This is the conclusion of a 10-part series that began on July 2 and offered a closer look at Richland County’s eight Medal of Honor winners and their incredible individual heroics.
This series is supported by Mansfield Cemetery Association.
BELLVILLE — John Rowalt, from Bellville, traveled across the nation to fight for his country during the Indian Campaigns in 1869.
He earned a Congressional Medal of Honor in the Arizona Territory, fighting with Company L of the 8th U.S. Army Cavalry Regiment.
But after leaving the military in 1873, Rowalt died in Cincinnati two years later and it appears the Bellville native was buried in a largely unmarked grave in northern Kentucky.
That indignity will be corrected, according to Richland County Veterans Service Executive Director Ken Estep.
“We will make sure he has a memorial on his grave. We will do it ourselves if we have to,” Estep said Monday after Richland Source published a series on eight local Medal of Honor recipients.
Research into the series, which included a story on Rowalt, revealed his unmarked grave status.
“I was totally shocked,” Estep said. “Somebody blew it down that way. That’s all I can say.”
Richland County Commissioner Darrell Banks, a Bellville native and U.S. Army veteran, agreed with Estep.
“I was very surprised to hear (about Rowalt),” Banks said Monday. “We can’t leave it that way. We have to get him a marker somehow.”
During research for the series, Richland Source easily located burial sites for seven of the MOH recipients. The final resting place for Rowalt took a bit more of a search.
A website devoted to Medal of Honor recipients had no such information on Rowalt. It does not even include the date of his death.
An Associated Press article from 2011 offered a glimpse at the issue. Rowalt was apparently living in Cincinnati with his brother, Daniel, after his discharge from the Army in New Mexico.
Richland Source was not able to find his cause of death at age 25. But highly-infectious cholera was active in the Queen City at that time. In some instances, the belongings of people dying from cholera may have also been destroyed in a misguided attempt to stop spread of the disease.
The article quoted a man named Rob Schultz from nearby Covington, Ky., a Persian Gulf War veteran, who believed Rowalt was buried in Highland Cemetery with just two small orange locater flags.
“If this is true, I find it unacceptable that a Medal of Honor recipient has been lying in an unmarked grave for over 135 years,” Schultz told The Kentucky Enquirer. “This man is a hero of heroes and he deserves to be recognized as such.”
A Highland Cemetery worker confirmed to Richland Source that John F. Rowalt is buried there. But is it THE John F. Rowalt?
Schultz visited the cemetery, searched the internet, visited libraries and made countless phone calls. He found a number of similarities between the MOH recipient and the man lying in the grave in Fort Mitchell.
Both men were the same age, were born in Richland County and had parents with the same name — Henry and Catherine, Schultz found.
Unbelievably, it may take more evidence.
According to officials quoted in the 12-year-old story, documentation such as service records, death certificate and/or an obituary that mentions Rowalt’s military service may be needed.
Laura Jowdy, an archivist for the Congressional Medal of Honor, is quoted in the AP story saying an obituary saying Rowalt buried in Kentucky received the MOH would be the best thing.
“Everything (Schultz) has found points to this being the same person as the Medal of Honor recipient, but there’s still some information that’s missing,” she said.
Previously in this series: