On March 11, 1851, the Ohio government authorized the creation of Noble County. Residents named the county after James Noble, one of the area’s earliest white residents. Noble County was the last county formed in Ohio. It also was the site of the dirigible U.S.S. Shenandoah’s crash on September 3, 1925. Fourteen men perished in the crash.
Noble County is located in eastern Ohio. It is predominantly rural, with less than one percent of the county’s 399 square miles consisting of urban areas. With a population of 3,429 people, Olive Township was the county’s largest community in 2000. The next largest urban area, Caldwell, had only 1,956 residents that same year. Caldwell is the county seat. Noble County experienced a sizable increase in population—roughly twenty-four percent—between 1990 and 2000, raising the total number of residents to 14,058 people. Noble County is one of Ohio’s smallest counties in population. Many residents of Ohio’s rural communities are seeking better lives and more opportunities in the state’s cities, but Noble County is growing in population. The county averages thirty-five people per square miles.
The largest employer in Noble County was the government, with retail businesses a distant second. During the late nineteenth century, oil drilling and salt production were major employment opportunities for county residents. Noble County claims to be the site of the first oil well in the United States. In 1814, a group of residents were drilling for salt and struck oil instead. They had no idea of oil’s eventual importance to the United States economy. In 1999, the per capita income in the county was approximately fourteen thousand dollars—one of the lowest average incomes by county in Ohio. Almost sixteen percent of the people lived in poverty.
Most voters in Noble County claim to be independents, yet in recent years, they have supported Republican Party candidates at the national level.
John Gray, the last surviving veteran of the American Revolution, ranks among Noble County’s more prominent residents.