A Proper Regard for the Unfortunates:
Origins of the Jail System in Westchester County, N. Y.
(#6 of 9 parts)
By Anthony J. Czarnecki, Chief of Staff (ret.), Westchester County Correction Dept.
The text and images are presented here by permission of the author and the Westchester County Historical Society that published them as the cover article, "A Proper Regard for the Unfortunates," in the Spring 2006 edition of its Westchester Historian. All rights retained and reserved.

During 1916, construction of the Westchester County Penitentiary was completed. The next year, it was officially opened and was first operated by the Westchester County Department of Public Welfare. Its first Warden was Calvin Derrick, who reported directly to V. Everit Macy, the Commissioner of Charities and Correction. The new institution employed
Above: 3 images associated with the history of the NJ State Home for Boys, an institution with which Westchester County Penitentiary's first warden Calvin Derrick served many years after relocating across the Hudson.

A couple of years prior to his NJ move, Derrick had the ill luck to be named to succeed as Sing Sing warden one of America's greatest prison reformers, Thomas Mott Osborne, who had quit after having won court vindication against smear charges trumped up by a Westchester political machine that viewed the state prison post as a party plum.

Derrick's Sing Sing stint was brief -- from Oct. 16, 1916, to Dec. 11, 1916.

He was succeeded there by William H. Moyer, who had served as warden at Atlanta's federal penitentiary. Moyer lasted about two years 4 months at the Ossining facility. But that was longer than Derrick lasted as Westchester County penitentiary warden.

On August 15, 1918. The Sun of Fort Covington, NY, reported:"Commissioner V. E. Macy has appointed Deputy Warden Warren McClellan as Westchester County penitentiary acting warden to replace Derrick who resigned to take a prison probation post in New Jersey."

The report also noted "McClellan has been a big factor in introducing the Effort League, copied after the Mutual Welfare League of Sing Sing, and in establishing other reforms."

Ironically, the Sing Sing reforms copied were those of originally initiated by Osborne.

Derrick apparently found his niche in New Jersey. The Nation reported March 1, 1922, that the reformatory program in New Jersey "is doing much better under the leader- ship of Burdette Lewis and Calvin Derrick under him..."

Burdette G. Lewis, who had been New York City Correction Commissioner (12/ 27/ 15 - 12/31/ 17) served as commissioner of NJ's Department of Institutions and Agencies (aka Commissioner of Charities and Corrections) from 1918 through 1925. Among institutions under his supervision was the NJ State Home for Boys (aka the NJ State Training School for Boys).

The Jamesburg institution opened in 1867 as the NJ State Reform School, occupying 490 acres, since increased to 725. Besides crops, the farm had Holstein cattle. Superintendent Derrick started a Boy Scout program and camp there in 1921. Eventually three-fourths of the boys were participating.

In 1935, the Boys Scouts of America presented its Silver Buffalo Award for "distinguished service" benefiting youth to "Calvin Derrick: educator, penologist, innovator."

The images above in this image and caption box are from the “State Home Memories” exhibit shown at Lakeview Mansion, home of the Jamesburg Historical Association the during the first five months of 2006.

The above image and caption did NOT appear in the original Czarnecki report or Westchester Historian article. They were crafted for this presentation by the NYCHS webmaster as page design elements and for historical background. Click image to access web source: Jan. 26, 2006 E. Brunswick NJ Sentinel. It retains and reserves all rights.

  • 2 deputy wardens,
  • 18 officers,
  • an employment counselor, and
  • a psychiatrist.

Sentenced prisoners were then transferred from the 1856 Jail to custody at the new County Penitentiary.

With construction of the Penitentiary now complete, the 1917 inspection report by the Prison Association of New York finally rendered a positive assessment of the County Jail in White Plains.

"This jail has always been probably the cleanest and best kept institution of its kind in the State.

"The hours of the employees have also been satisfactory, all of them being on eight-hour shifts.

"Two very important improvements have taken place during the year.

"One, the removal of all prisoners serving sentence to the new county penitentiary and the discontinuance of further commitments to the jail.

"This change leaves the institution as a house of detention for court prisoners, witnesses and civil prisoners.

"It is such a change as this that should take place in all counties in the State and that has been advocated by this Association for many years.

"The other improvement has been the revision and improvement of the dietary.

"The warden has consulted the dietary standards obtained from other institutions and has drawn up a table to suit conditions of his own institution.

"This change will probably obviate the recurrence of any complaints in regard to food, such as have occurred on one or two occasions in the past.

"In every respect now this institution is fully abreast of the highest standards of institutional management for county jails, in so far as the rather out of date construction of the jail permits.

"It is a satisfaction to be able to report such conditions for at least one jail. " [End note #35]

Two decades later, Westchester County decided to build a replacement facility for its 1856 Jail.

The second County Jail, a 180-cell maximum-security institution, was constructed on the Grasslands Reservation in Valhalla, in close proximity to the County Penitentiary.

Before the 1856 County Jail was closed in 1932, a final inspection of the facility was conducted by the N.Y. State Commission of Correction (created in 1894 as the Commission of Prisons to oversee prisons and jails but re-named the Commission of Correction in 1925).

Above: Valentine Everit Macy, who served as West- chester Commissioner of Charities and Correction 1913 - 1919, and his wife, Edith Carpenter Macy.

Life in the county today reflects the many generous contributions of time, effort, dedication and money of this "power couple."

Named for the Brooklyn leather merchant Valentine Everit who was his maternal grandfather, Macy preferred going by the first initial and middle name.

V. Everit Macy's great-grandfather Josiah was a Quaker skipper from Nantucket Island who founded the shipping and commission house of Josiah Macy & Son.

Captain Josiah Macy, his sons and grandsons also founded an oil company in Long Island City near Newtown Creek. It became one of NY's first refineries in the 1860s and was later sold to the Standard Oil. Josiah Jr., V. Everit Macy's father, became an official in the Standard Oil Company.

In addition to his Charities & Correction commission- ership, V. Everit later served as Commissioner of Public Welfare (1925) and Commissioner of Parks (1926-1930). He was a strong proponent of buying up land for parks and parkway purposes in Westchester.

Former Woodlands Park was renamed V. Everit Macy Park. Off Saw Mill River Road near South County Trailway, it lies in Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry and Irvington. Its 172 acres include ballfields, picnic, fishing, ice skating, hiking and bird watch areas. It contains the Great Hunger memorial (image left) to the millions who died or had to leave Ireland during the 19th Century potato famine.

The Macy name was long linked with Westchester newspapers. V. Everit Macy and his two sons bought the Yonkers Statesman in 1924 and five years later bought Mount Vernon’s Daily Argus, New Rochelle’s Standard-Star, Port Chester’s Daily Item, Ossining’s Citizen Register, Mamaroneck’s Daily Times, and Tarrytown’s Daily News.

The home of the Herald Statesman (right) is considered the last building of significance, in terms of its architecture, to have been built in downtown Yonkers before WWII.

Designed in 1933 by noted newspaper plant architect Frank Davis Chase, in association with James Yardley Rippen, the building emphasized the ornamental use of structural elements: bold verticality, blocky monumentality.

In 1960 the Macy Westchester Group bought the Journal-News in Rockland County. Gannett Suburban Newspapers purchased the Macy newspapers serving Westchester and Rockland counties in 1964.

The name of Chilmark, a residential community and shopping center on the northern end of Briarcliff, comes from the castle-like Chilmark Mansion that was part the 250-acre former estate of V. Everit Macy. The mansion's name went back seven generations to the home town of the progenitors of the Macy family in America, Thomas and Sarah, both of whom came from Chilmark near Salisbury England. They were among the first European settlers on Nantucket Island in 1659 when it was under New York jurisdiction.

In 1900, Edith Carpenter Macy, 29 and a mother herself, heard about a NYC women's group providing food and other help for the children of poor parents on the East Side. She responded by diverting milk from the 40 cows on Chilmark estate to the children on Henry Street. Eventually, milk from Chilmark helped to feed up to 200 poor children regularly.

In 1913 she helped found the Westchester County Children’s Committee, part of a statewide charity dedicated to helping the poor.

That same year her husband became Westchester's first Commissioner of Charities and Correction. He asked the Children’s Committee to research the county's child care program and to suggest ways to improve. It urged hiring and training special child care workers and then raised the funds to cover the new staffing. The following year, the Children’s Committee split off from the statewide group and became the Westchester County Children’s Association, shortened to the Westchester Children’s Association in 1923. The Macy family and the Edith Macy Memorial Fund continue to be strong WCA supporters.

Edith Carpenter Macy served as chair of the Girl Scout National Board 1919- 25. Colleagues recalled she dreamed of setting up a national Girl Scout leadership training facility. After her death in 1925, her husband built her dream leadership school, first called Camp Edith Macy, on land in Briarcliff Manor that he donated for that memorial purpose.

Now called the Edith Macy Conference Center, it is still owned by Girl Scouts of the USA. "Macy," as it's known in Girl Scouting, still serves as a learning center for Girl Scout volunteers and staff members. But it also is open to others, both nonprofits and for-profits, for seminars, conferences and training events. The center features six corporate conference rooms, a 200-seat auditorium, and lodging, all surrounded by 400 wooded acres.

The above images and captions did NOT appear in the original Czarnecki report or Westchester Historian article. They were crafted by the NYCHS webmaster as page design elements and for historical background. Click images to access web sources that retain and reserve all rights: Teachers College Historical Photos, Westchester County Parks Dept., Friends of Philipse Manor Hall, Westchester Children's Assn., and the Girl Scouts USA.

Their summary report (dated January 16, 1931) eulogized the old and saluted the new institution:

"This old jail will be three-quarters of a century old next year. During the year 1931 a fine new jail, costing upward of $934, D010., will be completed and this old jail will go out of existence.

"The entire Commission gave a large amount of time to the consideration of the plans for this new jail and believes that when completed it will be one of the most modern and completely equipped for its size of any county jail in the county.

"Provision has been made for complete classification and segregation of the various types of prisoners brought into this jail.

"It is expected that the new jail will meet the requirements of the county for many years to come and the county officials are to be congratulated upon taking this needed and very forward move to take care of the prisoners arrested within its borders." [End note #36]

Just prior to the opening of the new County Jail in Valhalla, the last Warden of the 1856 County Jail - John H. Hill of Dobbs Ferry - retired after a long career.

A local newspaper later summarized his legacy:

"Although hundreds of prisoners, many of them notorious as killers and for other violent crimes, were held in the jail, there was seldom any serious trouble, particularly during the long regime of the late John H. Hill, who was the last warden there. Mr. Hill retired at the end of 1931, after 28 years of service, when the old jail was closed.

"So peaceful were things during most of this period that Warden Hill was able to devote a part of his time raising a special breed of chickens - known as Japanese silkies - in pens outside the jail." [End note #37]

At the time of his retirement in 1932, Warden Hill was earning an annual salary of $2,800. and had a staff of fifteen (3 Assistant Wardens, 7 Deputy Sheriffs, 3 Matrons, 1 Physician, and 1 Cook) with an operating budget of $58,800.

John H. Hill (1857-1932) was the longest-serving and last Warden of the 1856 County Jail.

He was appointed in 1903 and retired after 28 years of service on January 1, 1932 at the age of 74.

That same year, the old jail passed into history and the old Warden passed away on July 19, 1932.

According to an obituary in The New York Times, Hill was born in Yonkers but lived the last 37 years of his life in Dobbs Ferry, where he was active in community affairs.

He served as a Village Trustee for 26 years and in 1926 was selected as president of the Village, having been incorporated as a municipal corporation in 1873.

Prior to his appointment as Jail Warden, Hill had been elected to the position of Overseer of the Poor in the Town of Greenburgh for four one-year terms.

He was survived by his wife, Catherine, and two of his four sons, one of whom was a fingerprint expert for the County of Westchester.

Warden Hill was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Hastings.

An account in the Dobbs Ferry Register indicated that:

"Mr. Hill had an excellent record at the jail and during his long service not a single break took place.

"When not at his home, he could always be found at his office in the jail, where he spent the best part of his time.

"To his countless friends he was known as the 'Governor.'" [End note #38]

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The New York Correction History Society (NYCHS) presents here text and images from A Proper Regard for the Unfortunates: Origins of the Jail System in Westchester County, N. Y. by NYCHS member Anthony J. Czarnecki, Chief of Staff (ret.), Westchester County Correction Dept. We do so with permission from both the author and the Westchester County Historical Society that published the history as the cover article in the Spring 2006 edition of its Westchester Historian. All rights retained and reserved. The NYCHS webmaster added sepia tint to the grayscale images made available for this presentation. NYCHS acknowledges the help of Westchester Correction Sgt. Donald Smith and Sgt. Fred Anderson.