The man behind the name

The history of Civil War conscientious objector Archbishop William Henry Elder.

Advertisement

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Elder High School is not like other high schools. Ask anyone who attended and they will tell you about the great tradition that flows through the school and the family-like atmosphere that is enveloped and engraved into the students who are lucky enough to go this great school. None of these things would be even remotely possible without the physical elements of the school itself. For this, we owe our thanks to Archbishop William Henry Elder.

William Elder was born in 1819 in the busy city of Baltimore, Maryland. His parents were Catholic and immigrated to Maryland from England shortly after their marriage. In America, the opportunities for Elder blossomed into a reality. At the ripe age of 18, Elder entered the seminary after serving with Rev. John Baptist Purcell, who would later become the First Archbishop of Cincinnati. In 1842, he was sent to college in Rome to further his studies. While in Rome, Elder’s final steps of his immediate journey were completed, and was ordained a priest in 1846. From there, he made haste to Mississippi and resided in one of the largest diocese in all of the United States at the time. A few years later he was awarded the honors of becoming the Bishop of Natchez while in Mississippi.

Years later, William Elder came to the “big” city. Not to New York, not Boston, but at that time, one of the biggest cities in the U.S. was Cincinnati, Ohio. He became the predecessor to his former mentor, Archbishop John Baptist Purcell and became the second Archbishop of Cincinnati in 1883.

He died on Halloween, October 31, 1904 in Cincinnati and was buried in St, Joseph’s Cemetery, which is only a few minutes from Elder High School. From there, he received many honors for the things he did for the Archdiocese, including having our school named after him.

Although the life of William Elder was ultimately eventful and successful, he still had several obstacles in the way of him throughout his life.

“He actually served time in a Federal penitentiary,” said Elder principal, Tom Otten. “It’s a long story”

Essentially, during the Civil War while Elder was in Mississippi, he did a lot to help wounded troops and tended to the needs of both the North and the South. Orders were given to Elder by Brigadier General James Madison Tuttle to pray for the safety of the President and the Success of the Union. Elder didn’t agree to the war at all and refused to take sides on either side of the war, and wrote openly about it to President Abraham Lincoln. After refusing to follow these orders and openly disobeying the union, he was taken to federal prison for a few weeks.

Elder died many years before the High School was even built, but that didn’t stop others from wanting to dedicate Elder High School to his memory.

“Archbishop William Henry Elder laid the cornerstone for St. Lawrence Church, the one which still stands just east of our school. In 1912, the pastor of St. Lawrence Church, at the request of parishioners extended the school to a 9th grade—calling it Elder High School,” said Mr. Otten. “This was to honor the memory of Archbishop Elder who had died in 1904, and was a real hero to most Catholics at the time.”

This past Halloween marked the 110th Anniversary of the death of Archbishop Elder. Although his life has ended, his legacy has lived on and will be remembered forever. Even to this day, his actions reflect the attitude and demeanor of the school.

It seems to me those same attributes are reflected in our school’s personality and reputation today, as well as in our motto – Altiora! And I believe our school is respected for holding to those standards throughout Cincinnati and in the midwest.”

— - Mr. Tom Otten

“You can appreciate he was a tough person, grounded on principles, who tried to do the right thing, who went extra mile, and who respected everyone,” said Mr. Otten. “For living out these attributes, Elder was respected by literally everyone in Natchez, in Cincinnati and in the world-wide Catholic Church during his time. It seems to me those same attributes are reflected in our school’s personality and reputation today, as well as in our motto – Altiora! And I believe our school is respected for holding to those standards throughout Cincinnati and in the midwest. Elder High School has a great reputation (in my opinion).”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email