Ketcham, William Henry

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Missionary; b. Summer, Iowa, June 1, 1868; d. Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 1921. Ketcham, born of non-Catholic parents, was received into the Church in 1885 while a student in St. Charles College, Grand Couteau, La. He was ordained on March 13, 1892, at Guthrie, Okla., and served at first as pastor to the settlers and indigenous people in the northern Native American territory, then as a missionary to the Choctaw. He made many converts to the Church in Oklahoma and organized 18 new congregations, six parish churches, and four schools. In 1901 Ketcham was appointed by the U.S. hierarchy as director of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions; he served in this capacity for 20 years. The Native American missions had been crippled by the withdrawal of Federal subsidies and the passage of restrictive legislation inspired by American Protective Association agitation. Ketcham helped to eliminate these policies and established, by appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the right of natives to use tribal funds for the education of their children in mission schools. He placed the missions on a satisfactory financial basis and stimulated mission work by his frequent visits. In 1912 Pres. William Howard Taft, recognizing Ketcham's influence among the natives, appointed him a member of the U.S. Board of Commissioners of Indian Affairs. During the next decade, Ketcham was responsible for many improvements in the facilities and operation of Federal schools and hospitals for Native Americans.

[j. b. tennelly]