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Thomas Quinton Stow (1801–1862)

by Brian L. Jones

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Thomas Quinton Stow (1801-1862), Congregational minister, was born on 7 July 1801 at Hadleigh, Suffolk, England. He was descended from an old Suffolk farming family of Stowmarket, near Hadleigh. He began preaching at 17 and later studied at the Missionary College, Gosport, under Dr David Bogue, a theologian of great repute and a founder of the London Missionary Society. Stow was minister at Framlingham, Suffolk, in 1822-25, at Buntingford, Hertfordshire, and at the Old Independent Church, Halstead, Essex, in 1832-37. At Framlingham he married Elizabeth, daughter of William Eppes of Bristol and his wife Elizabeth, née Randolph, a descendant of an old American family in Virginia. By 1836 he had published in London Memoirs of Rowland Taylor, LL.D. and The Scope of Piety.

On 12 October 1836 Stow was accepted for service in South Australia by the newly formed Colonial Missionary Society. In an announcement to his people, published at Halstead in 1836, he proved that his decision was not hasty: 'Six years ago I wrote a piece in the Congregational Magazine, recommending the formation of this very society which now commissions me with its affairs in Australia'. With his wife and four young sons he sailed from Gravesend in the Hartley and arrived in South Australia in October 1837.

Stow pitched his marquee and preached his first sermon in it in November. Next month, with ten others, he formed the first Congregational Church in South Australia and was elected pastor. Early in 1838, on North Terrace, he helped to build a temporary place of worship with gum-wood posts, pine rafters and reed thatch. At the request of some leading colonists he opened a daily classical academy, thus beginning higher education in the colony. In December 1839 the foundation stone of a new Congregational chapel was laid in Freeman Street. Opened in November 1840, it had a heavy debt, which caused Stow much embarrassment during the depression years. He supplemented his income by farming a property on the River Torrens which he named Felixstow.

Stow was responsible for forming many new churches and for recruiting and training several ministers. He was the first chairman of the Congregational Union of South Australia in 1850, and he did much to foster friendly relations between all denominations. He was appointed to the first board of education in 1846 and served on many other public committees, always ready to promote moral, social and intellectual progress. As the outstanding preacher in early Adelaide, his firm stand against state aid to religion had a powerful influence from 1846 until the grants were abandoned in 1851. Several of his sermons were published. His strenuous activities took their toll and his health suffered. After a ministry in Adelaide of nineteen years, Stow was obliged to resign his pastorate in September 1856. In February 1862 he went to Pitt Street Congregational Church, Sydney, on a temporary engagement. He died there on 19 July at the home of John Fairfax. He was buried in West Terrace cemetery, Adelaide, on 7 August, mourned by the whole city: parliament and banks closed for the occasion. Public subscription gave him a costly headstone and in 1867 Stow Memorial Church in Flinders Street became his best known memorial. It retained that name for a little over a century, but was renamed the Pilgrim Uniting Church in the late 1960s, when the Congregational, Methodist and other Nonconformist churches combined to form the Uniting Church in Australia.

Stow's widow died in Adelaide on 8 July 1867. Of their four sons, Randolph Isham, Jefferson Pickman and Augustine made their mark in South Australia. The youngest son, Wycliffe, studied law and spent most of his life in other states.

Select Bibliography

  • F. W. Cox and L. Robjohns, Three-Quarters of a Century (Adel, 1912)
  • G. C. Morphett, Rev. Thos. Quinton Stow (Adel, 1948)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 8 Aug 1862, 17 Apr 1867
  • B. L. Jones. History of Stow Memorial Church (Stow Memorial Church).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Brian L. Jones, 'Stow, Thomas Quinton (1801–1862)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Thomas Stow, c1830

Thomas Stow, c1830

State Library of South Australia, B 6849

Life Summary [details]


7 July, 1801
Hadleigh, Suffolk, England


19 July, 1862 (aged 61)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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