He is the son of Jeremiah Matthew Selman and Permelia Norwood.
He married Edna Beatrice DeGraffenreid August 17, 1865 in Grayson County, Texas.
His family moved to the Grayson County, Texas area near what is now Sherman and Denison in 1858. His father died a year later. His mother did her best to raise the family in the proper way but as the family grew older, she found it more and more difficult to control the boys.
John Henry Selman was the older of the 2 boys and he tended to mentor the younger Thomas Selman. On December 15, 1861 John Henry joined the 22nd Texas Calvary as a private. He deserted the Calvary in April, 1863 and rejoined his family at Fort Davis in Stephens County, Texas.
About 1875 the Selman family moved to Fort Griffin, Texas and John Henry Selman became a deputy for the local sheriff of Shackelford County, John M Larn. The two were vigilant in hunting down horse thieves and rustlers in the area and hanging them on the spot. (No judge or jury needed) In 1877 the two men received a government contract to supply beef to Fort Griffin. It seems that they were accused of stealing cattle from their neighbours to supply the contract instead of utilizing their own herds.
Texas had its own brand of justice. John M Larn was arrested June 23, 1878 and taken to the county jail at Albany, Texas. In the early morning hours of June 24, 1878, Larn was taken from his cell and shot by a group of masked men.
John Henry Selman was now wanted in Shackelford County, Texas to answer for several crimes. He found it convenient to resettle in New Mexico. His wife died in 1879 in Colfax County, New Mexico. He managaed to organize a group of desperados in New Mexico in the early 1800's that were referred to as "Selman Scouts". They were accused of rape, murder and a variety of other crimes.
The New Mexico rangers finally forced him to go back to Texas. He settled at Fort Davis in Jeff Davis County (not to be confused with the Fort Davis in Stephens County). The Texas Rangers got their man when they captured him in Jeff Davis County and returned him to Shackelford County.
He escaped and went to Chihuahua, Mexico. In 1888 he moved to El Paso and became a city constable. El Paso was a wild and wooly place during that time. On April 15, 1894, John Henry found himself in a heated argument with a former Texas Ranger, Bass Outlaw, outside a local brothel. He shot and killed Bass Outlaw. One year later, on August 19, 1895 he came up behind the notorious gunman John Wesley Hardin and shot him three times as Hardin rolled the dice at the Acme Saloon. This is the act that John Henry Selman became famous for.
John Henry was brought to trial but a hung jury acquitted him of the murder. On April 5, 1896 United States Deputy Marshall George Scarborough met up with John Henry as he was leaving the Wigwam Saloon and Scarborough shot Selman four times. John Henry Selman died on the operating table April 6, 1896.