John Rowan was the son of William and Eliza (Cooper) Rowan. He was born in York, Pennsylvania, on July 12, 1773. The Rowan family moved to Louisville in 1790. John Rowan completed his education at the Salem Academy near Bardstown in 1793. He then studied law with George Nicholas, Kentucky’s first Attorney General, was admitted to the bar, and set up private practice.
Rowan was a Jeffersonian Republican; he represented Nelson County at Kentucky’s second constitution convention in 1799. He was appointed Secretary of State in 1804 by Governor Christopher Greenup. In 1806, he was elected to represent Nelson County in the Kentucky House from 1807 to 1809 and Jefferson County in 1822 and 1824.
He served on the Kentucky Court of Appeals from 1819 to 1821. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1824 and served from 1825 to 1831. He then returned to Kentucky and divided his time between Louisville and Bardstown. He was president of the Kentucky Historical Society from 1838 until his death in 1843. Kentucky’s one hundred and fourth county was named in his honor in 1856.
Rowan married Anne Lytle on October 29, 1794. He began building Federal Hill in 1795 on property given to him by his father-in-law. The couple had three sons and six daughters
John Rowan died on July 13, 1843, and was buried in the family plot at Federal Hill.
"Biographical Encyclopedia," (1878), pgs 717-18;
Randall Capps, "The Rowan Story: From Federal Hill to My Old Kentucky Home," (1975);
"Kentucky Encyclopedia," (1992), pg. 783;
Levin, ed., "Lawyers & Lawmakers," (1897), pgs 167-71.