HINTON, WV – (WWNR ) Bill Lepp is known throughout West Virginia as an amazing Story Teller . Now, The History Channel will launch a series entitled “Man vs. History” on Tuesday, July 20th at 10:00 p.m. EST. According to its website, “Man vs. History is a new History Channel series that follows acclaimed storyteller and local (West Virginia) historian Bill Lepp as he travels off the beaten path across the country to discover the truth behind mysteries and legends of American history. Each episode sees Bill investigate, decode, and debunk iconic subjects and figures like Billy the Kid, Johnny Appleseed, Davy Crockett, Houdini and more. Whether speaking to experts, handling artifacts, or testing historical weapons, Bill will work to determine if the story in question was fact, fiction or somewhere in-between.” American folk hero John Henry’s legendary defeat of a steam drill during construction of the Great Bend Tunnel will be a feature episode of the new series.
Local involvement in the development of the new series began in 2019 when John Henry Historical Park (JHHP) co-project director Rick Moorefield was contacted by a Los Angeles-based producer working on behalf of production company Matador Content to develop a pitch for the new series. Shortly after, Moorefield and co-project director Bill Dillon spent a day helping to coordinate local support for the production team sent to film the pilot. Filming focused on Bill Lepp as he interviewed JHHP Steering Committee members Dillon, Ron Gore, Henry Jackson, James (Blue) Luster, and Michael Cales as they recounted various aspects of the legend. Matador Content then pitched the resulting pilot video to the History Channel which accepted it for full production of the series.
In September 2020, a full video production team from Matador Content assembled at the JHHP to begin filming the John Henry episode. Their first day filming included Lepp interviewing local historian Michael Cales as he debunked the myth from the truth of the legend. The second day featured filming of a recreation of the legendary contest of man vs. machine onsite at the Great Bend Tunnel. Series host Bill Lepp operated a modern jackhammer whose power had been reduced to 20 psi compliments of Jimco Equipment Corporation in Charleston, West Virginia. His opponents were Kristian Moorman, a local Mon Power employee, portraying steel driver John Henry along with Princeton police officer Steve Owens portraying his shaker Bill. True to the legend, Lepp’s jackhammer encountered the same dust clogging problem as was had with the Burleigh drill back in the early 1870s. Viewers will have to tune in to the History Channel to see who won this battle! You can see a trailer for the new series at this website: https://www.history.com/shows/man-vs-history.