tries to slick his hair down”.

Bottom line, she said he was a “screwed individual”. He also knows considerable English. It’s further evident he has traveled all over the country. She said she doesn’t think “he was ever with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show“. He might have been with “Pawnee Bill’ wild west show “or some minor shows. “

He is without a doubt a half breed.

Creeping Bear, young handsome, and warrior bold, but was unable to tell the truth about his birth.

This case went to trial twice in Memphis, resulting in a hung jury both times. After being sent to the State Supreme Court it was sent back stating “it was a local matter”.

The prosecuting attorneys said “enough is enough. We are not going to try this case again”. Creeping Bear had been in jail almost two years. During this time many single women had been bringing him all kinds of goodies in jail. Fruits and other nice edibles.  He was something of a “looker” and these single women knew it. After the trials he was let out of jail and put on a railroad passenger train that would take him to Oklahoma. When the train arrived in Little Rock he got off, found some liquor, and was last seen sweeping the streets of Little Rock paying off his crime.

From William Novarese, Our Memphis History Police Historian:

“I suspect he was older than 25, just my opinion. He is mixing truth with lies. It is very convincing. He was good at it. There was one other person who was good at that, and his name was James Earle Ray”.

William Novarese added other facts:

Mr. Weinbaum told the court, he and another man had a movie theatre and the friend he called “Wahoochie” were repairing the movie projector and it exploded, breaking his leg. He told the court the man was laid up in their residence in South Fort Pickering. He is mixing truth with lies and it is usually convincing. He is a real con man. I have to wonder if this Wahoochie is real. It sounds made up. He knew how to charm the jury.  

1904 Polk City Directory

Commercial Appeal issues from January, March and November 1903.

Memphis Police Department Highlights and Sidelights by Joe Walk, Memphis Police Dept. Historian 1987. 

Leave a Reply