John Rowan Jr.


Judge John Rowan's namesake and his only remaining son, John Rowan Jr., married Rebecca Briscoe Carnes in 1835. Rebecca was born in Baltimore, Maryland. The couple married in Louisville and following the wedding, John Jr. abandoned his law practice and with Rebecca settled a farm near Vicksburg, Mississippi. According to family letters, the climate there proved to be unpleasant for Rebecca. The couple thereafter returned to Kentucky where John Jr. was provided the property known as "Federal Hill," the Judge's country estate since the Judge primarily occupied a three-story town house in downtown Louisville.

In 1840, the third floor of Federal Hill Mansion burned, destroying a ballroom and workroom. After the fire, the roof was lowered and the third floor was made into a nursery for John & Rebecca's five children.

In 1843, John Rowan Sr. died from ailing health in Louisville. John Jr. continued to have difficulty selecting a career, though like his father, ultimately chose public office. John Jr. was appointed as charge d'affaires for the Two Sicilies (Ambassador to Italy) by President James K. Polk. John Jr., Rebecca, and their five children traveled to Naples, Italy with John during his term as ambassador. After 1850, John Jr. and his family returned to Bardstown where they made Federal Hill.

John Rowan Jr. had little time with his family after his return to Bardstown. He was nominated to run for congress, but declined citing the position required more duties than he was able to put forth. The Rowans relied upon the farm income, which was too meager to keep their debts at a minimum. The family increased from 5 children to 10 after the Rowans returned from Sicily, causing their debts to further increase.

During a warm night on August 14, 1855, John Jr. was attending to his daughter Margaret (Madge) in an upstairs bedroom. Madge was suffering from an episode of diphtheria. According to stories reported in verbal interviews, John Jr. dozed to sleep while reclining on a second floor window sill. Upon being awoken by his wife who called to him in the night, John Jr. became startled and fell from the window, becoming critically injured. He died as a result of his injuries later the same night.

John Jr.'s death left his wife widowed with the burden of 10 children aged 1 to 18. Rebecca also was left with large debts, the management of a large farm, and the unsettled estate of her father-in-law.