History

The Norfolk County Sheriff's Office has a rich history dating back to 1793 when Gov. John Hancock appointed Ebenezer Thayer as
the county's first sheriff. Sheriff Bellotti is the 17th person to hold the office.

The word, "sheriff," is a blend of the old English words, "shire" and "reeve". A shire was a geographic area of jurisdiction, and a reeve
was the person appointed by the king to keep peace and administer the laws of the land.

Old Dedham jail The current Norfolk County Correctional Center, which opened in 1992 at 200 West St. in Dedham, is the only correctional institution in the United States that is located between the lanes of an interstate highway. The jail sits between the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 95, also known as Route 128. The former jail, a handsome stone structure on Village Avenue in Dedham, has been converted to luxury condominiums.

The most notorious prisoners held in custody by the Norfolk County Sheriff's Office were Nicola Sacco and Bartolommeo Vanzetti. They were members of an Italian-American anarchist group known as The Galleanists when they were arrested for the murders of two Braintree shoe
company employees during a payroll robbery in 1920. Sacco and Vanzetti claimed they
had alibis.

Sacco and Vanzetti At trial, their defense witnesses primarily were fellow immigrants who testified in broken English or in Italian through a translator. The case generated a surge of anti-immigrant sentiment and received international media attention. The two men were executed in 1927 after their lawyers exhausted their court appeals, but there continued to be questions about whether they received a fair trail.

Years later, Gov. Michael Dukakis signed a proclamation stating, "Any stigma and disgrace should forever be removed from the names
of Nicola Sacco and Bartolommeo Vanzetti.

We are not here to say whether these men are guilty or innocent. We are here to say the high standards of justice, which we in Massachusetts
take such pride in, failed Sacco and Vanzetti."

The last death penalty execution in Massachusetts took place on May 9, 1947 in Charlestown, but prior to that, executions were a relatively
common occurrence. The last execution in Dedham occurred at the old jail on Village Avenue on June 25, 1875. The beam from which convicted murderer Henri Costley was hanged is still in a warehouse maintained by the Norfolk County Sheriff's Office. Costley had been convicted of murdering his housekeeper -- with whom he had a romantic relationship -- after he became engaged to his wife.

On Jan. 26, 1975, Norfolk County Correction Officer Joseph Stroy acted with extraordinary valor in the face of danger and suffered a bullet
wound during an escape at the old Village Avenue jail.

Officers About 7p.m. that night, a fellow correction officer opened a cell door to allow an inmate to use a payphone. He was confronted by an inmate holding a gun pointed directly at his nose. The gunman and his cellmate grabbed the officer's keys. They opened two more cells, and a total of four inmates rushed to the "cage," from which the jail's main door was controlled.

Stroy manned the cage that night. Staring at the gun barrel thrust through the wire mesh about six feet away, Stroy refused the inmates'
demands to open the door. Instead, he turned to pull an alarm. The gunman fired, and Stroy slumped to the floor with a bullet in his back.
The inmates stuck a broom handle through the cage to push a button and open the door.

Three of the four inmates were recaptured within 24 hours. The fourth was nabbed shortly after that. It was later determined that the escapees received their gun from an accomplice who threw it over the jail wall. Stroy never fully recovered from his wound, suffering paralysis in his
left leg and ultimately losing it to amputation. Joe Stroy died in the 1989 at the age of 64.

On the morning of Nov. 25, 1978, a fire broke out in the north wing of the old Village Avenue jail. All 109 inmates were assembled in the jail courtyard while firefighters battled the blaze from outside the walls. With the help of area police departments and Sheriff's Offices, all 109
inmates were transferred to other jails - primarily in Billerica, Boston and Worcester. The entire move took just four hours.

Later, a handful of inmates with construction skills returned to the jail to live and rebuild the damaged section. The jail reopened for all inmates
in January 1980.

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The High Sheriffs of Norfolk County

The office of Norfolk County Sheriff dates back to 1793, when Gov. John Hancock appointed Ebenezer Thayer as the first man to hold the office. The first nine sheriffs were appointed by governors until the Massachusetts legislature changed the law and made the Norfolk County Sheriff an elected position in 1856.

The office has had its share of distinguished and colorful characters. Among them:

Sheriff Benjamin Clarke Cutler presided over three death penalty executions in the early 1800s at the old Norfolk County Jail on
Village Avenue in Dedham.

Sheriff Augustus Endicott ran the jail from 1885 until 1898 while simultaneously holding office as a state representative and Dedham selectman and serving as president of the Dedham National Bank and director of the Dedham Mutual Fire Insurance Co.

Beginning in 1898, Sheriff Samuel Capen held the office for 41 years, and prior to that was deputy sheriff for 21 years. He also served as the Canton Fire Chief and was a Canton police officer.

Sheriff Charles Hedges served from 1961 until 1975 after an illustrious military career. President Lydon Johnson named Hedges to a
commission to help fight the nation's burgeoning crime problem in the 1960s.

After serving on the Quincy City Council and in the Massachusetts House, Sheriff Clifford H. Marshall was elected in to take over the reins in Norfolk County in 1975. Marshall was nationally known as a progressive innovator, initiating the electronic incarceration house arrest program to alleviate jail crowding. The sheriff started the first sexual assault until in Norfolk County and created the Braintree Alternative Center (forerunner to the current Dedham Alternative Center) where community service and work release programs were held.

  • 1999 - Present Michael G. Bellotti
  • 1996 - 1999 John H. Flood
  • 1975 - 1996 Clifford H. Marshall
  • 1961 - 1975 Charles Hedges
  • 1958 - 1961 Peter M. McCormack
  • 1939 - 1958 Samuel Wragg
  • 1898 - 1939 Samuel Capen
  • 1885 - 1898 Augustus B. Endicott
  • 1878 - 1885 Rufus Corbin Wood
  • 1857 - 1878 John W. Thomas
  • 1853 - 1857 Thomas Adams
  • 1852 - 1853 John W. Thomas
  • 1848 - 1852 Thomas Adams
  • 1843 - 1848 Jerauld N. E. Mann
  • 1834 - 1843 John Baker, II
  • 1812 - 1834 Elijah Crane
  • 1811 - 1812 William Brewer
  • 1810 - 1811 Elijah Crane
  • 1798 - 1810 Benjamin Clark Cutler
  • 1794 - 1798 Atherton Thayer
  • 1793 - 1794 Ebeneezer Thayer