Monday, April 23, 2012

John Henry Statue to be removed for repairs Wednesday afternoon

Detail of John Henry statue near Talcott, W.Va.
Photo courtesy West Virginia Explorer
Motorists who are accustomed to passing the world-famous statue of John Henry on Big Bend Mountain over the last 40 years have one more day to enjoy the ritual.

At 1 p.m. on Wednesday, according to state officials, the 2.5-ton bronze likeness of Henry will be removed from its pedestal along W.Va. Route 3 and will be reconditioned by a local wright before being installed near the mouth of Great Bend Tunnel at Talcott, W.Va.

Since its installation by the Hilldale-Talcott Ruritan Club in 1972, the statue has been repeatedly vandalized and repaired. Many bullet-holes pock its thick casting. The likeness has often been painted black to help cover graffiti.

Sculptor Chales O. Cooper, of Williamstown, Mich., was commissioned to create the eight-foot tall statue, according to Rick Moorefield, project director for the John Henry Memorial Park.

The statue will be unveiled in 2013 when the John Henry Memorial Park is officially opened in the valley of the Greenbrier River upstream of Big Bend Mountain.

Henry joined the ranks the world's greatest folk heroes during construction of the Big Bend Tunnel in the early 1870s. According to legend, Henry, who was employed to drive steel wedges into the rock, was able to win a contest against a driller who was operating a steam-powered drill. The contest reputedly cost Henry his life.

By David T. Sibray
West Virginia Explorer