#241 James Stow

A native of Illinois, James Stow came to Walnut Creek in 1865 at the age of 18 and began working as a merchant. In the mid-1870s, Stow opened his own general store – and was soon serving as notary public and postmaster.

In 1879, Stow went into the real estate business – eventually owning some 5,000 acres of land, including a lot on North Main Street where, in 1910, he built a distinctive building with twin towers and bay windows that was operated as a general merchandise store by E. Ignace & Co. The building still stands today.

Stow was elected to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors in 1900. In 1903, his company finished the Contra Costa side of the first tunnel through the Oakland hills. Stow is credited with helping to bring the first church, telephones, electric train service, electricity, and automobile to Walnut Creek.