Saturday, May 21, 2011

John Rowan Monument, Federal Hill Cemetery (Bardstown, KY)

John Rowan is one of Kentucky's most prominent politicians.  His impressive resume includes such positions as: State Judge, 7 terms in legislature, US Senator, Kentucky Secretary of State, Chief Justice for the Court of Appeals...and cousin to Stephen Foster.  Foster is most famous for penning the popular song, "My Old Kentucky Home," after his stay at Rowan's stately mansion, Federal Hill.

However, such greatness grew out of humble beginnings.  Rowan was a sickly child, not expected to live through childhood.  As a desperate attempt, Rowan's father moved the family west to Kentucky for the dry country air, and the boy thrived, physically, and intellectually.  He studied law in Lexington, becoming a lawyer by 1795, and married Ann Lytle.  Lytle's father deeded the couple the land on which was built the famous mansion.

Rowan died on July 13, 1843 and was interred in the Bardstown Cemetery.  Before his death, he made it clear that he did not want any stone marker or monument erected over his grave site.  Both of his parents had never received any grave marker, and he felt that it would disrespect their honor to have one himself, especially since his beautiful and famous mansion was monument enough.

However, friends and family did not feel these final wishes were fitting to a man of his prominence.  Shortly after internment, he was relocated to the Rowan Family Cemetery, otherwise known as Federal Hill Cemetery, closer to his home, and a tall, obelisk monument was erected in his honor.

Within days, the monument mysteriously tumbled and fell over.  Stonemasons were called in immediately, and skeptically and dubiously blamed the collapse on tree roots or settling ground, and fixed the monument.  Less than two months later, stonemasons were again called in; the gravestone had toppled once more.  By this time, rumors were being spread, and several workmen refused to work on the project.  Nevertheless, the stone was once again repaired...only to topple over again shortly afterward, landing directly on the grave.

By this time, stonemasons were sure that the spirit of John Rowan was responsible for knocking over the monument he never wanted, and refused to do any further work on the stone.  Cemetery caretakers took over the responsibility of repairing and righting the stone, an issue that allegedly, they still are plagued with today.

Photos from Find-a-Grave Contributors Tim Crutchfield and RosalieAnn
More information from Troy Taylor's website
John Rowan Biography

1 comment:

  1. I recently purchased a document from 1807 that has both John Rowan's signature and that of Governor Christopher Greenup, dated February 9, 1807. An amazing find for my collection.It has been fun researching the life of John Rowan and Gov Greenup. If anyone would like a picture of the document please let me know at