Book Review: A History of Jonathan Alder

A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life with the Indians. Ed. by Larry Nelson. (Akron: University of Akron Press, 2002. ix, 222 pp. Cloth, $34.95, ISBN 1-884836-80-1. Paper, $14.95, 1-884836-98-4.)

In 1795, Jonathan Alder settled in today’s central Ohio. Shortly thereafter, other settlers began to move into the area; and within a decade the small community of Darby, composed of both white settlers and Indians, had been formed.  Alder played a unique role in this young settlement.  He acted as an interpreter and intermediary between the two races and helped them co-exist under unusually peaceful terms. “Here,” Alder rejoiced, he “could lie down at night without fear . . . and [he] could rise up in the morning and shake hands with the white man and the Indians, all in perfect peace and safety” (119).  The unusual, yet true story of this Ohio settler is told in autobiographical format in A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life with the Indians (2002), edited by Larry Nelson, chief administrator at Fort Meigs State Memorial in Perrysburg, Ohio and adjunct professor of history at Firelands College of Bowling Green State University. The narrative recounts half a century of Alder’s experiences, from his 1782 capture by Indians at the age of nine, to the early 1830’s when the United States federal government removed the Indians with whom Alder had lived to the territory west of the Mississippi River.

Alder’s story provides a rare glimpse into the Indian experience and frontier life in Ohio in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s at a time when the native nations of the region were experiencing the growing pressures of Anglo-American settlement. Continue reading Book Review: A History of Jonathan Alder