Chauncey Mitchell Depew (April 23, 1834 – April 5, 1928) served as a United States Senator from New York from 1899 to 1911.
Depew read law with William Nelson of Peekskill, New York from 1856-58; was admitted to the bar in March, 1858; and practiced in Peekskill until 1861; later engaged in the brokerage business in New York City as member of firm of Depew & Potter for a few months; then resumed his law practice in Peekskill, but shortly afterwards moved to New York City; member of New York Assembly 1861-63, serving as chairman of Ways and Means Committee during his second term and as speaker pro tern, for a part of the session; Secretary of State of New York 1863-65; in 1865 appointed and confirmed United States Minister to Japan, but declined the appointment; became attorney for New York & Harlem Railroad 1866 and for New York Central and Hudson River Railroad 1869; appointed general counsel and director of the so-called "Vanderbilt System" 1876; made second vice president of New York Central & Hudson River Railroad 1882, and served as president 1885-1898; had since been chairman of board of directors of New York Central Railroad Company; had also been president of West Shore Railroad; director of New York and Harlem Railroad Company since 1874, Chicago and North Western Railway and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railroad companies since 1879, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad Company since 1889 Delaware and Hudson Railroad Company since 1892, the Western Union Telegraph Company since 1881, New Jersey Junction Railroad, St. Lawrence and Adirondack Railroad, Walkill Valley Railroad, and Canada Southern Railroad companies, Hudson River and Niagara River Bridge companies, New York State Realty & Terminal Company, Union Trust Company, Equitable Life Assurance Company, and Kensico Cemetery Association; regent of University of the State of New York 1877-1904.
DePew was one of the commissioners appointed to build the state capitol 1874; in 1867 appointed clerk of Westchester County by Governor Fuller, but resigned after a short service; made immigration commissioner by New York Legislature in 1870, but declined to serve; member of boundary commission of the state of New York in 1875; had also been commissioner of quarantine and president of Court of Claims of New York City and commissioner of taxes and assessments for the city and county of New York; defeated for Lieutenant Governor of New York on Liberal Republican ticket in 1872; candidate for United States senator in 1881, but withdrew after the fortieth ballot, declined nomination as a senator in 1885, but elected to the Senate in 1898 and served from March 4, 1899, to March 3, 1911; stumped the state of New York for John C. Fremont in 1856 and for Lincoln in 1860; delegate-at-large to Republican National conventions 1888-1904 and delegate to all following conventions, including 1928, being elected the day before he died; made the nomination speeches for Harrison in 1892, Governor Morton in 1896, and Fairbanks in 1904; at the convention in 1888 received ninety-nine votes for the presidential nomination, and in 1892 declined an appointment as Secretary of State in Harrison's cabinet; Adjutant of the 18th Regiment, New York National Guard, which served in the American Civil War, and later Colonel and Judge Advocate of the 5th Division, on the staff of Major General James W. Husted of the New York Guard, trustee of Peekskill Military Academy; president of New York State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, of The Pilgrims from 1918 until his death, of the St. Nicholas Society, and of the Union League for seven years (member since 1868 and elected honorary life member at the close of his presidency); an officer of the French Legion of Honor; vice president of New York Chamber of Commerce 1904-08 (member since 1885).
He was a member of Yale Corporation 1888-1906; member of the Yale Alumni Association of New York at the time of its organization in 1868, its third president (1883-1892), and one of the incorporators of the Yale Club of New York in 1897; a vice chairman of the $20,000,000 Yale Endowment Campaign; made LL D. Yale 1887; elected an honorary member of Yale Class of 1889 in 1923; By the terms of his will, a bequest of $1,000,000 was left to Yale without restrictions as to its use.
He was made an honorary member of Columbia chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1887; member of citizens' committee of the civic organization to complete the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City; in 1918 gave a statue of himself to Peekskill and ten acres of land for an extension of Depew Park, which he gave to the village in 1908. He was also a distinguished orator and after-dinner speaker; author: Orations and After Dinner Speeches (1890), Life and Later Speeches (1894), Orations, Addresses and Speeches (eight volumes) (1910), Speeches and Addresses on the threshold of Eighty (1912), Addresses and Literary Contributions on the Threshold of Eighty-two (1916), Speeches and Literary Contributions on the Threshold of Eighty-four (1918), My Memories of Eighty Tears and Marching On (1922); Miscellaneous Speeches on the Threshold of Ninety-two (1925); contributed a My Autobiography" in 1922, and an article to the 50th Anniversary Supplement of the Tale Daily News entitled "An Optimistic Survey" in 1928; member Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Society of Colonial Wars, Connecticut Society of the Society of the Cincinnati, Holland Society, Huguenot Society, New England Society, France-America Society, New York Historical Society, St. Augustine (Fla.) Historical Society, American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, National Horse Show, Lafayette Post of the G. Al R , and St. Thomas' (Episcopal) Church, New York; made life member of Lawyers' Club of New York in 1918; honorary member New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.
His father, Isaac Depew, was a merchant and farmer; pioneer in river transportation between Peekskill and New York; son of Abraham Depew, who served in the Revolutionary Army, and Catherine (Crankheit) Depew, great-grandson of Captain James Cronkite of the Continental Army; descendant of Frangois DuPuy, a French Huguenot, who came to America about 1661, settled first in Brooklyn, New York, and in 1685 bought land from the Indians at the present site of Peekskill. Mother, Martha Minot (Mitchell) Depew; daughter of Chauncey Root Mitchell, a lawyer, and Ann (Johnstone) Mitchell; granddaughter of the Rev. Justus Mitchell (BA 1776); great-granddaughter of the Rev. Josiah Sherman (B A. Princeton 1754, honorary M.A. Yale 1765), who served as a Chaplain with rank of Captain in the Revolutionary War and the brother of American founding father Roger Sherman; descendant of Matthew Mitchell, who came to Boston from England in 1635, descended also from Capt. John Sherman, an English officer, who was born in Dedham, Essex County, in 1615, and from the Rev. Charles Chauncey (B.A. Trinity College, Cambridge, 1613), who came to Plymouth in 1637 and was the second president of Harvard.
When Chauncey Depew died, he was buried in Peekskill. In his honor, the huge concourse of Grand Central Terminal was draped in mourning.