John Noble was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, November 15, 1789. His parents were Samuel and Mary Patterson Noble. With them he removed to Emmettsburgh, Maryland, in early life. Here his father joined with the occupation of a farmer that of mechanic. John was early engaged in labor, and had to leave school at a very early age. He chafed at the attitude the slave owners assumed towards mechanics, and when he arrived at majority, he announced his fixed purpose to leave for a free state. The purpose impelled his father to sell his small property and remove, in May 1811, to the State of Ohio. They passed through Lancaster, to Pickaway county, where the family settled on a beautiful farm, near Tarlton where Samuel Noble and most of his children lived and died. John Noble returned to Lancaster the same year, and engaged at once in active business. Full of energy and enterprise, he made himself felt in every department of life. He advocated improved schools, the building of a school-house and market-house and all the other improvements that the young community could afford.
In the winter of 1812-13, he commenced a trade of ready-made clothing, shoes, etc., with the army, lying at Franklinton and Delaware, and thence to Fort Meigs. In passing through Columbus, Front street was the chief street, and it was full of logs and brush. He attended a treaty with the Indians at Piqua, of which he gave a vivid picture in the "Pioneer Sketches," published in the Columbus Gazette, in 1870. The money he made by these enterprises was lost by a partner. He had, therefore, to pursue every honest calling he could, to support himself and his young family.
In 1820 he commenced hotel keeping in Lancaster, a business which ultimately became his only occupation; but at that time such an employment was too small for his necessities, and he carried on several mechanical branches, in addition. In 1825-6, he took a contract on what was called the deep cut of the Ohio canal, in Licking county, and was present and took part in the ceremonies at Licking summit, July 4, 1825, when Governor Clinton of New York, took out the first spadful of earth for that canal.This enterprise, with that of building the banking-house, for the Ohio bank, in 1825-7, and others, borought him into debt. As money was exceedingly scarce, and produce very low, he determined to take a cargo, by flat-boats, to New Orleans. This trip was successful, and he was able to pay off his debts.
He found Lancaster was probably to be left at one side by the advance of Columbus, and the building of the National road; so, in 1832, he removed from Lancaster with his family, and took charge of the National hotel, in Columbus, located where the Neil house now stands. He remained in this house nearly seven years. During this period the Cumberland, or National road was built, and the line of Neil, Moore & Co.'s stages furnished the great means of travel to the west. Emigration was at its height, and many thousands of people stopped at his house in Columbus, who afterwards settled in Ohio, or the States further west. As he had a wonderful facility for making acquaintances he was in those days as well known as any man in Ohio.
In Columbus he showed the same interest in the advancement for the interests of that city that he had shown in Lancaster. He became supervisor of roads at one time, in order to have the power to improve Broad street, and was the first person who redeemed that beautiful avenue from the swamp. He was afterwards one of the commissioners to plant the trees that now beautify that street. He was, for many years, a member of the city council. In July 4, 1839, he assisted actively at the laying of the corner-stone of the new capitol, provided the jars deposited in the corner-stone, and aided in filling them with all manner of documents, to be opened for the enlightenment of future ages. These incidents indicate the energy and spirit of the man. In 1840 he removed to Cincinnati, to take charge of the Dennison house, which he kept for five years. While here he gained a very large and favorable acquaintance in Cincinnati, and all southern Ohio. He returned with his family to Columbus, in 1845, and remained here until the summer of 1847. While here he was elected a representative to the forty-fifth general assembly of Ohio, from Franklin county, and served with intelligence and fidelity.
In 1847, he returned to Cincinnati, and took charge of the Pearl Street house, which he kept for seven years, when he went back finally to Columbus, and abandoned all active business. In 1854 he was elected again to the city council, and remained a member for several years. On the sixteenth of July he was elected, president of the council, to fill an unexpired term, ending April 10, 1856.
When the war of 1861-6 broke out, he was deeply interested, and gave every aid and comfort he could to the Union cause. He was always interested in the advance of the city, State, and nation. By nature he was active and enterprising. These qualities continued to the end of his life. His step in his last days was as elastic, his eye as clear, his speech as ready, and his hearing as good, as in his youth. At the ripe age of eighty-one, on the twenty-fourth day of June, 1871, at six in the morning, he passed away. Beautiful tributes were paid to him in public and private. His was a life of usefulness and honor, marked by justice and integrity. He was genial by nature, winning and retaining many friends, and crowned the whole by a firm, consistent christian faith. The example of such a life, worthy in its every relation, is of lasting benefit to the race. It inspires others to the highest aims and noblest purposes in the accomplishment of life's great work. Human effort and aspiration are usually content with that which is not worthiest, best, even if within their grasp; hence the lasting benefit to man of a career which furnishes an exception to this rule, and which has been satisfied only with highest attainment.
The children of Colonel Noble were: Catharine, wife of Godfrey M. Robinson; Mary, widow of Clement J. Acton; Margaret Delia, wife of Dr. Stadwig Loring; and Henry C. Noble, all residents of Columbus, and General John W. Noble, of St. Louis, Missouri. Mrs. Kate Myers, wife of E. L. Taylor, of Columbus, is a grandaughter.