I've just learned that Tributaries, Vol V, containing my article, "Chasing John Henry," is not yet out. It is expected to be shipped from Canada to the Alabama Folklife Association on July 17, 2002. Assuming that this takes no more than a week, it should be available by the end of July.
Art Rosembaum pointed out to me a song published by Dorothy Scarborough in "On the Trail of Negro Folk Songs" (Harvard, 1925), p 221.
John Henry's Dead
John Henry's dead, And de las' words he said, "Never let your honey Have her way."
'Way back, 'way back, 'Way back in Alabama, 'way back.
(The two other verses are not about John Henry.)
This verse is often found as "Georgia Buck" (The Georgia buck is dead, And the last words he said....) Even so, the association here of John Henry with Alabama could be significant.
The version of "John Henry" published by Zora Neale Hurston in Mules and Men contains a reference to "Georgy skin." This points to the deep south (not West Virginia).
Individually, these are very weak points. Even so, they add to the dozen or so other features of various versions of "John Henry" that support Alabama over West Virginia as the scene of John Henry's race with a steam drill.