Jonathan Alder

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Alder, Jonathan Cabin.jpg
Jonathan Alder's cabin, London, Ohio, ca. 1935. Alder was the first white settler of Madison County. He constructed the cabin in 1806.

Jonathan Alder, famous as an American Indian captive, was born in Maryland, on September 17, 1773. Two years later his family moved to Wythe County, Virginia. When Alder was seven years of age, he and his younger brother were captured by the Shawnee. The Shawnee immediately killed Alder's brother, but they spared him the same fate. Instead, they took him to the Ohio Country to Chillicothe, a prominent Shawnee Village. The Shawnees forced Alder to run the gauntlet. He exhibited such bravery that a Shawnee family agreed to adopt him. He came to love his new family very much. In 1783, when a trader offered to buy Alder so that he could return to his white mother, Alder refused to go. He enjoyed living as an American Indian and eventually married a Shawnee woman. By the early 1800s, life was becoming increasingly difficult for the American Indians in Ohio. In 1811, Alder decided to forsake Indian customs and adopt white ways. His wife could not turn her back on her people, and the two separated. Alder became a farmer in present-day Madison County, Ohio. He eventually remarried, and the couple had a dozen children together. Before his death in 1849, Alder told his life story to one of his sons, who wrote it down. Alder and his son provided a detailed account of Shawnee life during the late 1700's and the early 1800's in Ohio.

See Also


  1. Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.