Ghost Stories from West Virginia

John Henry: The Steel Driving Man A West Virginia Legend

John Henry was a relentless man, yes sir. He was conceived a slave in the 1840’s however was liberated after the war. He went to act as a steel-driver for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, don’t ya know. What’s more John Henry was the strongest, the most effective man working the rails.
John Henry, he would use his day’s penetrating openings by hitting thick steel spikes into rocks with his reliable shaker hunching near the gap, turning the drill after every forceful blow. There was nobody who could match him, however numerous attempted.
John_Henry-Big_Bend_tunnel
Historical Marker erected to memorialize John Henry at Big Bend Tunnel
That being said, the new railroad was moving along right speedy, much appreciated in no little part to the forceful John Henry. In any case approaching right smack in its way was a compelling adversary – the Big Bend Mountain. Presently the huge supervisors at the C&o Railroad concluded that they couldn’t go around the mile and a quarter thick mountain. No sir, the men of the C&o were going to experience it – penetrating directly into the heart of the mountain.
A thousand men would lose their lives before the extraordinary foe was won. It took three long years, and before it was carried out the ground outside the mountain was loaded with stopgap, sandy graves. The new shafts were loaded with smoke and dust. Ya couldn’t see no-how and could barely relax. Anyhow John Henry, he worked energetically, boring with a 14-pound sledge, and setting off 10 to 12 feet in one workday. Nobody else could match him.
At that point one day a sales representative tagged along to the camp. He had a steam-controlled bore and asserted it could out-penetrate any man. That being said, they set up a challenge without even a moment’s pause between John Henry and that there drill. The foreman ran that brand new steam-drill. John Henry, he recently hauled out two 20-pound pounds, one in each one hand. They bored and penetrated, dust climbing all over the place. The men were crying and cheering. Toward the end of 35 minutes, John Henry had penetrated two seven foot openings – a sum of fourteen feet, while the steam drill had just bored one nine-foot gap.
Statue of John Henry at Big Bend Tunnel
Statue of John Henry at Big Bend Tunnel
John Henry held up his mallets in triumph! The men yelled and cheered. The commotion was so uproarious, it took a minute for the men to understand that John Henry was tottering. Depleted, the strong man collided with the ground, the hammer’s moving from his grip. The swarm went quiet as the foreman hurried to his side. Yet it was past the point of no return. A vein had rush in his mind. The best driller in the C&o Railroad was dead.
A few people say that John Henry’s resemblance is cut directly into the rock inside the Big Bend Tunnel. Furthermore in the event that you stroll to the edge of the darkness of the passage, now and again you can hear the sound of two 20-pound sledges penetrating their approach to triumph over the machine.

 

Entrance of Big Bend Tunnel
Entrance of Big Bend Tunnel
Marker on John Henry Statue
Marker on John Henry Statue