A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life with the Indians is one of the most extensive first person accounts to survive from Ohio’s pioneer and early settlement eras. Alder’s reminiscence spans half a century, from his capture at the age of nine in 1782, when Ohio had no permanent European settlement and was still the exclusive domain of the Ohio Indian nations, to 1832, nearly a generation after the pioneer era had ended. The narrative provides a unique perspective on frontier Ohio and its transformation from wilderness to statehood. It illustrates the continuing evolution in the relationship between Ohio’s Indians and whites from the Revolutionary War era to a time when many of the state’s native peoples had been removed.
Alder’s recollection provides an exceptional look at early Ohio. The portrait of his captors is revealing, complex, and sympathetic. The latter part of his narrative is an extraordinarily rich account of early pioneer life in which he describes his experiences in central Ohio. Further, Alder was fortunate in that he encountered many of the persons and took part in many of the events that have become touchstones in Ohio’s pioneer history, including Simon Kenton, Simon Girty, and Colonel William Crawford. He participated in the Battles of Fort Recovery and Fallen Timbers, and his recollection of these actions are among the few extant accounts that describe these events from a Native American perspective.