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William Henry Elder

Third Bishop of Natchez, Mississippi, U.S.A., and second Archbishop of Cincinnati, b. March 22, 1819; d. Oct. 31, 1904

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Elde r, WILLIAM HENRY, third Bishop of Natchez, Mississippi, U.S.A., and second Archbishop of Cincinnati, b. in Baltimore, Maryland, March 22, 1819; d. in Cincinnati, October 31, 1904. His father, Basil Elder, was a descendant of William Elder, who had emigrated from England to America, in colonial times; his mother, Elisabeth Miles (Snowden) Elder. In 1831 he entered Mt. St. Mary’s College, Emmitsburg, Maryland, then presided over by the Rev. John Baptist Purcell, who afterwards became the second Bishop, and later the first Archbishop, of Cincinnati. In 1842 he went to Rome, to complete his theological studies at the College of the Propaganda, where he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He was ordained priest in Rome, March 29, 1846. Returning to Maryland, he became professor at Emmitsburg, which position he held until he was appointed Bishop of Natchez, for which he was consecrated in the cathedral of Baltimore, by Archbishop Kenrick, May 3, 1857. In 1864 he was brought into prominence by his refusal to obey the order of the Federal troops at Natchez, to have certain prayers for the President of the United States recited publicly in the churches of his diocese. He was arrested, tried, and convicted; but the decision of the military court was reversed at Washington. His devotion to his people during the yellow-fever epidemic of 1878 won universal commendation. On January 30, 1880, he was made titular Bishop of Avara and transferred to Cincinnati, as coadjutor with the right of succession to Archbishop Purcell, whom he succeeded July 4, 1883. Great financial difficulties clouded the last years of Archbishop Purcell’s life and made the task of his successor a trying one. But the reopening of the theological seminary, Mt. St. Mary’s of the West, the founding of St. Gregory’s Preparatory Seminary, the enlarging of St. Joseph‘s Orphan Asylum, besides the building of numerous other religious institutions, show how well Archbishop Elder overcame these difficulties. (See Archdiocese of Cincinnati.)



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