We’ve been enjoying our travels through Mountain State counties and communities, snapping and posting pictures with our #AlmostHeaven stickers (see previous post). Driving through Summers County on a Sunday morning we saw signs for “Pioneer Days” in Talcott, WV – the small town fest held at the John Henry Monument. I’ve always carried a keen interest in the story of one of the world’s great folk heroes, and here was the spot when it all happened. We were going.
The festival and Monument were off the beaten path but it’s marked where to turn along the highway. We found an outdoor church service going on as we drove along the railroad line to park near the entrance of the Great Bend Tunnel. There loomed a gleaming black statue of the giant, muscle bound John Henry – yes, with a hammer in his hand. The legend from 1870 highlights the biggest, strongest fastest man working on the Great Bend Tunnel. John Henry took on a newly-invented steam drill to see which could better pound a steel blasting spike through layers of solid rock. Henry beat the machine, then “died with his hammer in his hand.”
Displays at the Talcott monument explain the legend, the people who kept it alive, and the locals who erected the impressive statue. We also discovered the John Henr
y Monument is part of West Virginia’s African American Heritage Auto Tour. https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/the-legend-of-john-henry-talcott-wv.htm
So, if you’re driving along Route 3 in Summers County that follows the beautiful Greenbrier River, stop in Talcott and see where John Henry beat that steam drill.