Grey Beard (unknown–1875)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: October 27, 2020

Grey Beard (Grey Head), a Southern Cheyenne medicine man, was a leader of the Hotamitanco ("Dog Men" or "Dog Soldiers"), an elite society composed mainly of aggressive young warriors. His followers were among the most ferocious of the Cheyenne bands during the violent period of sporadic warfare between 1864 and 1875. Grey Beard was first mentioned in connection with a skirmish against Col. Edwin V. Sumner's First United States Cavalry on the Kansas River, in eastern Kansas, in July 1857. He first gained notoriety among Whites as one of the Cheyenne leaders during the campaigns of Winfield Scott Hancock and George Armstrong Custer in 1867. Grey Beard and Chief Roman Nose were attempting to prevent the construction of the Kansas Pacific Railroad through their lands. Grey Beard reportedly attended the Medicine Lodge Council, in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, in October of that year but apparently did not sign the treaty. That peace effort ended in failure, and Grey Beard remained on the warpath until the spring of 1871, when White government officials induced him to come to Brinton Darlington's agency in Indian Territory. Meager rations and the destruction of the buffalo herds by White hunters, however, caused Grey Beard and other like-minded war chiefs to leave the reservation and begin raiding White settlements in Texas during the summer of 1874. Grey Beard was among those persuaded by Comanche medicine man Isatai to attack Adobe Walls on June 27 (see ADOBE WALLS, SECOND BATTLE OF). Grey Beard and his followers remained in the Panhandle and were among those who eluded Ranald S. Mackenzie's troops during September and October. At that time Grey Beard obtained two young White captives, Julia and Addie German (see GERMAN SISTERS), from his fellow chief Medicine Water, whose followers had killed the German family in Kansas. Throughout most of the fall Grey Beard continued to steer clear of military patrols.

By November 1874 his band had moved its camp to North McClellan Creek, south of the site of present Pampa. His power as a leader had increased considerably, and his village reportedly numbered as many as 500 Indians. On November 6 his warriors ambushed Lt. H. J. Farnsworth's twenty-nine-man patrol near the head of the creek. Two days later, however, Grey Beard paid the price when Lt. Frank D. Baldwin's column mounted a surprise attack on his encampment and chased the Cheyennes for about twelve miles before they scattered on the open plain. So sudden was the attack that the Indians abandoned most of their property and the two little German girls, who were rescued by Baldwin's men. Although Grey Beard and his followers continued to elude the horse soldiers for a few more months, prospects of starvation induced them to surrender to the military authorities at the Darlington agency in March 1875. Since he was one of the ringleaders of the 1874–75 uprising, Grey Beard was among those singled out to be sent in irons to Fort Marion, Florida. On the way, however, he was shot to death when he attempted to escape from the railroad car in which he was riding.

James L. Haley, The Buffalo War: The History of the Red River Indian Uprising of 1874 (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1976). George E. Hyde, Life of George Bent, Written from His Letters (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968). William H. Leckie, The Military Conquest of the Southern Plains (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963).


  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Chiefs and Other Leaders

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

H. Allen Anderson, “Grey Beard,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 09, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 27, 2020