Memphis Moments
5:52 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Creeping Bear

The Pink Palace Mansion

At the turn of the 20th century, Memphis' Main Street was a dangerous place and the site of many violent crimes. One of these involved a Native American named Creeping Bear. Some reports said he was a Creek Indian; others said he was a Sioux. Some believed he'd been left stranded in Memphis by a traveling Wild West show.

At any rate, on New Year's Day, 1902, Creeping Bear was walking past the fire station on North Main. A man named George Millard, who lived nearby on Front Street and often spent time at the fire station, started shouting harsh insults at Creeping Bear, and allegedly tried to grab him.

Creeping Bear reached into the blanket he was wearing, pulled-out his tomahawk, and split Millard's head open. Creeping Bear waited at the fire station for the police, who took him to the nearby county jail.

A horse-drawn ambulance carried the victim to St. Joseph Hospital, where he died two weeks later. Creeping Bear received a great deal of community support and sympathy.

Though he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed this decision. Creeping Bear left town, planning to return to his reservation.

To learn more about our region's history, visit the Pink Palace Family of Museums, or or their Facebook page, or at http://memphismuseums.org.