The Legend of John Henry - Leeds, Alabama
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Scooter Bill
N 33° 29.304 W 086° 32.214
16S E 543021 N 3705529
Quick Description: According to local tradition and the research of a folklore researcher, the race between legendary steel driver John Henry and a steam hammer is said to have taken place at Oak Tunnel outside of Leeds, AL on September 20, 1887.
Location: Alabama, United States
Date Posted: 11/10/2007 8:24:09 PM
Waymark Code: WM2JAG
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member CYBret
Views: 135

Long Description:
Long believed to be mostly myth or half-truth obscured by time, the legend of the man versus machine race has been extensively studied by retired Georgia professor and folklorist John Garst.

Garst's research has mainly focused on local eye-witness accounts of such a race near the Coosa Mountain Tunnel or the Oak Mountain Tunnel of the Columbus and Western Railway (now part of Norfolk Southern) near Leeds, Alabama.

Based on documentation that corresponds with the account of C. C. Spencer, who claimed in the 1920s to have witnessed the contest, Garst speculates that John Henry may have been a man named John Henry Dabney, who was born a slave to P. A. L. Dabney, the father of the chief engineer of that railroad, in 1850.

The city of Leeds honors its local legend with an exhibit in its Bass House historical museum and with an annual festival culminating on the third Saturday of September.

Oak Tunnel, where the race is thought to have taken place, is publicly inaccessible. The tunnel pictured is Coosa Tunnel, also constructed by the "John Henry" rail crew around the time of the legendary event.
Type: Local Legend or Lore

Referenced in (list books, websites and other media):
Garst, John. Chasing John Henry in Alabama and Mississippi: A Personal Memoir of Work in Progress Tributaries: Journal of the Alabama Folklife Association

Website Reference: [Web Link]

Additional Coordinates: Not Listed

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