Village of Depew History
The Village of Depew is unique to the area in that it straddles two townships:
Transit Road divides the village: those living east of Transit are residents of the Town of Lancaster, those living to the west are residents of the Town of Cheektowaga.
One of the earliest settlers in the area was Appolos Hitchcock, who came in 1808 to settle south of Broadway along Cayuga Creek, west of Bordon Road. He served as a liaison and agent between the Holland Land Company and the Indians, who respected him. He built homes for each of his sons along Broadway. A red brick home was built at the corner of Broadway and Borden about 1855 for his youngest son, James.
It is said the earliest settlers in the area cut trees in the vast forests and sold the wood in Buffalo and to ships in the port. It is also said that Appolos Hitchcock induced German settlers to come to town by clearing a piece of land and renting or selling it to these thrifty people, with the promise- that he would buy their corn. He distilled grown corn and sold it to the government for medicinal purposes.
Early German settlers, many of whom came in the 1820s and '30s, were farmers. Surnames of early settlers include Gangloff, Zurbrick, Koons, Waltz, Weimer, Durringer, Lux, Pjohl, Fath, Ratzel, Monin, Schlenker, Fernback, Abendscheim, Zugg, Zimmett, Raynor, Schwarts and Ott.
Many were fine craftsmen, others laborers and farmers. Many of the immigrants from Prussia and northern Germany were Protestants, while those from the South and Alsace were primarily Catholic.
The Dutch settled in Lancaster and Depew in the mid-1800s. Hungarians and Ukrainians arrived about 1913- 1915. They settled along the streets off Broad- way known as Cayugatown. Polish immigrants arrived in the area before 1865. By 1874 there were 150 Polish families in Buffalo (early geographical boundaries were vague; so is the exact number of Poles residing in the vicinity of Depew). The Polish Library was opened in 1889 at Broadway and Sweet.
Then, Chauncey Depew came to the rural community. In 1893, at the peak of the Industrial Age, a group of investors envisioned the area as a prominent center of commerce - an integral rail link on the lines between Chicago and New York City. This vision was enhanced by the area's proximity to Buffalo, which at the time was one of the nation's greatest railroad centers. By 1893, more than 250 trains entered and left the city each day. It was viewed as a profitable place to invest.
Chauncey Mitchell Depew, president of the Hudson River and Harlem Railroad, built company headquarters in the vicinity. He and fellow investors formed the Depew Investment Company and purchased 1,000 acres of land north and south of the tracks for their enterprise. Original shareholders included John J. Albright, George Urban, Wilson Bissell and Charles Gould.
Construction of the New York Central shops turned interest to the area. Locals began referring to it as "the place where Depew is building." By 1893, the National Car Wheel Works, the Gould coupler Works, the Union Car company, and the Brassworks were built and in operation, with a promise of more to come. When residents organized to plan the future of their booming community, it seemed only natural to name it after the man who spurred its creation. The Village of Depew was incorporated July 23, 1894. First elected officers were Dr. William Fairbanks, president; John Zurbrick, George Waltz, John Graney and Anthony Hartung, trustees; Martin Keifer, tax collector and J.N. Oswald, village clerk.
At the time of incorporation, Depew had about 2,000 residents -English, Irish, German and a few Polish settlers. Swedes settled later along South Penora Street and Miller Avenue, an area long referred to as Swede Hill. Later, the north side of Depew became known as "Goosetown," perhaps because of the many ducks raised on the farms of Polish immigrants.
In 1896, the Depew Improvement Company built a brick building at the corner of Transit and Walden (then called Ellicott) for a bank, community center and village hall. The company donated land for the German Lutheran Church, Ss. Peter and Paul, St. James, the Northside Fire House, Depew Village Park, and a YMCA on the north side of Walden Avenue, just east of Transit Road. They built streets and houses and the sewer system.
By 1900, the New York Central shops employed 1,000 men. Nearly 1,000 more worked at the American Car and Foundry, Gould Coupler, Gould Storage Battery, Magnus Metal, Steel Tire Wheel, the Pull- man Company, National Car Wheel Works, Union Car and American Brass. Grocers, butchers, saloons, boarding houses and shopkeepers further helped build the community.
The Depew Improvement Company went bankrupt in 1902. The Equitable Assurance Company purchased the companies remaining assets for $50,000, acquiring 280 lots in Cheektowaga and 642 lots, 124 parcels and 259 acres in Lancaster
It wasn't until 1912 that the village hall had a permanent home. The Depew Improvement Company's original land gift to the Ss. Peter and Paul parish caused hard feelings among the north and southsiders of the village that continued for many years. Subsequently, the village hall was moved back and forth from the north to the south side according to political winds, until 1912, when villagers voted the village Hall should be located to the south.
For many years, the village hall was on the northwest comer of Gould and Penora Streets. Later, Alexander Utecht, a northsider and son of a contractor, was designated architect for a new village hall. Ultimately, he designed not only the village hall, but the Odd Fellows Hall (now the Twin Village VFW Post), the Eagles Club (now the Depew Boys Club) and many other public buildings and private homes. The present village hall is located in the former St. Augustine Elementary School.
Depew Bee, July 14, 1994 edition