John Henry is one of America’s largest and truest-to life folk heroes. What people do not know is that he rally did exist. Read on about my family’s realationship to John and Polly Ann Henry. Let me know what you think. I have documentation to back it up!
This is a true story. You may have heard this story described as a tall tale or a folk tale, but my Mother told me the story. And if my mother said it, you knew it had to be true. No lie ever passed over her lips. She may not have told me the entire story every time, but whatever she said was the truth. She even had a saying about it that I can still hear: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
My Mother’s mother’s mother’s side of the family came from around Richmond, Virginia before the War Between the States. Ann Mariah Thurmond was my great-grandmother’s name. She was a little woman, and grew up as an only child on a plantation in Richmond. Ann Mariah’s mother, Nancy Ann Sirey Thurmond, was a widow, and earned her keep by making clothes for those who lived and worked on the plantation.
My great grandfather and his family sailed from Wales across the vast ocean and settled in Chesterfield, Virginia, just down the road from Richmond. Great-grandfather John Holder was 3 when his family sailed across in 1844. His family was coal miners in Wales, and found jobs as miners when they came to Virginia. When the War Between the States broke out, John, his 3 brothers and his father Charles left the mines and all enlisted in the Confederate Army in Virginia. When John was in the Confederate Army, he made friends with a freed slave, also named John. When the war ended, they both walked over the mountains and rejoined their families in Richmond.
Great-grandfather John was hired as a riverboat captain for the Chesapeake and Ohio Transportation Company. He steered the flat topped ships from the port up the James River, delivering food and lumber for the town. One day, he heard of talk of the railroad expanding through the mountains. The C&O Railroad would need men to lay the rail, as well as tearing up the mountains. Maybe he would get a job with the railroad crew. He had always wanted to travel further into the country.
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