Contra Costa County











     The name of James M. Stow has become as familiar to the present generation of Walnut Creek and Contra Costa county as a household word, being indissolubly associated in the mind of the public with many enterprises, which have not only added to the community's strength and prosperity, but have placed comfortable homes and farms within reach of the industrial classes, and have incidentally added to the projector's wealth.  His biography is that of a strong and resolute man, starting out in life without the aid of influence or money, and achieving creditable results through the aid of such homely attributes as far-sightedness, integrity, and practical common sense.

     Mr. Stow is a native of Illinois, born in the year 1847.  In his veins is the blood of a New England ancestry, transferred to Illinois by his father, Josephus, who was born in Massachusetts, and after marrying Susan Dodd went upon what was then considered a perilous journey to Illinois.  Entering government land, he tilled the soil with fair success, made a comfortable home for his three children, and mourned that the three others who died in infancy had not been spared him.  While his neighborhood was agitated over the reports of gold to be found on the coast, he made arrangements to leave his farm in safe hands and joined an ox train bound for California, accomplishing the distance to the coast without particular incident.  Turning his attention to mining, he was fairly successful, and in 1856 sent east for his wife and three children to join him.  They came by way of Panama, lived with him in the rude mining camp in Nevada county until 1859, and then accompanied him to San Francisco, whither he went to regain his health, undermined by exposure and change of occupation.  In this he failed, for his death occurred in 1860, at the age of nearly fifty.   Afterward his wife settled in Danville, where she married John Perham, and with him removed to Walnut Creek, where her death occurred in 1884, at the age of sixty-six.  She was born in South Carolina in 1818.

     From his twelfth year Mr. Stow was reared in Contra Costa county, and has ever since lived here.  He completed his education in the grammar school of Oakland, and acquired his first business experience as a clerk in a general store in Walnut Creek, owned by W. C. Pratt.  Later he clerked for Shuey Brothers, in the meantime saving his earnings that he might engage in an independent business for himself.  His expectation was realized in 1873, when he opened a general store in Walnut Creek, continuing the same until his election to the office of assessor of Contra Costa county on the Republican ticket in 1880.  This office he creditably filled for seven consecutive years, and in the meantime in 1887 sold his store and began to deal in real estate in town and country, also to loan money, and issue life insurance.  He has handled much of the finest town and country property in Contra Costa county, and has made a distinct success of this complicated and always important business.  He has been one of the county's most ambitious promoters having an accurate conception of its many sided advantages, and a thorough knowledge of its resources and possibilities.  Many have settled within its boundaries because of his earnest espousal of its cause, and others, finding his judgment accurate and dependable, have followed their example.

     The many public services of Mr. Stow have been rendered in an especially fine and helpful way, and have invariably resulted in permanent good to the community.  He has made an acceptable and faithful postmaster, a competent agent of the Wells-Fargo Express Company, a notary public, and one of the chief promoters and organizers of the first telephone company in the county, which came into existence in 1881, and which he later disposed of to the Sunset Telephone Company.  For a time he was owner and proprietor of the Martinez Gazette, and is still vice-president of the Bank of Martinez.  When a tunnel was projected through the mountains making a direct outlet to Oakland, from Contra Costa county, a distance of ten hundred and twenty-six feet, there were bids from contractors to build the part belonging to this county, but the county voted to have the constructing done by the supervisors.  Mr. Stow stepped into this niche, built the necessary six hundred and ten feet, and in so doing save the county $17,000 over the amount of the lowest bidder.  He is a stock-holder of the Alhambra Springs, which he has aided in improving and making popular.  For a number of years he has been secretary of the Masonic lodge of Walnut Creek, and he is also a member of the Ancient Order United Workmen.

     Since early manhood he has been identified with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and at present is serving as trustee of the same.  For his home Mr. Stow purchased the Captain Vale estate just south of Walnut Grove, which he has vastly improved, setting out a garden, fruit and shade trees, tropical plants and beautiful shrubs.  He has an interesting family of ten children, two others having died in infancy.  Mr. Stow married Alice Glass, a native of Contra Costa county, and daughter of Joseph Glass, one of the first settlers of this county.  The oldest daughter, Mrs. Eleanora Bancroft, is a practicing physician of Oakland; Carrie is at home; Garfield married Ella Getchel, and has a son, James M.; Rufus is at home; Pearl is the wife of J. Lawrence of Danville; and Orville, Harrison, Armand, Russell, and Chadbourne are with their parents.  At the age of fifty-seven years Mr. Stow finds his frame erect, his physical condition vigorous, and his interest in things around him keen and penetrating.  He has an agreeable presence, is obliging and generous; keeps himself abreast of the times, and is one of the sturdy, practical and well-respected citizens of the town in which he has spent the greater part of his life.





Transcribed 11-15-16  Marilyn R. Pankey.

ญญญญSource: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 1390-1391. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2016  Marilyn R. Pankey.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library