Oscar B. Selden



Photos courtesy of photographer Connie Buller. Located in the Blair Cemetery, Washington County, Nebraska
Photos courtesy of photographer Connie Buller. Located in the Blair Cemetery, Washington County, Nebraska

(July 28, 1815 - August 14, 1887)


The Lusk Herald
August 19, 1887


HEARTLESS MURDER AT MANVILLE

An old Man Ruthlessly Assassinated While Sitting in his Own Dwelling

No Clue Found to the Murderer


Manville, a post office nine miles west of Lusk, on the Wyoming Central rail road was the scene, last Sunday night, of the most brutal murder which has been recorded in the history of Wyoming. The victim was Oscar B. Selden, an extensive land owner there.

He and his wife had just moved from their grout house into a wooden building, the front room of which was used as the postoffice. They were sitting together in a rear room about 9:30 o'clock when Mrs. Selden suggested that winter would soon be here, and they should have the building re-sided. Mr. S. assented, and drawing his chair up to the table said he would see how much siding it would take. As he sat there Mrs. S. heard a report and at the same instant the lamp went out and all was darkness. Mr. Selden fell forward upon the floor, and in her dazed condition in the dark his wife supposed the lamp had exploded and injured him. She stooped over and took hold of him, asking if he were hurt. He did not answer and she felt blood on his clothing, but supposed it to be the oil from the lamp. As she could not rouse him she ran out and cried for help, intending to go to their nearest neighbor - Mr. Sheffer's - but her strength failed her. Mrs. Sheffer heard the report, or reports, and aroused her husband, who then heard the agonizing cry for help and rushed to the (scene) of the tragedy. Mrs. Selden had by this time lighted the lamp, and had discovered the truth, that her husband had been instantly killed by a shot from the outside of the south window.

Other neighbors had heard the shot fired and it required but little effort on the part of Mr. Sheffer to arouse them.

An examination of the body showed that the fatal shot had passed into the breast a trifle to the left of the center, and had lodged somewhere in the body. Two shots were fired in rapid succession, as one passed on through two double partitions, struck the roof of a lean-to and then fell to the floor making an indentation therein. This ball should be found, but has not, even after a thorough search.

The two lower lights were knocked out of the window. The following diagram will illustrate the situation:



The assassin is supposed to have deliberately kneeled down when firing the fatal shot. Foot prints were found on the soft earth just outside the window. About two weeks ago the dogs of two of Mr. Selden's nearest neighbors were poisoned. These are all the points at this writing on which to ferit out the mystery.

The day before the shooting a stranger with a rifle and a bowie-knife passed west along the track and on Monday Deputy Sheriff Owens, who had been notified followed this man, but found that he had staid all night at the next section house and had gone to work on the section that morning. No other stranger has been seen in the country. The idea is therefore maintained by some people that the assassin is a resident of Manville, and that he is facing the affair in the hope of eluding suspicion. It does not seem possible that he can do this, and everyone sincerely hopes he will be discovered and punished.

Another theory maintained by many is that the killing was done by someone from the east who entertained a deadly hatred toward Mr. Seldon. This theory seems the most reasonable, as the coroner's inquest brought out the fact that Mr. Selden has had no serious difficulty with any person in this country, and some deep motive must be found for so dastardly a deed. Furthermore, the citizens at Manville have lost their mainstay, and they, without a (single) exception, take the greatest interest in the attempt to discover the assassin. The officers who have worked on the case feel confident that no resident of Manville committed the crime.

Dr. Martin extracted the fatal bullet from the body of the deceased. It is a 30 calabre slug taken out of an army cartridge. The grease was found in the creases of the ball. The two balls were loaded into a shot gun, and there not being paper enough in the cartridge some printed paper was used. Enough of this blackened wadding was found to load one barrel. It was sticking around the window sash, on the edges of the glass and on the floor inside the room. Some must have been blown away and lost. The word Lord could be found on five or six of the scraps of printed paper. The charge of powder was light, as the ball struck no large bones and lodged in the muscles of the back. The bullet was not creased, as it would have been had it been fired out of a rifle or six-shooter. The reports were so very near together that they could have been produced only by a double-barrel shot gun with both barrels cocked, or by a double-action six-shooter in the hands of an uncommonly quick man. The appearance of the bullet which was found, entirely exploded the latter idea.

Another theory of the affair is that the assassination was done for the purpose of robbery, and that it was the intention to kill both the old couple, but that the (extinguishing) of the light vitiated the aim of the second shot, as the report was not loud and several parties from there had been out hunting that day and might have (discharged) their pieces as they came home. As it turned out Mrs. Selden's outcry would compel the robber to flee for safety. The writer does not favor this theory, however. The reports were too near together to allow much of a change in the position of the gun between the shots, and a robber or robbers could have masked late in the night and performed their work with less risk by using no firearms.

At present there is not the least discernible clue whereby to trace the assassin.

The coroner came up from Cheyenne Wednesday and proceeded with the inquest, the jury bringing in a verdict in accordance with the above facts.

OSCAR B. SELDEN, deceased, was 71 years of age and was born in the state of New York. At an early age he moved with his parents to Michigan, where he learned the blacksmith's trade and was married quite young. He has lived in harmony with his early chosen wife for over 50 years.

In 1854 he went to Omaha, where he met with success in business, having of late years been one of the firm of Selden & Smith, proprietors of a large part of South Omaha. In '85 he formed a partnership with John A. Shaffer in the land business at Valentine, and in the spring of 1886 the firm moved to Manville with the intention of starting a town. They are interested largely in coal, oil and mica claims. Mr. Selden was a successful and honorable business man, a kind husband and neighbor, and his loss will be sadly felt at the little town of Manville. His brother D. S. Selden, of Omaha arrived Wednesday and will take active measures to discover the assassin.

Mr. Selden has a son who is teacher at the Yankton Indian agency, and a married daughter in south western Nebraska. He leaves property valued at over $200,000. Mrs. Selden is the sole legatee and administratrix.


The Lusk Herald
August 26, 1887


--Mr. D. S. Selden, brother of O. B. Selden, deceased, desires the HERALD to present the sincere thanks of himself and Mrs. O. B. Selden to the people of Manville and vicinity for the kindness universally shown them during the recent terrible trouble at Manville, and for their efforts in trying to discover the assassin.

--On Coroner Chaffin's return to Cheyenne he expressed himself as follows to a Leader reporter: "The inquest over the remains of the late O.B. Selden lasted two days and a portion of two nights. One session was held at Manville and one at Lusk. The jury was composed of W. F. Louger, foreman, O. P. Goodwin, Peter Sweeney, John Huff, J.K. Calkins and Mike Loud, all of whom are well known in this city. About twenty witnesses were examined, and not one of them heard the testimony given by another. A verdict was rendered to the effect that Oscar B. Selden came to his death by a gun shot wound inflicted by unknown parties. There are absolutely no new developments in the case. Every clue that gave promise of revealing unknown facts or unearthing new theories was followed to the end, but invariably with the same result. Suspicion points toward no one. There was not even enough evidence to warrant the officers in making an arrest. Deputy Sheriff Owens is doing all that man possibly can to ferrit the great mystery, and is confident that he will succeed. Two different men have been suspected of the crime, but there is absolutely no foundation for the accusations, which are merely whispered and intimated. The shooting was (undoubtedly) done with a shot gun, which was lightly charged and certainly prepared for the occasion. The ball extracted from Selden's body was a very large one, 50 calibre, I think. The ball which is presumed to have been intended for Mrs. Selden was not found, though the (dent) it made upon the floor was plainly visible, and the ball should have been in the room."




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Manville, Wyoming






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