Stow was born at Hadleigh, Suffolk, England, and began preaching at 17 years of age; he later studied for the Congregational ministry at the missionary college, Gosport under Dr David Bogue. From 1822-25 Stow was minister at Framlingham, Suffolk; later at Buntingford, Hertfordshire, then was transferred to Halstead in Essex. In 1833 Stow published the Memoirs of R. Taylor, LL.D., this was followed by The Scope of Piety (1836). At Framlingham Stow married Elizabeth, daughter of William Eppes of Bristol and his wife Elizabeth, née Randolph, descendant of an old Virginia family.
Career in Australia
On 12 October 1836 the Colonial Missionary Society in England accepted Stow and sent him to South Australia. Stow arrived at Adelaide on the Hartley in October 1837. Stow began holding services in a marquee but shortly afterwards, partly with his own hands, built the first church in South Australia. It was constructed of pine logs thatched with reeds and stood in North Terrace. In November 1840 a more substantial church was opened in Freeman Street, and there Stow worked for many years. He also for a time taught a school at the corner of Freeman and Pirie Streets. From 1846 Stow fought in opposition to state aid for religion. Stow's health, however, declined and in 1855 he found it necessary to have an assistant. In September 1856 Stow resigned his pastorate, but continued to preach and work for his church as much as his health would allow. In February 1862, hoping that a change of climate might be good for him, Stow went to Sydney to supply the pulpit in the Pitt Street Congregational church, and in March became so ill that he could not be taken back to Adelaide. Stow died at the house of John Fairfax on 19 July 1862. Stow was survived by his wife and four sons.
Stow was an outstanding preacher in early Adelaide, he was a good speaker who incorporated humour and satire. Stow helped form the character of the growing settlement of Adelaide, which was appreciated at the time. Stow was twice given substantial pecuniary testimonials to which men of all sects contributed. The Stow Church at Adelaide stands as a memorial of him.
He was married in England and brought his wife, who survived him, and four sons with him:
- Judge Randolph Isham Stow (1828-1878).
- Augustine Stow, a member of parliament for several years between 1863-1871, chief clerk in the South Australian supreme court.
- Jefferson Pickman Stow who went to the Northern Territory in 1864 and sailed in a ship's boat from Adam Bay, Northern Territory to Champion Bay, Western Australia, an account of this voyage was published as a pamphlet in 1865, Voyage of the Forlorn Hope, and Notes on Western Australia. J. P. Stow was later editor of The South Australian Advertiser and was the author of South Australia, its History Productions and Natural Resources (1883, 2nd ed. 1884), published by the South Australian government.