John Henry Museum

John Henry Museum

The John Henry Museum is located at 21 Pat Ball Road in Talcott, West Virginia. It is housed in the former L.G. Rhodes General Store built in 1905. The structure was donated by the Ellery and Donna Wykle family to the newly formed John Henry Historical Society.

The Legend of John Henry was born in the Summers County community known as Talcott. John Henry was a steel driver in the employment of Captain William R. Johnson, he was employed to help bore the Great Bend Tunnel through Big Bend Mountain for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.

When a steam drill showed up at the site, a threat to the workers livelihood became evident. John Henry challenged it to a contest and the rest is history.

Most accounts agree that after about an hour he had out driven the steam drill by more than five feet. If he then "laid down his hammer and died" is a point of contention.

However, John Henry did work in the Great Bend Tunnel and this has been substantiated by historians.

It is a common misconception that the story of John Henry is a tall tale for children like those about his fellow American folk heroes Paul Bunyan, Mighty Casey, and Pecos Bill. In some stories he is mistakenly thought to be a "railroad man" and portrayed as a gandy dancer driving spikes into rail ties.

The museum, which opened in 2014, houses books, videos, transcripts, pictures, as well as a gift shop. All artifacts within the museum were donated by area residents.