I've recently learned of a Leeds, AL, family that preserves stories of steel-driving contests at the time of the construction of the C&W there, 1887-88. Their ancestor, the original source of the stories, worked on the C&W construction as a mucker, whose job it is to haul off the rock debris after blasting. Steel-driving contests were recreational and, I would guess, betting events, similar to the contests of lumberjacks, log rolling, sawing, chopping, etc.
The family stories are not about "John Henry," and the members of the family have never connected the hero of their stories with John Henry, nor do they preserve any lore about a contest with a steam drill or the steel drivers' death.
They tell about "John." John was such a good steel driver that he won every contest he entered.
I think that this is valuable information because it shows no signs of being tainted by John Henry legends external to the family's experience.
I identify their "John" with John Henry Dabney, the legendary John Henry, and I regard their family lore as support for this identification.