History of the Broom Man
Henson Broom Shop was
started in 1930 by my grandfather, Rollie Newton Henson,
(just Bootsie to me). He and my grandmother, Ty (or
Granny) operated the shop just outside of Paducah,
Kentucky in the Shady Grove community of McCracken
County. My father, Rollie Nelson Henson, my uncle Ellis
and my aunt Relma all helped in this business during the
Great Depression of the 1930's, during World War II and
My grandfather would
pedal his brooms in an old truck throughout western
Kentucky, southern Illinois, southeast Missouri and west
Tennessee. he sold to grocery stores, mills, barber
shops, hardware stores and individuals in those areas.
Everybody knew "Mr. Rollie", the broomman.
My father is the second
R.N. Henson and so when I learned from him, I became the
third R.N. Henson to work at Henson Broom Shop. Now my
son Richard Nathan Henson is working in the business and
this made him generation number four with the same R.N.
My grandfathers last
words to me on Thanksgiving night of 1981 were. "If you
learn how to make a broom, you will always have a job".
The last words he ever spoke to me! He passed away four
days later unexpectedly. Thus a basketball coach and
high school principal became a broom maker!
Shop is now known as Henson Broom Shop & General
Store and is located only at the village of
Symsonia, Kentucky about threes miles from where
it all started in 1930. The business is now
housed in a replica of a 1930's era country
store. It is modeled after Mr. Roy Farmers Hilltop
Grocery just down the road from where my
grandparents lived when I was a boy. It was
always a treat for my grandfather to walk me
down there after making brooms to let me have my
favorite soft drink. A Nehi Grape in a bottle. I
always have had affection for little old country
stores, so I built my own and moved Henson Broom
Shop to it. We are a country gift store with
many handmade items, and lots of other stuff.
But brooms are what we are known for and brooms
we produce. All over the United States and in
foreign countries. Movie stars,
politicians, college presidents and just plain
folk have our brooms.
Newton Henson dying broom corn in 1955
been featured in numerous newspaper
articles, books, magazines and television
appearances. PBS even filmed a television
documentary about us. And of course the
publicity of making all the brooms for the
hit television show, "Dr. Quinn,
Woman". We even named a broom after the
actress Jane Seymour..
the broom success I have been able to
fulfill another ambition, to perform on
stage. I speak at banquets, or business
organizations, perform at schools, or on
stage performing my award winning one man
show, "Brooms, Bootsie and Me".
Newton Henson (in the background) making
broom in 1935. In the front are, left to
right, his son, Ellis Henson, his daughter,
Relma Henson, his nephew, Danny Ransom, and
his son, (my father) Rollie Nelson Henson