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I think this is who you are referring to:
There are many versions of John Henry's story. In almost all versions of the story, John Henry is a black man of exceptional physical gifts, a former slave, possibly born in Tennessee. Henry becomes the greatest "steel-driver" in the mid-nineteenth-century push to expand railroads from the east coast of the United States, across and through the mountains, to the frontier West. However, the owner of the railroad buys a steam-powered hammer to do the work of his mostly black steel-driving crew. To save his job and the jobs of his men, John Henry challenges the owner to a contest: Henry will race the steam-powered hammer. John Henry beats the machine, but exhausted, collapses and dies.
Are you asking about Twain's brother Henry, who was killed in a ship explosion, or does this question have nothing to do with the novel Roughing it?