Priest, educator; b. Hardin's Creek, Ky., Aug. 11, 1794; d. Bardstown, Ky., Sept. 28, 1838. He was one of eight children of James and Ann (Richards) Elder. His mother was a convert, his father was noted for his wide knowledge of the Bible, and a sister became a nun. George was taught by his father until, at the age of 16, he was sent to Mt. St. Mary's, Emmitsburg, Md. In 1816 he entered St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Md., where he formed a lifetime friendship with William byrne. On Sept. 18, 1819, the two friends were ordained at the first ordination ceremony in the Bardstown Cathedral and the first of Bp. John David. Both were founders and first presidents of Kentucky colleges—Byrne of St. Mary's and Elder of St. Joseph's. Elder carried out the ambition of Bp. Benedict J. Flaget to found a school for the boys of Bardstown. It was begun in the basement of St. Joseph Seminary next to the cathedral; a year later (1820) a new wing was added to the building, which by 1823 had become "the largest and best appointed school structure in the west." Many distinguished men from the lower South were educated there. In 1827 Elder was sent to St. Pius parish, Scott County, to settle unrest there; three years later he returned to the presidency of St. Joseph's College. A fire on Jan. 25, 1838, destroyed the college building; Elder's exertions in fighting the fire aggravated a heart condition, causing his death eight months later.
As editor of the Louisville Catholic Advocate (founded 1836), he wrote the controversial series titled "Letters to Brother Jonathan" and numerous articles on education.
Bibliography: b. j. webb, The Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky (Louisville 1884). m. j. spalding, Sketches of the Early Catholic Missions of Kentucky, 1787–1827 (Louisville 1844). j. h. schauinger, Cathedrals in the Wilderness (Milwaukee 1952).
[j. h. schauinger]