Tjader was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1825. In 1854 and 1855 he served as a surgeon in the Russian Army during the Crimean Wars. Very soon after he emigrated to America. He enrolled in the Harvard Medical School, from where he received his M.D. in 1857. After graduation he stared working at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Chelsea, Massachusetts. In 1859 he left on a wagon train to travel West.
During his journey west, his wagon train was ambushed by Indians in Utah. Several men were killed, and Tjader was the only doctor available to treat the wounded. The wagons reach Genoa on September 2, 1859, and one of Tjader's first duties was describing the massacre to the local Indian agent.
In May, 1860, Tjader was involved in another Indian ambush, at Pyramid Lake during the Paiute Indian War. He was one of a company that had gone to retaliate for an attack on Williams Station a few days before. The company was ambushed by Paiutes on the banks of the Truckee River, and 76 of the men were killed, including William Ormsby. Dr. Tjader was originally counted among the casualties, because he did not return with the other survivors. But a few days later he arrived in Virginia City, having hid in a bush for two nights to avoid the Indians.
On July 7, 1870, Anton Tjader died after being ill for several months. It has been suggested that Dr. Tjader was struck in the chest by an arrow during the Pyramid Lake battle and that it 'nicked' his heart. Complications from this injury purportedly led to his death some ten years later. He is buried in Carson City's Lone Mountain Cemetery. His widow Lucy remarried two years later and lived until 1921. His great-grandson, born in 1925, was Grammy-winning Latin jazz musician Cal Tjader.