John Selman (lawman and outlaw)

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John Henry Selman

Birthdate: (56)
Birthplace: Madison, Arkansas, United States
Death: April 06, 1896 (56)
El Paso, El Paso, Texas, United States (killed by U.S. Marshal George Scarborough)
Place of Burial: El Paso, El Paso, Texas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Jeremiah Selman and Permilia Selman
Husband of Edna Beatrice Selman
Father of John Marion Selman, Jr.
Brother of Thomas Selman

Occupation: lawman and outlaw
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Selman (lawman and outlaw)

John Selman (November 16, 1839-April 6, 1896) was an outlaw and sometimes lawman of the Old West. He is best known as the man who murdered outlaw John Wesley Hardin

Early life, service with the Confederacy

Selman was born in Madison County, Arkansas to an English father and an American mother. The family moved to Grayson County, Texas in 1858. After his father's death on December 16, 1861, Selman joined the 22nd Texas Cavalry and served in the Civil War. He deserted in April 1863.

Life as a lawman

On August 17, 1865, Selman married Edna Degrafenreid, and the couple eventually had four children. He and his family moved to Fort Griffin, and in 1877 he became a deputy Inspector for hides working under fellow Inspector Shackelford County ex-Sheriff John M. Larn. During this time he crossed paths with several notable Old West personalities, such as Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Dave Rudabaugh. Selman and Larn fought against rustlers and vigilante justice in the then very wild area of northwest Texas. The two were involved in several shootouts with bandits and outlaws during the period that followed, until one day when Selman was out of town, vigilantes shot Larn to death in an Albany Texas cell June 24, 1878. Larn had been arrested after six hides not belonging to him had been found, mysteriously, behind his house.

Life as an outlaw

With vigilantes now hunting Selman, seeking vengeance for several of their comrades he had either arrested or killed, he became less prominent and more elusive. His wife died in 1879, and he moved with his children to Lincoln County, New Mexico. There, he entered into life as an outlaw, organizing and leading a band of desperados called Selman's Scouts, which was also known as 'The Rustlers' which was later accused of numerous acts of rape and murder in that area. By 1880 the band had been driven from Lincoln County, and began operating in Jeff Davis County, Texas. Selman was captured shortly thereafter by Texas Rangers, and taken to Shackelford County for trial.

Escape, return to law enforcement, later life

Selman escaped, and fled to Chihuahua, where he hid out until around 1888, when his name was cleared and all charges against him were dropped. He then moved to El Paso, Texas, and on August 23, 1893, he married Romula Granadine. He began working as a Constable, and also spent time gambling. On April 5, 1894, Selman killed a former Texas Ranger named Bass Outlaw during a drunken brawl in a brothel called Tillie Howards'. He was not arrested for the shooting, which was ruled justified.

In that shooting, Outlaw had already previously been ordered by Selman to return home to sleep off his intoxication, as Outlaw had verbally stated he intended to kill a local judge whom he felt had wronged him. Outlaw, however, entered the brothel, and shortly thereafter he became disruptive, discharging his pistol. Texas Ranger Joe McKidrict, who knew Outlaw, attempted to calm him. Outlaw responded by shooting and killing Ranger McKidrict. Selman then confronted Outlaw, and a gunfight erupted. Selman was wounded twice in the thigh, and Outlaw was killed.

El Paso Policeman and Selman's son, John Selman Jr. arrested the gunman John Wesley Hardin's mistress, the widow Monrose for "brandishing a gun in public". Hardin confronted Selman Jr., and the two men had a verbal dispute. On being told of the argument, Selman Sr. approached Hardin on the afternoon of August 19, 1895, and exchanged angry words. Hardin went to the Acme Saloon that night, where he began playing dice. Shortly before midnight Selman Sr. walked in and saw Hardin with his back to him. Drawing his gun at the door, he fired and hit Hardin in the back of the head, killing him instantly as he went for his gun. As Hardin's body lay on the floor Selman fired three more shots into him. Selman was arrested for murder and stood trial. Selman testified Hardin had seen him enter in the mirror and Hardin, a known gunman and murderer, had gone for his gun. Selman swore he fired in self defense, a hung jury resulted in his being released on bond.

On the night of April 5, 1896, Selman was killed in a shootout by US Marshal George Scarborough. Selman and Scarborough had been playing cards and got in an argument. Both exited to the alley and shot it out, after which Scarborough returned alone. Scarborough was arrested for murder as Selman had no gun; however, just before his trial a thief was conveniently arrested and it was discovered he had Selman's gun. He stated he had seen the shooting and stolen the gun before the crowd arrived. Scarborough was then acquitted on murder charges and released. It has always been alleged that the argument that night was due to Scarborough having been good friends with Bass Outlaw, killed on that same date two years earlier by Selman. Ironically one day before Selman Sr.'s death, Selman Jr. was arrested in Juarez, Mexico on a charge of abducting a young Mexican girl.

Selman was buried in an unmarked grave in the Catholic section of El Paso's Concordia Cemetery. To date, his exact grave location in the cemetery is not known. On April 5, 1900, exactly four years after he shot John Selman, Scarborough was mortally wounded in a gunfight with two robbers.


John Selman was born in Madison County, Arkansas on 16 November 1839. His family moved to Grayson County, Texas and on 15 December 1961, he joined the 22nd Texas Cavalry but deserted 15 months later. In 1895, he murdered the famous gunfighter John Wesley Hardin.

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 Selman 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, New Mexico. 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 were 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, Texas.

In 1895, he got involved in a dispute with John Wesley Hardin after his son arrested Hardin's girlfriend for vagrancy. On 18 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 6 April 1896. It was claimed that Selman killed between 12 and 30 men during his lifetime.

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John Selman (lawman and outlaw)'s Timeline

November 16, 1839
Madison, Arkansas, United States
January 30, 1875
Age 35
April 6, 1896
Age 56
El Paso, El Paso, Texas, United States
El Paso, El Paso, Texas, United States