Chauncey Depew had an enormously productive life in both the private and public sectors. In the public sector, he served in several elected and appointed positions in New York State, and in the United States Government. His most visible position was probably his elected United States Senator position which he held for 12 years, from 1899 to 1911. In the private sector he served as a chief executive of the various railroads of the so-called Vanderbilt System, including the New York Central Railroad.
The decision to include Chauncey Depew in the listing of prominent Dutch Americans was not made easily. Although he clearly qualified on the basis of his contributions, the question of his Dutch American connections appeared to be somewhat tenuous at first. His first American ancestor was Francois DuPuy, a French Huguenot, who came to America about 1661. Many of the French Huguenots who came to New Netherland in the 1600’s had lived in Holland for quite some time, and had essentially become Dutch. However, there is no clear information that Francois DuPuy fell into this category. Further research revealed, however, that Chauncey Depew’s great grandfather was Captain James Crankheit, who had served in the Continental Army, and Chauncey Depew’s grandmother was Crankheit’s daughter, Catherine Crankheit. It was also discovered that Chauncey was a member of the Holland Society and the Saint Nicholas Society, two Dutch American societies. So based on the above information it was decided to consider Chauncey Depew a Dutch American.
Chauncey Depew was born in Peekskill, New York on April 23, 1834. He graduated from Peekskill Military Academy in 1852, and from Yale College [now Yale University] in 1856. He studied law working in the law firm of William Nelson of Peekskill from 1856 to 1858, and Depew practiced law himself in Peekskill until 1861. Depew was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1861, and served until 1865. In 1865 he was appointed and confirmed minister [ambassador] to Japan, but declined the appointment. Between 1866 and 1898, a period of 32 years, Depew held several senior appointments with the so-called Vanderbilt Railroad System, first as General Counsel and later as President and Chairman. During this time period, he also held Board of Directors positions with numerous major corporations, while he remained active in the political area.
In 1898, Depew decided to run for the United States Senate on the Republican ticket in New York State, and was elected. He was reelected in 1904, and served in the United States Senate from March 4, 1899 to March 3, 1911. Although he ran for a third term in the United States Senate in 1910, his reelection efforts were unsuccessful. During his Senate career, Depew made nomination speeches for President Harrison in 1892, for Governor Morton in 1896, and for Fairbanks in 1904. In 1888, at the Republican National Convention, Depew was a presidential candidate himself, and received 99 votes for the presidential nomination from the convention delegates.
Depew was active in civic work in general during his entire career. From 1877 to 1904, he served as a regent of the University of the State of New York. In 1874 he was one of the commissioners appointed to build the New York state capitol. From 1904 to 1908, he was a vice-president of the New York Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the Yale Corporation from 1888 to 1906, and the third president of the Yale Alumni Association from 1883 to 1892. In 1887, Yale University awarded him an honorary doctor of law degree [LL.D.].
Depew married his first wife, Elisa Hegeman in 1871. The couple had one son, Chauncey Mitchell, Jr. Elisa passed away on May 7, 1893. Depew married his second wife, May Palmer, on December 27, 1901. There is no report of children from the second marriage. Chauncey Depew passed away on April 5, 1928, at the advanced age of 93, just 18 days short of his 94th birthday. He was interred at the family mausoleum in Hillside Cemetery in Peekskill, New York. By the terms of his will, he made a $1,000,000 bequest to Yale University.
Depew, Chauncey Mitchell, [1834-1928], http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000264
Chauncey Depew. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauncey_Depew
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