- [S106] The Mountain Press, 19 Mar 2012.
Upland Chronicles: Ogles have been making brooms for three generations
by CARROLL McMAHAN
Lee Ogle and his wife, Lillie, work in front of their broom shop. They were the first of three generations of broom makers.
Wayne Ogle and his wife, Betty, were the second generation to make and sell brooms.
David Ogle (right) with his father Wayne. David is the third generation to operate Ogles Broom Shop in the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community.
For the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, three Sevier County artisans were chosen to create limited-edition pieces for the celebration.
Third- generation woodworker Randy Ogle built rocking chairs based on one made by Aden Carver, who was a farmer and gifted craftsman from Smokemont.
Randy learned from his father, Wade, who learned from his father, Isaac. His grandfather, Isaac Ogle, learned from an aunt, Mary Ellen McCarter Ownby.
Working on a loom built by her great-grandfather in 1926 for her great-grandmother Ellen Ownby, Hope Reagan created table runners and placemats in the early 19th century Whig Rose pattern she learned from her mother, Jane Nolan, and her grandmother, Cora Morton. Both were weavers for the Phi Beta Phi’s Arrowcraft Shop in the 1930s and 1940s.
Third-generation broom maker David Ogle was chosen to make brooms and carve walking sticks. David began making brooms when he was 9. Forty-seven years later, he’s still making them.
David’s great-uncle, Lee Madison Ogle, was the first family member to sell brooms to the public. Lee learned to make brooms from his father, Edward Ogle, who made them for his family.
Lee Ogle (1899-1979) and his wife, Lillie Ellen Ownby Ogle (1887-1977), opened the first Ogle’s Broom Shop in the Glades Community on John’s Branch Road a few years before the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
He used straw from the broomcorn raised by family and neighbors. At times, the Ogle family raised as many as five acres of broomcorn themselves. Lee used bindings of the soft inner bark of poplar trees to stitch his brooms together and the handles were made of laurel.
Lee and Lillie raised four children, none of whom displayed an interest in making brooms. However, Lee’s nephew Wayne Edward Ogle, son of Early and Gertie Ogle, learned the craft from his uncle.
Although none of Lee’s children became broom makers, one of his daughters, Mae, married a wood craftsman, Carl L. Huskey, and together they operated the Village Craft Shop in the Glades Arts and Crafts community for over 50 years.
In 1960, Wayne Ogle (1928-1988) and his wife, Betty Fay Dodgen Ogle (1937-2011), opened a broom shop in a shopping center on Highway 321. From 1960 until Lee Ogle died in 1979, there were two generations of the Ogle family selling brooms at different locations simultaneously.
For a few years in the late 1970s, Wayne Ogle supplied the brooms sold in both shops when his uncle’s health began to decline.
David Ogle dropped out of school when he was 16 and began helping his father make brooms full-time. Although David later earned his GED, he recently said, “Looking back, I should have had my behind kicked for quitting school.”
For almost two decades, father Wayne and son David worked together until the untimely death of Wayne Ogle in 1988. The following year David and his wife, Tammie Ownby Ogle, moved the business to the corner of Glades Road and Powder Mill Road, where Lee Ogle began selling brooms 50 years earlier.
Today David stitches his brooms with waxed nylon thread instead of the poplar bark strips used by his ancestors. Handles are made of maple, cherry, oak, tulip poplar or straight sticks used in tobacco barns.
Because the broom handles are individually made, no two are alike. The broomcorn is hand-bound and knotted front and back unlike commercially available brooms.
The most frequently asked question by tourists is, “What is broomcorn?” David says “They think it’s hay.”
About half of Ogle’s brooms are sold wholesale and the rest at his shop. It’s about the same split for customers who want to decorate with the items and those who use them.
A lady in Ohio has 50 of Ogle’s brooms, another woman in Michigan has about 30, and one collector from Canada has 60.
A customer, Mike Hayes, says, “We are the proud owners of walking sticks and canes made of cedar, hemlock, white ash, honeysuckle and more. We have brooms that I buy as gifts, and fall in love with and can’t part with them. David Ogle makes us a new walking sick each year with our grandson’s name and the current year carved in it.
“It is an honor to own one of their brooms and walking sticks. We always make them a must-stop when we go to Tennessee each year. They are genuine good people, and as honest as they come. It is a privilege to call them friends.”
Last year David and Tammie relocated but didn’t move far. The new location is behind the Jim Gray Gallery on Glades Road. The old building was originally Glades Lebanon Baptist Church and is next door to the Clift Dwellers Gallery which was moved from downtown Gatlinburg.
David and Tammie do not have children. He says, “I plan to keep making brooms as long as I am able, but when I’m gone that’s it. There will be none left to carry on the tradition.”
Carroll McMahan is the special projects facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a column or have comments, please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to email@example.com.
- [S76] Atchley Funeral Home Records, Volume III, 1974-1986, Larry D. Fox, (Smoky Mountain Historical Society), 25 Jun 1979.
Ogle, Lee Matterson 80 b. 6/12/99 TN d. 6/25/79 DOA SCH broom maker f. Edward Ogle m. Delia Huskey SMMG Survivors: wife Grace Atchley McMurry R1 Gatlinburg 1 son Lonnie Ogle 1 dau Mrs Carl (Mae) Huskey 12 gc 23 ggc 7 gggc 1 sis Josie Ogle 1 ½ sis Ina Shults 3 ½ bro Ray Ogle Homer Ogle Dot Ogle.
- [S34] In the Shadow of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Historical Society, (1993), 385.