John Selman

John Selman

John Selman was born in Madison County, Arkansas on 16th November, 1839. His family moved to Grayson County and on 15th December, 1961, he joined the 22nd Texas Cavalry but deserted 15 months later.

Selman moved to Stephens County before enlisting in the State Militia in 1864 and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in April 1865. After marrying Edna de Graffenreid he fathered his first son. The family moved to Colfax County but returned to Texas and soon afterwards was accused of killing a couple of Native Americans.

In 1874 Selman joined up with John Larn to form a vigilante committee. They were credited with killing several outlaws and later began working as rustlers. Larn was caught and lynched but Selman was able to escape to Lincoln County. Selman now formed a gang that included his brother Tom Selman, Edward Hart and John Gross. Later that year Selman killed Hart in a dispute over who should be leader of the gang. Over the next months Selman and his gang was responsible for the murders of six men.

Selman moved to Fort Davies in 1879 and attempted to settle down in a place called Chihuahua. He continued to be involved in criminal activities but in November 1892, he became constable at El Paso.

In 1895 he got involved in a dispute with John Wesley Hardin after his son arrested Hardin's girlfriend for vagrancy. On 18th August, 1895, Selman shot Hardin in the back of the head while he was standing at the Acme Saloon Bar.

John Selman was murdered by George Scarborough on 6th April, 1896. It was claimed that Selman killed between 12 and 30 men during his lifetime.

Primary Sources

(1) (1) El Paso Herald (20th August, 1895)

Last night between 11 and 12 o'clock San Antonio street was thrown into an intense state of excitement by the sound of four pistol shots that occurred at the Acme saloon.Soon the crowd surged against the door, and there, rightinside, lay the body of John Wesley Hardin, his bloodflowing over the floor and his brains oozing out of a pistolshot wound that had passed through his head. Soon thefact became known that John Selman, constable of Precinct No. 1, had fired the fatal shots that had ended thecareer of so noted a character as Wes Hardin, by whichname he is better known to all old Texans. For severalweeks past trouble has been brewing and it has been often heard on the streets that John Wesley Hardin would be the cause of some killing before he left the town.

Only a short time ago Policeman Selman arrested Mrs. McRose, the mistress of Hardin, and she was tried and convicted of carrying a pistol. This angered Hardin and when he was drinking he often made remarks that showed he was bitter in his feelings towards John Selman. Selman paid no attention to these remarks, but attended to his duties and said nothing. Lately Hardin had become louder in his abuse and had continually been under the influence of liquor and at such times he was very quarrelsome, even getting along badly with some of his friends. This quarrel-some disposition on his part resulted in his death last night and it is a sad warning to all such parties that the rights of others must be respected and that the day is past when a person having the name of being a bad man can run rough shod over the law and rights of other citizens.

(2) Fank Patterson, statement by the bartender of the Acme Saloon (August, 1895)

My name is Frank Patterson. I am a bar tender at present at the Acme saloon. This evening about 11 o'clock J. W. Hardin was standing with Henry Brown shaking dice and Mr. Selman walked in at the door and shot him. Mr. G. L. Shackleford was also in the saloon at the time the shooting took place. Mr. Selman said something as he came in at the door. Hardin was standing with his back to Mr. Selman. I did not see him face around before he fell or make any motion. All I saw was that Mr. Selman came in the door, said something and shot and Hardin fell. Don't think Hardin ever spoke. The first shot was in the head.

(3) El Paso Herald (5th April, 1896)

John Selman, the victor of not less than twenty shooting affrays in Texas, the exterminator of "bad men" and the slayer of John Wesley Hardin, is dying tonight with a bullet hole through his body. About three months ago Selman and United States Deputy Marshal George Scarborough had a quarrel over a game of cards, since which occurrence the relations between them have not been cordial. This morning at 4 o'clock they met in the Wigwam saloon and both were drinking. Scarborough says that Selman said, "Come, I want to see you," and that the two men walked into an alley beside the saloon, and Selman, whose son is in Juarez, Mexico, in jail on a charge of abducting a young lady from there to this side, said to Scarborough: "I want you to come over the river with me this morning. We must get that boy out of jail."

Scarborough expressed his willingness to go with Selman, but stated that no bad breaks must be made in Juarez. Scarborough says that Selman then reached for his pistol, with the remark, "I believe I will kill you." Scarborough pulled his gun and began shooting. At the second shot Selman fell, and Scarborough fired two more shots as Selman attempted to rise. When Selman was searched no pistol could be found on him or anywhere around him. He says he had a pistol, but that it was taken from him after he fell and before the police reached him. Scarborough's first shot hit Selman in the neck. The next two shots also took effect, one through the left leg just above the knee and the other entering the right side just under the lower rib. A fourth wound in the right hip is supposed to have been caused by Selman's pistol going off prematurely, as the ball ranged downward. Scarborough is about 38 years old. He was born in Louisiana and was raised in Texas, and for several years was sheriff of Jones County. Selman was raised on the Colorado River in Texas. He was about 58 years old and has lived a stormy life. When not drinking he was as gentle as a child, but he did not know what fear was, and has killed not less than twenty outlaws. He was a dead shot and quick with his gun. He was an old officer in the service. Some years ago he fought a band of cattle thieves in Donna Anna County, New Mexico, killing two and capturing the others, four in all. He killed Bass Outlaw, a deputy United States Marshal, in El Paso a few years ago.