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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 shot outlaw John Wesley Hardin in the Acme Saloon in El Paso, Texas on August 19, 1895.
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.
On August 17, 1865, Selman married Edna Degrafenreid, and the couple eventually had four children. He and his family moved to Fort Griffin in Shackelford County, Texas, and in 1877 he became a deputy Inspector for hides working under fellow Inspector, ex-Shackleford County 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. On June 24, 1878, vigilantes shot Larn to death in an Albany Texas jail cell. Larn had been arrested after six hides which did not belong to him had been found behind his house. Even though Selman was out of town at the time, he found himself a wanted man, and was being hunted by these same vigilantes, who were friends with several men who had previously been either arrested or killed by him.
Selman went into hiding. His wife died in 1879 after she had given birth to a stillborn child. The four children were placed in the custody of his wife's niece. Selman by this time was living in Lincoln County, New Mexico. There, he organized a band of outlaws known as Selman's Scouts (also known as 'The Rustlers'). The group 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.
Selman escaped, and fled to Chihuahua, Mexico, where he hid out until around 1888, when his name was cleared and all charges against him were dropped. While in Mexico, he sent for his children. The two youngest boys joined their father, but the two oldest remained in Brown County, Texas never to see their father again. He then moved to El Paso, Texas, and on August 23, 1893, he married Romula Granadine. He began working as a constable, but also spent time gambling. On April 5, 1894, Selman killed a former Texas Ranger named Bass Outlaw during a drunken brawl in "Tillie Howards brothel". 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. Instead, Outlaw entered the brothel, and became disruptive, discharging his pistol. Texas Ranger Joe McKidrict, who knew Outlaw, attempted to calm him. Outlaw responded by shooting and killing McKidrict. Selman confronted Outlaw, and a gunfight ensued. Selman was wounded twice in the thigh, and Outlaw was killed.
El Paso Policeman and Selman's son, John Selman Jr arrested the mistress of gunman John Wesley Hardin, Beluah Morose (or "the widow M'Rose"), for "brandishing a gun in public". Hardin confronted Selman Jr., and the two men had a verbal dispute. Upon being told of the argument, Selman Sr. approached Hardin on the afternoon of August 19, 1895, and the two exchanged angry words. That night, Hardin went to the Acme Saloon, where he began playing dice. Shortly before midnight, Selman Sr. walked into the saloon to confront Hardin. Drawing his gun at the door, he fired and hit Hardin in the head, killing him instantly as he went for his gun. As Hardin lay on the floor, Selman fired three more shots into him. Selman was arrested for murder and stood trial. Selman testified that he had observed that Hardin had seen him enter in the mirror and Hardin had gone for his gun. Selman swore he fired in self-defense, and 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. The two men had been playing cards and gotten into an argument. Both men exited to the alley and "shot it out", after which Scarborough returned alone. Scarborough was arrested for murder because it was found that Selman had no gun. Just before his trial, a thief was arrested and it was discovered he had Selman's gun. The thief stated he had seen the shooting and stolen the gun before the crowd arrived. Scarborough was acquitted on murder charges and released.
Selman was originally buried in an unmarked grave (now marked) in the Catholic section of El Paso's Concordia Cemetery.