Noah Johnson

Noah Johnson

By Amy Goldman, Education Coordinator

The Curator, January/February 2011

This story celebrates Black History Month and the wonderful friendship between two men that surpassed any boundaries.

Noah Johnson was the first black store worker south of Dayton.  In addition to being a hard worker, he also developed a lifelong friendship with Earl Miller, the owner of a country store and the Monkey House.  Noah's story is endearing and begins during the Depression in the 1930s...a time when there was very little employment for black men in the city.  He left Dayton and walked south on Lebanon Pike until he came upon Earl Miller's Country Store where he hoped he could exchange labor for food.  Mr. Miller gladly accepted the offer because Noah was a capable worker with carpentry experience who could help out around the store.  Mr. Miller, also known as Monkey Miller because he had an octagon shaped house with monkeys to attract customers, was always building small structures to house his constantly growing collection of antiques and supplies.  Mr. Miller traveled all over the country sending letters that always sent his regards to Noah.  Noah traveled with Mr. Miller to Virginia to buy hams and fresh produce.  During their travels and time spent together the two men became friends.  Many farmers who lived around the Whipp Road area knew Noah, nicknamed "Noy" from visiting the store, talking and hunting with him or just by sitting around campfires at night.  With Mr. Miller's permission, Noah stayed in the community setting up a home in the three story Monkey House which is currently located at Stubbs Park.  In the early 1970s, Noah's health began to fail which was evident by the longer hours he would sit outside the store.  He later moved to Dayton to have surgery and then Mr. Miller's son drove Noah to his brother's home in Alabama where he died.

Source: A History of blacks in Centerville and Washington Township by Janet Thobaben.