Dow Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Dow Meaning
surname Dow has both English and Scottish origins, and possibly
different origins there:

  • the Scottish Dow, pronounced as
    “doo” or the Gaelic “duhb” and describing someone who was dark or
    swarthy, is believed to have come from the black bird daw, as in
  • while the
    English Dow
    may have been
    descriptive of someone of a gentle nature, like a dove. “Dove”
    transposed over time to different surname spellings in different
    places, including Dow in Norfolk.

Resources on

Dow Ancestry

One line sees Dows moving north from Berwick to Edinburgh and then a
Robert Dow owned land in Perthshire in 1497.

Perthshire is where Dows are most numerous in
Scotland today:

  • Thomas Dow’s will
    was recorded in Methven parish near Perth in 1609 and several Dows were
    recorded at
    Comrie, Crieff, Dull, and Monzie in the 19th century.
  • Daniel Dow
    was born in in Muthill in 1830. His son Daniel was a sea captain
    of the great Cunard liners at the turn of the century.
  • Donald
    Dow, when interviewed in the 1950’s, was one of the last Gaelic
    speakers in

Dows also have had a presence further north in
Aberdeenshire. Alexander Dow was born in Tarland, Aberdeenshire
in the early 1760’s. A later Alexander Dow of this family
emigrated with his three sons to Massachusetts in the 1870’s.

Dow is not that prevalent a surname in England. It originated in
Norfolk, first appearing there in the 13th century. John Dowe was
recorded in Great Yarmouth in Elizabethan times. The name is
mainly to be found in London and East Anglia today.

America. The Dows in
America could be of English, Scottish, or even possibly of Dutch
or Chinese origin. The Dutch Duows were from Gerald Duow, a
painter, whose
kin came to New Amsterdam about 1630 and settled near Albany.

New England. Henry and Joan Dow
came to New England in 1637 from Ormsby in Norfolk. The family
were Quaker and their descendants moved to Hampton in New Hampshire and
Berwick in Maine. Neal Dow, born of Quaker parents
in Portland Maine, was one of the founders of the American temperance
movement. Other Dow descendants were to be found in
Connecticut. They included:

  • Henry Dow
    of Derby, Connecticut and his son Henry Herbert Dow, the founder of the
    Dow Chemical Company.
  • the itinerant
    preacher Lorenzo
    , born in Coventry in 1777
  • Daniel Dow, born there six years earlier in 1771,
    who set off in later life for Iowa
  • and the Charles
    Dow of Dow Jones fame
    , born to a Sterling farming family in

Another early Dow arrival was Thomas Dow who came to Newbury,
Massachusetts with his wife Phebe in 1639.

Robert P. Dow’s 1929
book The Book of Dow covered
these various American genealogies.

Chinese Dows.
Hom Soon Dow and his wife Alice left China for Massachusetts in
1902. He started the H.S. Dow laundry in Boston five years
later. His son Harry was to become the first Chinese American to
study law and be admitted to the Massachusetts bar. Having
survived McCarthyite anti-Chinese prejudice in the 1950’s, Harry went
on working on community besed projects in Boston until his death in
1985 at the age of eighty.

Canada. Dows came
to New Brunswick from America in the days before the Revolutionary
War. There were two groups of Dows that migrated and each
established a Dow settlement:

  • one with William Dow in Brighton,
    Carleton county
  • and the other with Enoch Dow in Canterbury, York

Some of these New Brunswick Dows later headed back to
America. Wentworth
was a lumberman in Wisconsin who fought in the Civil
War. Edward Dow became a postmaster in Belton, Montana.

William Dow came to Montreal from Perthshire in Scotland in
1818. He and his brother Andrew started the Dow brewery there in
1830’s. It prospered and William, who never married, grew
Dow Breweries continued until 1966.

Several Dows emigrated to Australia from
Scotland, most notably William Henry Dow in 1854. He settled in
Melbourne and earned repute as a violin maker. He was said to
have made 200 violins and six cellos during his lifetime.


Select Dow Miscellany

Dow in England.  In many counties of England there were men of mild manner, whose personalities called for a gentle name like that of a dove.  That name or a name close to it first surfaced close to 1200 in a Parliamentary writ directed to a Nicholas le Duv and a Richard le Duv.

As time went on, the method of spelling tended to crystallize different in different parts of the country.  In Norfolk the tendency was towards Dowe and probably all Dows in Norfolk have a common ancestor (there were no fewer than twenty original families of Dow).  In Hampshire the tendency was towards Doue.  Elsewhere the spelling was Dove.

The earliest spelling as Dow occurred in Norfolk in 1505 when Eleanore
Dow of Rekynhale received a legacy from Edmund Sparhawke of
Laxfield.  Henry Dow of Runham spelled his name as Dowe and Dove
in 1613.  The surname pronunciation at that time was unlike the
American-sounding “cow” or “now.”  It was long and halfway between
the pronunciation of “doe” and “dove.”

Dow and Variants in America.  In Massachusetts Bay colony, Henry Dow spelled his name
Dowe, Dow and Dove in 1653.  About 1725 the final “e” got lost,
although it was subsequently resumed in a few instances.  Several
branches of the Connecticut Dows were Dowe for several generations.

That Crazy Dow Preacher.  Lorenzo Dow was born in Coventry, Connecticut in 1777 and
became an
itinerant evangelical preacher, “that celebrated and eccentric

He was personally
unkempt; he did not practice personal hygiene and his long hair and
beard were described as “never having met a comb.”  And his public speaking mannerisms were like nothing ever
seen before among the typically conservative churchgoers of the
time.  He shouted, he screamed, he cried, he begged, he flattered,
he insulted, he challenged people and their beliefs.  He told
stories and made jokes.  It is recorded that Dow often preached
before open-air assemblies of 10,000 people or more and held the
audience spellbound.

Dow’s fame spread and so did his travels.  He
traveled on foot and occasionally on horseback throughout what was then
the United States.  He also visited Canada, England and
Ireland.  A fierce abolitionist, Dow’s sermons were often
unpopular in the southern United States and he frequently was
threatened with personal violence.  He sometimes was forcibly
ejected from towns, pelted with stones, eggs, and rotten vegetables.
That never stopped him; he simply walked to the next town and gave the
same sermon again.

He kept a journal History of Cosmopolite, or the Writing of
Rev. Lorenzo Dow
, which was published in 1859. At
one time was the second best-selling book in the United States,
exceeded only by the Bible.  His influence and popularity led to
many U.S. children of the early 19th century being named after

Wentworth Dow.  Wentworth Dow was born in New Brunswick in 1829 and came to America in
1856.   He settled in Wisconsin as a lumberman.  Later
he joined a regiment of the Wisconsin infantry and fought in the Civil
War between 1862 and 1865.  He is remembered today for the diary
he kept of his experiences during the conflict which were subsequently
published (minus the entries for 1865 which had been lost).

Wentworth Dow married Mehitable Dawes back in Wisconsin in 1866 and
they had nine children.

Neal Dow’s Civil War.  It is difficult to know what to say about Neal Dow.  An internationally known celebrity well before the war for
his tireless campaigning against liquor, he was the author of “The
Maine Law,” the toughest statute against the sale and consumption of
spirits anywhere in the world.

When the Civil War broke out, his prominence was such that he had to be
made a Colonel when he offered his services.  He badgered the
Adjutant General and Governor with hourly bulletins offering advice,
suggestions and demands that read like the pompous effusions of a
self-important pest, yet betray a genuine concern for his men.  He
made his regiment “take the pledge” (although some of the boys were
able to sneak across to visit the grog shops in Augusta once the river
froze over).

Many anxious mothers wanted their boys to go in Dow’s outfit – the
“Temperance Regiment” – in the hope that Dow would make sure that ne’er
a drop of demon rum would touch the lips of their darlings.  The
regiment wound up under the command of General Butler.  It is said
that the two men detested each other; yet Dow prospered and was
promoted to Brigadier General under Butler’s aegis.  He saw some
action at Port Hudson, was wounded, and finally captured.

He managed to antagonize both his Confederate captors and fellow
prisoners in Libby prison by giving temperance tirades to starving and
thirsty men; spying and keeping lists of prison officials’ misdeeds, as
well as those of other prisoners.  Both guards and prisoners
accused him of hoarding food and blankets and it was a great relief to
all when he was finally released in exchange for Fitzhugh Lee.

His personal courage was never in doubt, however, and he went home to
continue his lifelong assault on the evils of drink.

Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal.  In 1880, Charles Dow arrived in New York,
realizing that that was the main place for business and financial
reporting.  He found work at the Kiernan Wall Street Financial
News Bureau.  When John Kiernan asked him to find another
reporter for the Bureau, Dow invited Edward Davis Jones to work with
him.  Jones, a Brown University dropout, could skillfully and
quickly analyze a financial report.  He, like Dow, was committed
to reporting on Wall Street without bias.

The two young men believed that Wall Street needed another financial
news bureau. In 1882, they started their own agency, Dow, Jones &
Company.  The business’ headquarters were located in the basement
of a candy store.  One year later, the company started putting out
an afternoon two-page summary of the day’s financial news called The
Customers’ Afternoon Letter
.  It soon achieved a
circulation of
over a thousand subscribers and was considered an important news source
for investors.  It included the Dow Jones stock average, an index
that included nine railroad issues, one steamship line, and Western

In 1889, the company had 50 employees.  The partners realized that
the time was right to transform their two-page news summary into a real
newspaper.  The first issue of The
Wall Street Journal
appeared that year.  It cost two cents
per issue or five dollars for a
one-year subscription.  Dow was the editor and Jones managed the

The paper gave its readers a policy statement:

“Its object is to give fully and fairly
the daily news attending the fluctuations in prices of stocks, bonds,
and some classes of commodities.  It will aim steadily at being a
paper of news and not a paper of opinions.”


Select Dow Names

  • Lorenzo Dow was a well-known
    preacher in America in the early 1800’s.
  • Neal Dow from
    Maine co-founded the National Temperance Society in 1865 and ran for
    President on their ticket in 1880.
  • Charles H. Dow from
    Connecticut founded the Wall Street
    and devised the Dow Jones industrial stock average.
  • Henry Herbert Dow who founded
    the Dow Chemical Company was one of the chemical pioneers of the late
    19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Sir Hugh Dow was a British
    civil servant who was governor of Sindh from 1941 to 1945. The Dow Medical College in Karachi was named after him.

Select Dow Numbers

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lanarkshire)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous
    in Massachusetts)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).


Select Dow and Like Surnames.

From our selection, these are the surnames of those who have made their business mark in America – as pioneers, inventors, developers, or corporate leaders.







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