world's largest John Henry.



John Henry – American Folktale

Throughout all of West Virginia, the legend of John Henry has been told from generation to generation. John Henry was born in 1840 into slavery. After the Civil War, he was a free man. He found employment with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad working as a steel driver. Everyone during that time claimed he was the strongest more powerful working on the rails.

John spent every day drilling holes by hitting the thick steel spikes into the rocks while turning the drill after every hard blow. Many men tried in vain to keep up with John.

The new railroad was progressing along quite well, until in their path stood Big Bend Mountain. The bosses at the C&O, of course, did not want to waste time and money to go around the 1 mile thick mountain, so they said the rails would go straight through the middle.

As the men pounded their way through the mountain, smoke and dust filled the air at times so thick they could hardy see in front of their face. John Henry was working at a speed unbelievable to all as he would drill with a 14-pound hammer and go 10 to 12 feet in just one workday. No one else could even get this close.

One day a steam powered drill salesman came on the scene. He proclaimed that his drill could out drill any man on the crew. Well, of course, everyone knew how fast and hard John Henry could work, so they set up a contest between the steam powered drill and the mighty John Henry. The foreman ran the drill and John Henry readied for the contest with two 20 pounds hammers. As the contest began, the men yelled and cheered John on. After 35 minutes, John had drilled two 7 foot holes for a total of 14 feet while the steam drill only made one hole 9 foot long.

John held up both hammers in victory. His crew cheered and shouted for his victory. With all the yelling, it took the on lookers a couple of minutes before they notice that John was swaying. He was so exhausted he fell to the ground. The crew ran up to John, however, it was too late. A blood vessel had burst in his brain and he died.

Some claim that in that old tunnel you will see the likeness of John Henry carved in the very rock near to where he died, while others proclaim hearing the sound of the 20 pound hammer drilling its way to triumph over the steam drill.

John Henry mythology.

 The myth of John Henry.

Page Sponsored By::: WAV Editor