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George Elder

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Educator, b. 11 August, 1793, in Kentucky, U.S.A.; d. 28 Sept., 1838, at Bardstown. His parents, James Elder and Ann Richards (a convert ), natives of Maryland, emigrated shortly after their marriage to Hardin's Creek, in the present Marion County, Kentucky, where George, the second of their seven children was born. The Elders enjoyed a moderate competency and were full of zeal for their Catholic Faith. George's early education devolved mainly upon his father, who was well versed in the Scriptures and thoroughly acquainted with the teachings of the Church, which he frequently defended in discussion and explained to converts who were preparing for baptism. George Elder imbibed a love for serious study, and in his sixteenth year he entered Mount St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Maryland, to pursue classical studies. Here he became the friend of William Byrne, afterwards founder of St. Mary's College, Kentucky. Both studied theology in St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, and were ordained priests at Bardstown by Bishop David, 18 Sept., 1819. In addition to the duties of an assistant at the cathedral there, Father Elder was entrusted by Bishop Flaget with the founding of a high-grade school or college for lay students. This was, at first, a day school and was taught in the basement of the theological seminary (erected in 1818). A separate building was erected in 1820-23. The college was then one of the largest and best appointed educational structures in the entire West. The arrival, in 1825, of fifty southern students was the beginning of the extensive patronage the college received from the Southern States, notably Louisiana and Mississippi, and which continued down to the Civil War. In 1827 the Rev. Ignatius A. Reynolds (afterwards Bishop of Charleston ) was appointed president and Father Elder was given charge of the congregation of St. Pius, in Scott County. Dr. Reynolds was transferred in 1830 to pastoral work, and Father Elder again became president, a position which he held until his death. He frequently did duty in the cathedral and was one of the editors of the Louisville "Catholic Advocate" newspaper (founded in 1836), to which he contributed a series of well-written articles on the education of children and the obligations of parents in such matters. "Letters to Brother Jonathan ", half satirical, half controversial, were also the product of his pen. His sense of justice forced him, in spite of his characteristic amiability, to prosecute a bigoted preacher, Nathan L. Rice, for libelling, after the manner of "Maria Monk ", a worthy Kentucky priest, then absent in Europe. Father Elder's last illness was brought on by over-exertion and fatigue at the burning down (25 Jan., 1838) of the main college building.

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