Alexander W. Stow (1805-1854)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice (1848-1851)
Chief Justice (1848-1851)
"He loved truth for truth's sake, with intense love. He loved justice for itself, with natural and professional devotion." - Judge Morgan L. Martin, Stow's memorial service (1854)
Alexander Wolcott Stow was born February 5, 1805, in Lowville, New York. He inherited the love of the law from his father, Silas, who was a county court judge and congressman.
At 16, Stow attended West Point Military Academy for a year before joining a law firm in his hometown. Later, after traveling extensively in Europe, he practiced law in Rochester, New York. In 1845, he settled on a farm near Fond du Lac in the Wisconsin Territory.
Stow was elected judge for the 4th Judicial Circuit when Wisconsin was admitted to the Union in 1848. Pursuant to the state constitution, he joined the four other circuit judges to form the first Wisconsin Supreme Court. Stow holds a prominent place in Wisconsin's history as the first chief justice of this early court.
Because he was opposed to an elective judiciary, Stow accepted a position on the bench with the pledge that he would not run for an second elected term. Keeping his word, he left the bench after two and one-half years of service.
His friend and colleague, Judge Morgan L. Martin, stated that Stow's refusal to run for election cost the state a great judge and left Stow "comparatively unknown and unappreciated...[a] longer judicial career would undoubtedly have placed him in the front rank of American judges."
After completing his term on the Supreme Court, Stow retired. Some written accounts say that he never practiced law again and others say that he pursued a law practice for a few years in Milwaukee and Fond du Lac.
Stow was known as an eccentric man. It was often told that he preferred his meat well-ripened before he cooked it. He would hang chickens outside his bedroom window until the legs and bills turned green and the odor of decay pervaded his house.
Stow never married and died September 14, 1854.