Captor of John Wesley Hardin : John B. Armstrong / Killer of John Wesley Hardin :John Henry Selman

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The Bowen family web e-history files

Bowen family web

Misc. semi-sorted info about Joshua "Brown" Bowen, John Wesley Hardin & his wife Jane Bowen Hardin

< Captor of Hardin >

John B. Armstrong
1850 - 1913

  John B. Armstrong was born January 1850 in McMinnville, Tennessee. After having spent time in Missouri and Arkansas, Armstrong moved to Texas in 1871and settled in Austin.

  In the early 1870s, Armstrong was a member of the Travis Rifles. On May 20, 1875, he enlisted in the Texas Rangers, becoming a member of Capt. Leander McNelly's Special Forces. He was soon made Sergeant, and took part in the Las Cuevas War. He was also involved in the killing and capture of several suspected criminals in the area between Eagle Pass and Laredo. After McNelly retired from the Ranger service, Armstrong continued to serve under Lee Hall working in the Eagle Pass area.

   Armstrong's most famous exploit was his capture of John Wesley Hardin. It was Hardin's killing of Comanche County Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb in May 1874, that put the Rangers on his trail. Captured in Louisiana in September 1874 and returned to Texas, Hardin soon escaped and remained out of sight until August 1877. Recuperating from a gunshot wound, and walking with a cane, Armstrong still applied to the Adjutant General for permission to work the Hardin case.

   Detective John Duncan was assigned to work with him. Learning of Hardin's whereabouts in Alabama, Armstrong got a warrant for him, and with Duncan went in pursuit. Hardin's gang had been menacing the railroad and the railroad was happy to assist the Ranger in way possible to capture the outlaw. Tracking Hardin to Florida, the Ranger enlisted the aid of local lawmen in Pensacola to assist them in the capture. When the train carrying Hardin came into the station, Armstrong entered the front of the coach.

   Switching his cane to his left hand, he drew his Colt .45 with his right and confronted Hardin and four members of his gang. One of the men drew and shot at Armstrong who returned the fire killing the man. Hardin's gun had hung up on his suspenders allowing the Ranger time to hit Hardin over the head, knocking him unconscious. He unarmed the other three men. Returning to Alabama, Armstrong awaited extradition papers and returned Hardin to Texas.

   After retiring from the Ranger service, John B. Armstrong was appointed a United State Marshall. In 1882 he established a cattle ranch in Willacy county. He died 1 May, 1913, and is buried at Armstrong in Willacy County.

John Wesley Hardin had been a killer since his teen age years. From 1867, when he stabbed a fellow student in the schoolyard until his death in 1895 he continued a life of "gentlemanly" violence. He never killed a man, he said, who didn't need killing.

In May 1874 he killed Charles Webb, deputy sheriff of Brown County. From that time, Hardin was constantly pursued in Texas. John Barclay Armstrong, the Texas Ranger known as "McNelly's Bulldog," asked to be allowed to arrest the notorious gunman. He pursued Hardin first to Alabama, then to Florida, then confronted him and four of his gang on a train in Pensacola on July 23, 1877. In the affray that followed, Armstrong killed one of Hardin's men, rendered Hardin unconscious with a blow from his handgun, and arrested the remaining gang members.

Hardin was tried at Comanche for the murder of Charles Webb and sentenced, on September 28, 1878, to twenty-five years in prison. During his prison term he made repeated efforts to escape, read theological books, was superintendent of the prison Sunday school, and studied law. He was pardoned on March 16, 1894, and admitted to the bar. He was killed the next year. Armstrong was also one of the men involved in killing Sam Bass at Round Rock in 1878.

< Killer of Hardin >

From the Handbook of Texas Online

selmanSELMAN, JOHN HENRY (1839-1896). John Henry (Old John, Uncle John) Selman, outlaw cum lawman, was born in Madison County, Arkansas, on November 16, 1839, the son of Jeremiah Selman, an Englishman. In 1858 the Selmans moved to Grayson County, Texas, where Jeremiah died, and on December 15, 1861, John joined the Twenty-second Texas Cavalry as a private. He deserted from Fort Washita, Choctaw Nation (Indian Territory), in April 1863 and joined his family at Fort Davis, a Stephens County settlement at the fort on the Clear Fork of the Brazos. On August 17, 1865, John married Edna DeGraffenreid. They had four children. In the mid-1870s the Selmans moved to Fort Griffin, Texas, where John became a deputy for Shackelford County sheriff John M. Larn. The two controlled the vigilantes, rustled cattle, and at times terrorized the county, until the vigilantes locked Larn in his own jail and shot him to death. After Selman's wife died in 1879, he fled to Lincoln County, New Mexico, and organized the "Selman Scouts," a band of desperados accused of murder and rape during the late 1870s. In 1880 strong law enforcement drove Selman to Fort Davis in Jeff Davis County, Texas, where the Texas Rangers captured him; they took him to Shackelford County for trial. He escaped, however, and fled to Chihuahua, where he lived until 1888, when Texas charges were dropped. That year Selman moved to El Paso, where he married Romula Granadine on August 23, 1893. He lived mostly as a gambler and city constable. On April 5, 1894, he killed former Texas Ranger Baz (Bass) Outlaw during a wild brawl in Tillie Howard's brothel. Selman killed the famous gunman John Wesley Hardin on August 19, 1895, by putting three bullets in him as he rolled dice in the Acme Saloon. Selman went on trial for murder, but because of a hung jury he was released on bond. After leaving the Wigwam Saloon late one night, he met United States deputy marshal George Scarborough, and the two fought. Scarborough shot Selman four times, and he died on the operating table on April 6, 1896. Scarborough was acquitted of murder. Selman was buried in El Paso's Concordia Cemetery in the Catholic section, but his grave was unmarked, and all attempts to locate it have been unsuccessful.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Leon C. Metz, John Selman (New York: Hastings House, 1966; 2d ed., Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980). C. L. Sonnichsen, Pass of the North: Four Centuries on the Rio Grande (2 vols., El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1968, 1980).

Leon C. Metz



The Border Roll Incident

By his own admission, Texas gunfighter John Wesley Hardin killed more than 40 men during his lifetime. That's a lot of blood on his hands, especially for the namesake of the founder of the Methodist Church, whose father was a Methodist preacher himself. Possessed of what seems to have been a borderline psychotic need to inject himself into feuds, racially-motivated disputes, manhunts, and other violent situations, the infamous outlaw was a controversial and charismatic character for the tumultuous times in which he lived, and remains a fascinating figure today.

Ironically, one of the most famous six-gun standoffs Hardin got himself into was one in which not a single shot was fired. His opponent was another of the West's top guns - Wild Bill Hickok. Hardin rode into Abilene, Kansas in 1871 as an 18-year-old cowboy who had just killed five Mexicans in a confrontation on the trail up from Texas. Carrying a revolver was against the law in Abilene; Hardin ignored the ordinance and flaunted his pair of six-shooters as he caroused from saloon to saloon. Hickok, who just happened to be the town marshal, was well-informed of Hardin's reputation and was not amused. Confronting Hardin on the street, he drew his own sixguns and demanded Hardin surrender his pistols and submit to arrest. According to his autobiography, The Life of John Wesley Hardin, Hardin slid his revolvers from their holsters butts first. Then, as Hickok reached for the guns, Hardin executed what was known as a "border roll," twirling them over so that Hickok found himself with the muzzles of Hardin's revolvers in his face. "I cursed him for a long-haired scoundrel," wrote Hardin, "that would shoot a boy in the back." Hickok quickly countered that Hardin had "been misinformed" and called him "the gamest and quickest boy I ever saw." Then the two gunfighters retired to a nearby saloon to discuss matters further over some liquid refreshment.

That's how Hardin tells it anyway. But over the years, western historians have drawn a line in the sand, arguing long and hard over the incident in Abilene. There are those who say it never happened. Wild Bill Hickok's ardent fans are generally supportive of this view, using the logic that Hardin couldn't have gotten the drop on Hickok because nobody was capable of doing so. They say Hardin wrote his autobiography after Hickok was dead, and therefore unable to dispute Hardin's braggadocio.

With no other contemporary accounts of the incident to provide evidence one way or another, the issue was largely a matter of conjecture and hotly contested opinions. A few years ago, while researching Hardin and the Abilene incident for an Old West documentary broadcast on the Disney Channel, I was thrown into the frontlines of the battle. I consulted many of the top names in western history and came away scorched and battered by the experience, caught in the crossfire between dueling history posses.

During the height of the confusion, author Chuck Parsons, who was one of our more cool-headed consultants, came to my rescue. Parsons sent me some excerpts from the unpublished memoirs of a Texas cowboy named Alfred "Babe" Moye. Arriving with a herd of cattle in Abilene at the same time as Hardin, Moye witnessed an incident in which Hardin was showing off his gun-twirling prowess in an Abilene saloon right under Hickok's nose. Moye says Hickok eventually told Hardin to cut it out before one of his guns accidentally went off and killed someone (which would happen later on, but that incident was no accident); apparently Hardin complied without protest.

Moye's modestly written memoir doesn't describe the same incident Hardin recounted but it is a smoking gun nevertheless, the point being that Hickok not only allowed Hardin to wear his weapons in town but that there was some kind of truce or relationship between the two men - likely one that was based on a kind of mutual respect. Therefore, the border roll incident very well could have happened, and because there's no compelling evidence to the contrary, it probably did.

While working on the Disney documentary, I also learned that another of my consultants, El Paso author Leon Metz, was working on a new biography of Hardin. Hoping to make my own small contribution to wild west history, I cheerfully forwarded Metz the Moye memoir excerpts.

A writer with a garrulous way with words and a novelist's sense of the dramatic, Metz is without a doubt the best and most exciting living writer of wild west history. He's also appeared in scores of documentaries, and is a much sought-after lecturer on western history. Metz did include Moye's version of Hardin's shenanigans in Abilene in his fine book, John Wesley Hardin: Dark Angel of Texas, and concluded that, yes, the border roll incident must have happened. What's more, Metz's book will probably stand as the definitive Hardin biography for many years to come.

John Wesley Hardin was not a good man. But he led a wild and adventurous life during some of Texas' formative years. His experiences and his skewed view of events make him a figure of compelling interest that is sure to keep producing a flood of entertaining books, documentaries, web sites, and debates.




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