Howdy, I was born and raised in Talcott, West Virginia. One mile from the big bend tunnels. My mothers people were there for generations. They all worked on the railroad.(Along with most men of the area). My grandfateher and uncles helped build Big Ben Tunnel and their father worked on Great Bend Tunnel(Later named that, it was the original big ben tunnel). Unlike some things I have read, Talcott was not a violent area at all. The crew often boxed and played baseball after working. And yes, John Henry was a real man. He didn't play the banjo, and he didn't sing baritone. He was a mute. No one knew his name, so he was called 'John Henry'. He was a large man and a strong worker. There were also two other black men on the crew. All three were worked to death building the tunnel. From what I was told, they were not treated in a very humane manner.