Though by far, not the most well-known of the
Old West's infamous characters, John Henry Selman's life was certainly one of the
most notorious. Sometimes referred to as "Old John," or "Uncle John," he would
variously operate in a number of roles, including soldier,
Born in Madison County,
November 16, 1839, the family later moved to Grayson County,
1858. A few years later, on December 16, 1861, Selman's father died and the
young man joined the 22nd
Cavalry, fighting as a private in the
However, just 15 months later, he deserted
in April, 1863.
He then moved to
Stephens County, where in 1864, he enlisted in the Texas State
Militia. He must have done a better job in this regiment, as the following year,
he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in April, 1865.
few months later, on August 17th, he married Edna Degrafenreid, who would soon
be pregnant with his first son. Over the years, the couple would have four
children. Selman moved his family to Colfax County,
briefly before returning to
soon began to work as a deputy sheriff under Shackelford County
Sheriff John M. Larn.
during these days was a very lawless place, filled with a number of notable
characters that Selman, no doubt, came in contact with. In the decadent
settlement that was called the "Babylon on the Brazos” were the likes of
Dave Rudabaugh, Lottie Deno,
Pat Garrett, and
Sheriff John Larn,
however, was not what he appeared to be. Shortly after taking the sheriff's
position, Larn had entered into a
private contract with the local territorial garrison to deliver three steers of
cattle per day. However, Larn had no intentions
on filling these contracts legally. When Selman came on board, the pair rustled
the cattle from neighboring ranchers. Before long, Larn and Selman, instead of controlling the area crime, were
rustling even more cattle and otherwise terrorizing the county.
However, suspicions were soon raised as a number of ranchers noticed
that while their herds were slowly shrinking,
then resigned as sheriff on March 7, 1877 and was replaced by
William Cruger. He and Selman then moved to outright cattle
rustling. A number of violent acts
were perpetuated by the pair as they drove off cattle, shot horses,
and fired potshots at the homes of terrified citizens.
Finally, a warrant was issued for Larn's arrest in June, 1878 and
William Cruger was tasked with arresting his former boss. On June
22nd, Larn was taken to the
the local blacksmith shackle Larn to the floor of the cell to prevent a
breakout by Larn's supporters. Instead, the next night, the
Tin Hat Brigade, stormed the jail intending to hang Larn. When they found they couldn't lynch the
shackled man, they shot him in his cell.
Selman wisely disappeared, next landing in lawless
Lincoln County, New Mexico.
There, he formed a gang of vicious
Selman's Scouts. For two
months in September and October, 1878, the Scouts
rustled horses and cattle, murdered innocent men and boys, and pillaged
businesses and homes. They were finally stopped when
Wallace issued a proclamation threatening martial law.
Selman returned to
and his wife died in 1879. The following year, he was captured by
and taken to Shackelford County to stand trial for his previous crimes. However,
he soon escaped and made his way to Chihuahua, Mexico where he lived until
1888, when the
charges were dropped.