Church cookbooks another route to Ray County’s past

By Linda Emley

Last Saturday, I attended the Richmond News Christmas party. When the whole News crew gets together, we are a diverse group that shares a common goal: “Keep the Richmond News press rolling.”

We’ve succeeded.

I started writing history stories for the News in April of 2010 because I wanted to keep our local newspaper strong when some small-town papers were hitting some of the same hard times as big-city papers.

Little did I know that almost three years later, I would still be sharing two tales a week from our past. I love history and I hope that my column is helping my fellow Ray Countians love it, too.

At our Christmas party, I looked around the room and was surprised to see how many people it takes to put a newspaper together. I’ve known some of my coworkers, like Jo Ellen Dale and Russell Green most of my life. There were others that I met for the first time and then there was my new-found friend Pat Mills.

Pat and I share a page in the Richmond News every Monday, but seldom see each other. Pat and I meet several years ago when we both volunteered at the Richmond Salvation Army and now our paths have crossed again when she started managing the senior center at Eagleton.

We became “daytime” neighbors on the hill this summer and she drives by the museum twice every day.

When I arrived at our office party, Pat showed me my seat next to her and then the party started. We had a great time sharing stories with everyone and before the night was over, we had a plan. Our new adventure is featuring one recipe a week from the local Church cookbooks

I have a collection of these cookbooks and it’s so much fun reading who cooked what in Ray County’s past.

Pat and I got together this week and decided we would kick off this new venture with a recipe from Richmond’s own Santa Claus, Bill Smith. Bill was the Santa of choice for many years with the good girls of boys of our county.

His wife Mildred would put on her red dress and was the perfect Mrs. Santa. I first meet Bill and Mildred when I worked at the Ray County Senior Center in the early 1980s. Bill drove one of the buses and helped deliver for the Meals on Wheels program. Some times I would ride along with Bill on these meal runs and help deliver food to the front door steps of many homebound people.

This was an experience that I have never forgotten because many of them where happy to see me because I was the only person they would see all day.

Bill was also a preacher and I was one of the local people that could say they got married by Santa Claus. I was a June bride, so it was the off- season for dear old St. Nick.

I will never forget how Bill performed our wedding ceremony. He had us stand facing the crowd and he stood in front of us with his back to the crowd. He said they wanted to see my face, not his.

His idea was good, but my out-of-town airline friends sat on the back row of the church and kept making faces at me so it was hard to stay serious. It didn’t help much because I keep looking at Preacher Bill and seeing Santa Bill.

Anyway, this was a good example of how Bill “Santa” Smith was a man who was uniquely different than other preachers. In honor of Bill “Santa” Smith, here is one of his favorite recipes. Preacher Bill’s Peanut Butter Fudge.


2 cups of sugar

2/3 cups of milk

1 jar Kraft marshmallow creme

1 12-oz. Jar creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Here’s how you make it: Cook the sugar and milk to soft ball stage. Remove from heat and add marshmallow creme, peanut butter and vanilla. Stir to blend smoothly. Pour onto buttered jelly roll pan. Note: Be sure to remove from fire the instant the mixture reaches soft ball stage.


Another one of my favorite recipes belongs to my great aunt, Nell Lou Kell Cox, which was called My Mother’s 1933 Ham Roll with Pioneer Biscuits. It comes to us from her daughter, Susie Taylor.

2 cups all-purpose floor

1 cup whole-wheat floor

4 ½ teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon cream of tarter

2 cups milk gravy or white sauce

¾ cup lard or vegetable shortening

1 egg – beaten

1 cup milk

2 cups ground or diced cooked ham


This is the way to make it: Combine flours and next four ingredients. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add egg and milk, stirring quickly and briefly. Knead lightly on floured surface. Roll to 1-inch thickness and cut into 2-inch biscuits or leave in rectangular shape and place in greased oblong pan. (If rectangle, roll up jelly roll style.) Spread with ham, then cover with gravy or white sauce. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with tossed salad and chilled fruit for a lovely luncheon. Yield 8 to 10 servings.

I’m not one of those girls who likes to cook or bake, but I appreciate the ladies of our past that took great pride in having the best apple pie or chocolate cake in the neighborhood.

I always thought it was funny when you hear stories about someone that shares their secret recipe but conveniently left one of the ingredients out so theirs wouldn’t taste the same. Or maybe it was just that special touch when you know how much a pinch of this or a pinch of that really is.

I would like to give a big “thank you” to all the great Ray County ladies who have shared their recipes for all future generations to enjoy. If you would like to look over some of these old church cookbooks, come on up to the Ray County Museum and I will be glad to show you our collection.


Have a story or recipe (or even a family or church cookbook) to share with Linda? She can be reached at or visited in person at Ray County Museum.

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