Place

John Henry Park, Talcott, WV

A statue of John Henry stands in front of a railroad tunnel
John Henry and the Great Bend Tunnel

NPS/Dave Bieri

Quick Facts

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Parking - Auto

African American Heritage Driving Tour Stop 15: John Henry, The Steel Drivin' Man

In the early 1870s, construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway along the Greenbrier and New rivers employed thousands of workers. Many of these men were African Americans who migrated to West Virginia in search of jobs. Jobs on the railroad were labor intensive and low paying, required long hours, and were at times dangerous.

Railroad workers primarily used shovels, wheelbarrows, mules, and black powder to move millions of tons of rock and dirt to prepare the railroad bed. Workers used axe and adz to cut and shape hundreds of trees into ties, bridge timbers, and lumber for railcars. They sweated in the hot summer sun and froze in the cold mountain winters as they worked to connect Tidewater Virginia with the Ohio Valley.

As the C&O Railway stretched westward along the Greenbrier River, The Legend of John Henry was born at Big Bend Mountain near Talcott, West Virginia. The Legend of John Henry is just that, a “legend,” and through the legend, John Henry became a symbol. He symbolized the many African Americans whose sweat and hard work built and maintained the rails across West Virginia. He was a symbol for the black workers who gave their lives in these dangerous occupations. The legend, as told through ballads and work songs, has kept the story of John Henry and the black railroad workers alive.

For the full story go to: The Legend of John Henry; Talcott, WV

Driving Directions

Physical Address: 3262 West Virginia 3, 25951
GPS Coordinates: N37.652038 -W80.762975

From Hinton, WV: Travel south on Highway 20 to the New River bridge at the Bluestone Dam. Turn left on Highway 3 east and cross the New River. Turn right on Highway 3 east and travel 5 miles to the junction of Highway 3/12. Continue on Highway 3 across the Greenbrier River. Travel 3 miles to Talcott. Pass the “Talcott Unincorporated” sign and turn right on the first gravel road into the entrance to the John Henry Park.

From Beckley, WV: Travel on I-64 East to exit 139. Turn left on Highway 20 south and travel 10 miles to Hinton, WV. Continue south on Highway 20 to the New River bridge at the Bluestone Dam. Turn left on Highway 3 east and cross the New River. Turn right on Highway 3 east and travel 5 miles to the junction of Highway 3/12. Continue on Highway 3 across the Greenbrier River. Travel 3 miles to Talcott. Pass the “Talcott Unincorporated” sign and turn right on the first gravel road into the entrance to the John Henry Park.

Directions to the next Tour Stop

Second Baptist Church, Hinton
Physical Address: 210 James Street, Hinton, WV 25951
GPS Coordinates: N37.672028 -W80.889716

From Talcott, take Hwy 3 West 8 miles to Hwy 107 at Hinton. Turn right on Hwy 107 and travel into downtown Hinton. Turn right on James Street at the Civil War Monument. Travel one block. Tour Stop and parking is in front of Second Baptist Church.

 

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

Last updated: May 24, 2022