In the rural West Virginia town of Talcott, there is a legend of a man who could drive steel faster than a machine. This is, of course, the legend of John Henry. Talcott is an incredibly small town that mostly consists of river access, rolling hills and farms. However, the town is somewhat famous due to this legend. This story is so prominent that there is an entire festival held each year in Henry’s honor.
Not only is the famous tunnel from the legend in Talcott, but there is also a museum dedicated to Henry. For many who grew up in the area, songs about Henry and his life were more common to hear than classic lullabies. Another tunnel, the Great Bend Tunnel, was built later, directly beside the John Henry Tunnel. Even though it has been many years since the original tunnel was used, the Great Bend Tunnel tunnel remains in use today.
Even more prominent is the fact that the tunnel where Henry supposedly won the steel-driving competition against the machine has garnered attention from The History Channel. A new series on The History Channel, Man Vs History recently aired an episode filmed at the John Henry Tunnel. Each episode leads the History Channel team to investigate famous legends such as Billy the Kid’s famous escape and Annie Oakly’s most difficult shot. In the second episode of Man Vs History, the team traveled all of the way to Talcott in an effort to explore the fantastic claim that a man by the name of John Henry was able to best a steam-powered drill.
Man Vs History is hosted by Bil Lepp who is an award-winning author and investigative local historian from the Wild and Wonderful state of West Virginia. According to his official History Channel bio, Lepp has a Bachelor’s degree in history with a focus on early American history. He also previously worked for the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History.
The episode featuring Henry initially aired on Tuesday, July 27. It is now available to watch on The History Channel website after signing in through a TV provider. Providers include but are not limited to, Xfinity, DirectTV, Dish, Frontier and Hulu.
For more information on Man Vs History, go to www.history.com/shows/man-vs-history. For more information on the legend of John Henry, the Steel-Driving Man, stop by the historical John Henry Tunnel site and the John Henry Museum, both located in Talcott, West Virginia, part of Summers County.