“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Leeds in Jefferson County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)

John Henry

Ledgendary ‘Steel Drivin’ Man’

John Henry Marker image. Click for full size.
By Tim Carr, July 12, 2009
1. John Henry Marker
Inscription. The story of "steel driving' man" John Henry is one of America's most enduring legends. The strong ex-slave became a folk hero during construction of the Columbus & Western Railroad between Goodwater and Birmingham. He drilled holes for explosives used to blast tunnels. According to legend, he was involved in a race against a steam-powered drill that its manufacturer claimed could do the job faster than a man. Witnesses said after the all-day contest that he and his heavy hammer cleared substantially more feet than the steam drill. Versions of the blues song 'John Henry' relate how the powerful man won the contest but died from exhaustion, his "hammah" in his hand. He supposedly was buried nearby. Although other states claim John Henry, noted Georgia folklore researcher John Garst found evidence that the event occurred near Dunnavant on September 20, 1887, at either the Big Oak Tunnel or Coosa Tunnel, two miles apart. Source: "Historic Birmingham & Jefferson County" By James R. Bennett
Location. 33° 32.634′ N, 86° 32.352′ W. Marker is in Leeds, Alabama, in Jefferson County. Marker is on Thornton Avenue, on the right when traveling east. Click for map. Located in the yard of the old Leeds Depot. Marker is in this post office area: Leeds AL 35094, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Depot (here, next to this marker); Leeds Benchmarks In History (approx. 0.3 miles away); Shiloh Cemetery (approx. 0.4 miles away); Jonathan Bass House Museum (approx. 1.1 miles away); Congressional Medal Of Honor Recipients (approx. 1.4 miles away); Rowan House (approx. 2.6 miles away); Sidney Word Lee (approx. 4.5 miles away); Mt. Hebron School (approx. 4.8 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Leeds.
Regarding John Henry. The tunnels mentioned on the marker are not accessible to the public, active railroad do not trespass.
Also see . . .  The Legend Of John Henry. Has links to pictures of the tunnels (Submitted on September 11, 2009, by Timothy Carr of Birmingham, Alabama.) 
Categories. African AmericansHeroesIndustry & CommerceMan-Made FeaturesNotable EventsRailroads & Streetcars
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Timothy Carr of Birmingham, Alabama. This page has been viewed 1,917 times since then and 129 times this year. Photo   1. submitted on , by Timothy Carr of Birmingham, Alabama. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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