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How Preacher Ham Got Its Name





As it happened, we had begun to look for ways to differentiate the description of our hams for people who were not facing us across the counter for a tasting.

The Aged Ham (our country ham and our prosciutto version) is quite distinctive and has a rich, exquisite flavor, all its own. It is cured … salted, smoked and weather aged in the old family smokehouse.

The Barbecue Ham, which you know now as the Preacher Ham, is a ham that we have specially prepared and placed on a hickory pit (a barbecue pit, thus the original name) for a long-slow smoke.

While our aged ham comes from a family recipe dating to a will of the 1700s, the Barbecue Ham has been a Newsom family project for 60 years, sold many years in the H.C. Newsom grocery operated by Hosea’s son Bill until the store burned in 1987 and now offered in Nancy’s Old Mill Store and through our online store.

So, there we had two hams that you would describe as smoked. Yet, they were two very different hams indeed.

What would you send to a customer who called from a thousand miles away and asked for that smoked ham that you make? And, what of the customers who responded with the order form included in the annual mailing. Nancy was pondering the right way to make sure that the customer would get the ham that they wanted.

Each of these hams has developed a following; and while many of our family of customers say they like both, some have developed a very distinct preference for one or the other of the smoked hams.

The aged hams have their seniority and are most commonly what people mean when they say a Newsom's Ham. So, what to call that succulent alternative?

The answer came from a very dear customer of long-standing … a gorgeous treasure of a lady with the ringing of angels and a lilt of mischief in her laughter, a lady never bored by life, a soul of great perseverance and determination, with just a touch of mystic … quite a delightful character named Betsy.

Betsy Hooks is the woman who came up with the name "Preacher Ham" for that barbecue ham which her family had grown love on their own dinner table.

Betsy had actually been introduced to the ham as a girl when her mother, married to a minister, would come to buy or send the young Betsy to grocery store on Main Street to buy that Barbecue ham, succulent and smokey to add to the Sunday table for the visiting preachers.

Once grown and with her own family, Betsy worked as a rural mail carrier. She and husband, Ronnie, were the parents of a daughter and two sons. And, along the way, as Betsy and Ronnie grew in their life and their marriage and their family, he had become a minister, as had been her father. And in that ministry, they came to entertain many evangelists in their home and served up many pounds of Newsom's barbecue ham.

Betsy is quite a woman of faith. She has battled medical science for her life and come out on the uphill side, being able after many years of deepening struggle to one day come smiling grandly through the door of this old store, bubbling over with it, then (just before the punch line) striking a conspiratorial pose to declare, "I'm cured! Praise God!"

A disorder of her blood tried its best to claim Betsy's life, but it could not. She is the true witness that an informed, persistent patient will not be one to lay down and die. Betsy had at one point been a patient of the late Dr. Frank Giannini (a local physician who pulled out all stops mixing tried and true with new), but was now being seen by specialists in hematology, physicians and scientists who failingly prescribed all the best known treatments. It was one of those "just a matter of time" moments for a patient, but Betsy felt there was an answer to be found. She had children, a husband, family and friends and a great will to live.

Her body was giving out, but Betsy's heart and soul were not. She said give me B-12, give me blood, keep me alive ... and, they did, until one day the mystery of Betsy's failing blood unraveled. A moment of childhood mischief had resulted in young Betsy wrecking her brother's bicycle -- a bicycle wreck when she was supposed to be at home and definitely not riding the bicycle. She was injured then, but the tomboy just felt badly bruised and thought better of complaining about the incident in which she had crossed so many forbidden lines. The wreck had actually injured a femur, had injured a source of bone marrow production in the growing child ... and thus, the woman later began to lose her health and life to a failure to renew her own blood. Ah, the mysteries of science unraveled. And so, the character of Betsy prevailed ... a true woman of great faith.

But, back to our ham … There is, sometimes, only so much reverence you can hold. So, in one day comes Betsy, a very fine cook that you would be quite gastronomically blessed to have an invitation from, and, she slaps her hand down on the counter. It appears that she and Ronnie were to feed Sunday dinner again to a visiting evangelist and, while she would spend much time at the stove in preparation, he had sent her in for the barbecue ham. With more than a hint of exasperation in her voice, the busy Betsy followed the hand slap onto the counter with a declaration ... Give me some of that "preacher ham!" … Nothing but the best, for the preacher you know!

And, so, it has been, thanks to our beloved Betsy, preacher ham ever since.

We are blessed by customers who say they love our products and our service...truly blessed!