Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry Days set for July 7- 9

Talcott’s annual John Henry Days celebration kicks off on Friday, July 7 at John Henry Historical Park. This three-day festival is jam-packed with food, fun and friends coming together to “keep the legend alive.”

The legend of John Henry is one that is cherished by the residents of Talcott and the surrounding area. Henry, better known as the “Steel Drivin’ Man,” has come to represent strength and determination for all who encounter the legend. 

Pam Lewis, president of the John Henry Days planning committee, said attendees can expect an abundance of local vendors and crafts, as well as live music followed by fireworks. The event wraps up Sunday, July 9, with a morning church service at Big Bend Tunnel and the annual car show. 

“It’s about celebrating John Henry, the man, the myth, the legend,” Lewis said. “It’s also about celebrating Talcott. I’m looking forward to the parade, and the music is going to be great.”

Attendees can anticipate annual favorites such as the Grand Parade and the Rubber Duck Pluck, a content where participants buy rubber ducks to race from the top of a river. 

John Henry arrived in Talcott around 1870, and that he stood at about 6 feet tall and weighed approximately 200 pounds. This monument is in John Henry Historical Park.

Lewis said that a building left over from the town’s early railroad days was recently transformed into a visitor center, which will be open just in time for this year’s festival. Attendees will also have access to the John Henry Museum and Gift Shop. 

“Put it on your calendar, and come out and have a good time,” Lewis said. “It’s always a lot of fun.” 

Historians believe that Henry was a newly-freed slave from either Virginia or North Carolina working for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. 

Accounts state that Henry arrived in Talcott around 1870, and that he stood at about 6 feet tall and weighed approximately 200 pounds. It is believed that Henry was incredibly muscular and is known for using two hammers, one in each hand, to blaze through Big Bend Mountain with his railroad crew. 

When the railroad company introduced a steel driving machine, threatening the livelihood of Henry and other railroaders, historians substantiate that he challenged the steel driver to a contest. Accounts state that the contest went on for about an hour, and that when it was all said and done, Henry had beat the steam drill by more than 5 feet. 

Thus, the legend of John Henry was born and forever cemented into the hearts of Talcott residents. 

Those interested in volunteering for the event are encouraged to contact Lewis through the John Henry Days Facebook page.

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