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.