John Henry Burial Site
Listen to my story, 'Tis a story true,
Bout a mighty man,---John Henry was his name,
An John Henry was a steel-driver too,
An' John Henry was a steel-driver too.
John Henry was a man better then six-feet high.
Nearly two and half-feet across his chest,
He'd hammer with a nine pound hammer all day,
And never get tired and want to rest,
Never get tired and want to rest.
Some say he's from Georgia,
Some say he's from Alabama,
But it's wrote on the rock at the Big Bend Tunnel,
That he's and East Virginia man,
John Henry told the captain,
"I'm a steel driving man,
I want double pay 'cause I work a double day,
With a hammer in each hand,
A hammer in each hand."
Well he drove steel in the mountain,
Falling rock killed two or three a day,
"Gonna be the death of me,
Be the death of me."
Well the captain said to John Henry,
"You may be a steel-driving man,
But if you can't beat this ol' steam drill down,
A hundred men will lose their jobs,
Hundred men will lose their jobs."
"A man ain't nothing' but a man,
Before I let that steam drill beat me down,
'll die with my hammers in my hands,
Die with my hammers in my hands."
Corn pone in his stomach,
Hammers in his hands,
"Ain't no steam drill on this job,
Can beat John Henry down,
Beat John Henry down."
Well, they put John Henry to the right side,
The steam drill on the left,
Said, "Before I let this drill beat me down,
"I'll hammer my fool self to death,
Hammer my fool self to death."
John Henry said to his shaker,
"Little Bill, you better Pray,
For if I miss this six foot steel,
Tomorrow gonna be your burying' day,
Gonna be your burying day."
With his hammers flashing in the mountain,
He began to sing,
"Can't you drive her, hunh,
can't you drive her, hunh,
Just listen to that cold steel ring,
Listen to that cold steel ring.",
Well, the salesman of that ol' steam drill,
Thought it might fine,
But John Henry drove his steel fourteen feet,
And the steam drill only made nine.
Then John Henry said to the captain,
"I got an awful roaring in my head,
I beat down that steam drill but I busted my insides,
Tomorrow John Henry will be dead,
John Henry will be dead"
John Henry had a little
Her name was Pollie Ann,
He hugged and kissed her just before he died,
Saying "Pollie do the best you can',
Do the best you can."
They took him to the riverbank,
And buried him in the sand,
And every locomotive come roaring' by,
"Say there lays a steel driving man',
Lawd - Lawd,
There lays a steel driving man."
Compiled and edited by Michael E. Cales from several versions of The Ballad of John Henry.
Preston and Russell Meadows worked hewing timbers for the Great Bend Tunnel at the eastern portal before, during, and after the contest between John Henry and the steam drill. They were coworkers and friends of John Henry.
John Maxey, great nephew of Preston and Russell Meadows, relates his uncle's testimony that John Henry did race the steam drill and did win the contest. Then, died shortly thereafter and was buried near this spot. "John Henry is buried about 1,000 feet east of the tunnel about ten or twelve feet on the south side of the original railroad tracks."
There is also references in ballads of him being buried in the sand. Which at the time the north arm of the Greenbrier River flowed alongside of the fill. Throughout the entire length of the river sandy beaches are present in various places.
It is to be inferred that the original tracks and fillwere not the same today as it was in 1871. Over the years during various construction projects it is probable that the original tracks and fill had been widen to accommodate the larger modern trains.
Other purported local burial places include:
The highway crossing of Big Bend Mountain near an old log church in Hilldale (L.T. and Jean Anderson)
Old Negro Cemetery Hilldale (L.T. and Jean Anderson)
Landfill alongside of the eastern portal tracks (L.T. and Jean Anderson)
Powley's Creek just below the railroad tracks (Denzil Ellison)
East end of the tunnel's portal (From the Ballad)
Poor Farm near Gap Mills (Kyle McCormick)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Cemeteries & Burial Sites • Railroads & Streetcars.
Location. 37° 39.1′ N, 80° 45.783′ W. Marker is in Talcott, West Virginia, in Summers County. Marker is at the intersection of West Virginia Route 3/12 and Judson Road (County Road 11), on the right when traveling east on State Route 3/12. The marker is onn the grounds of the John Henry Historical Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3262 State Hwy 3, Talcott WV 24981, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. John Henry Historical Park (within shouting distance of this marker); Hungards Creek Trestle (within shouting distance of this marker); Big Bend Engineering Building (about 800 feet away, measured in a direct line); Tunnel Construction Technology Improves (approx. ¼ mile away); Great Bend Tunnel Construction (approx. ¼ mile away); John Henry In Fiction (approx. ¼ mile away); John Henry (approx. ¼ mile away); Concrete & Cut Stone Foundation (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Talcott.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 22, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 20, 2021, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 37 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on January 20, 2021, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.