Overview: Unmarked no longer

Researchers have proven that a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from Bellville is buried in an unmarked grave in northern Kentucky.

BELLVILLE –– U.S. Army Pvt. John F. Rowalt received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1870 for his bravery during the Indian Campaigns in the Arizona Territory.

The Bellville native died from smallpox five years later in Cincinnati and has been buried in an unmarked grave in northern Kentucky for the past 148 years, a fact documented in a recent Richland Source series of stories on local MOH recipients.

That indignity is expected to change in the next several weeks, largely due to the work of two researchers working on behalf of the Medal of Honor Society of the United States, a non-profit organization whose efforts include locating “missing” MOH recipients.

A Medal of Honor headstone marker for Rowalt was ordered this week through the Veterans Association after research from Karl Jensen of Hackettstown, N.J., and Ray Johnston of Toledo.

A gravesite ceremony honoring Rowalt in the Highland Cemetery near Fort Mitchell, Ky., will be scheduled this fall.

The men provided sufficient evidence to convince VA officials that the John F. Rowalt buried in Highland Cemetery near Fort Mitchell is the same John F. Rowalt who earned the MOH for “gallantry in action with Indians” during fighting in 1869.

The two men worked on the Rowalt case for more than a decade after research done by Persian Gulf war veteran Robert Schultz 12 years ago pointed to the grave being the burial site for the MOH recipient.

But an archivist for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society said at the time “there’s still some information that’s missing.”

After doing their own research, Jensen said there now could be no doubt.

After becoming aware of the Rowalt issue through a newspaper article on Schultz’s work in 2011, Jensen put together a 16-page research timeline paper largely based on genealogy studies, U.S. Census Bureau data, birth certificates, death certificates, military documents, newspaper clippings and other public records.

(Click below to download and read the research timeline done on behalf of U.S. Army Pvt. John F. Rowalt from Bellville.)

“The reader can see by the many recorded Rowalt family events, linking Rowalt family members to the village of Bellville, Richland County, OH, that John Frederick Rowalt was the son of Henry Rowalt and Catherine Rowalt Blair, the brother of Lydia L. (nee Rowalt) Aungst and the brother of Daniel Henry, aka Frank H. Rowalt,” Jensen wrote in his conclusion.

“His Cincinnati, OH, Policeman brother Daniel Henry Rowalt buried him in Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell, Ky.,” Jensen wrote.

Jensen found that Rowalt enlisted into the U.S. Army on May 11, 1868, at Cincinnati and indicated that Bellville, Ohio, was his birthplace.

“Believing Rowalt’s U.S. Army enlistment to be accurate, it is easy to make the connection and conclude that MoH (recipient) John F. Rowalt is the very same man (John Frederick Rowalt), judging by all the Bellville, OH, family events documented in this justification timeline,” Jensen wrote.

Efforts like the Rowalt case are labors of love for men like Jensen and Johnston.

“When we started in 2009, there were 525 Medal of Honor recipients who were ‘lost souls,'” Johnston said. “No one knew where they were buried. We’re down to about 350 now.

“We have probably hit every state and a couple of foreign countries,” he said.

Rowalt was even more special to Johnston, a fellow resident of the Buckeye state.

“I don’t live that far from where he is buried. We needed to do the research. It’s not like he is going to be able to sit up in the grave and say, ‘It’s me.'”

“I am not real good at doing the timeline stuff, which is what Karl does great,” Johnston said.”

After Jensen’s timeline was submitted, Johnston said the VA asked for one more piece of evidence.

“They wanted a burial registry from the cemetery to show (Rowalt) was in fact buried there. We sent that to them and they responded quickly to say it was approved and a Medal of Honor marker was being ordered,” Johnston said.