Kenny Underwood is known for his family’s long history in the area, and his baking skills that benefit others

Kenny Underwood’s roots run deep into the history of McDonald County, Mo. In fact, he can boast that 12 of his great-grandparents have lived in McDonald County for nearly 170 years.

The newest member of the family to relocate to McDonald County was his mother’s father who arrived in 1918, a mere 100 years ago.

“We’re pretty root bound in this part of McDonald County,” Kenny said.

In fact, Kenny can trace his deepest roots all the way back to 1650 when Thomas Underwood applied for a land grant in Maryland 30 years after the Plymouth Rock landing of the pilgrims. He is able to follow the paper trail from Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina and Tennessee. His DNA results point to ancestors from Scotland, Ireland and England, with a curious amount of Scandinavian.

“I know that there were not any ancestors for generations from Scandinavia,” he notes. “So, I wonder about a heavy Viking influence.”

Another great-great grandfather was the county assessor in 1896, as well as, once serving as the Postmaster in Jane until his daughter took over the position making a cumulative 50 years in postal service for the Mars side of the family.

Kenny worked for 30 years in the town’s grocery store before deciding to throw his hat into the political arena. It was a trip to Lambert’s Café in Ozark, Mo., known for their thrown rolls, that inspired him to create rolls as a campaign tool. So, it is no surprise that Kenny would go on to become the county recorder, elected for the first time in 2005, he just won re-election in the mid-term election.

Entering into the recorder’s office is somewhat like going back into time. Old maps, pictures and election ballets are scattered along the various walls in his office. And then there is the vault where all the historical records for the county are housed for their protection.

The responsibility of the county recorder is critical, not only for preservation of important documents but also for tracking down an individual’s own family history.  The office staff “record, preserve and retrieve all records relating to real estate ownership in the county” … issuance and recording of marriage licenses and recording of military discharge papers for the county’s veterans. Additionally, the office records and files any tax liens that may be levied against a property.

Unfortunately, marriage and real estate records only go back to 1865 because at the onset of the Civil War many of the counties along the state’s border lost their courthouses to mysterious fires and no real proof of who the offenders may have been.

Kenny is also known for something else. He can be called a “Cinnamon Roll Master,” of sorts. He is known throughout the county as the man who bakes hundreds of dozens of rolls and cinnamon rolls to benefit different fundraisers in the county.

But he was not always the baker extraordinaire, in fact, his wife Kathy used to make rolls for folks working at the courthouse for years and enlisted his help for the larger batches. Word spread and on one occasion they made over 565 dozen cinnamon rolls for the McDonald County High School Band.

“I had to translate that into how much of each ingredient I would need for that many rolls,” Kenny stated. “We started at 7 a.m. and by 1 p.m. all 565 dozen orders were baked wrapped and delivered by the students.”

Six months later, the students held another cinnamon roll fundraiser and took another 435 orders. All told, the funds raised just from cinnamon rolls was more than $10,000. The band students assisted in the preparation, making for some interesting baking challenges.

“The students accidently doubled some of the ingredients, so we had to double all rest,” Kenny adds smiling. “The result was a giant, writhing mound of dough that seemed to have a life of its own.”

That one batch made 112 dozen cinnamon rolls.

Since most of his baking is for large quantities, Kenny came up with his own recipe to simplify the process and even kneads the triple batches all by hand.

He admits that there is nothing extra ordinary about his roll recipe. But residents of McDonald would disagree, since the rolls often become the focal point of competitive bidding at fundraiser auctions. Even though he enjoys baking, he is just as happy when the whole process is over, and he can settle back into going over age old documents that tell the rich history of McDonald County.

Kenny and, his wife, Kathy, live in Pineville, Mo and have two grown married sons, Cooper and Conner.



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