Richard Pretty
Stefan Bielinski

Richard Pretty was appointed the first sheriff of Albany under the city charter of 1686. Previously, he had been the Albany sheriff under the authority of the Duke of York.

Born about 1637, Pretty came to New York to after the English takeover in 1664. In 1674, he was commissioned to "take an account of the great excise" at Albany. Accepting the post of customs officer, he moved upriver, married Elizabeth Stridles, and became a tenant in the Albany house of his patron, Thomas Delavall. Despite being clearly connected to the English government, Pretty sought to establish himself in Albany. In 1679, he was listed on a census of Albany householders. A few years later, he was listed among the members and supporters of the Albany Dutch church.

The agency of Delavall and others in the provincial government probably accounted for his appointment as Albany sheriff in 1678. He was re-appointed under the charter of 1686 and held that post until 1690. The customs and sheriff's offices were demanding and potentially dangerous - often requiring travel into a hostile countryside and the constant prosecution of offenders. But the sheriff's and searcher's offices could reward him with substantial fees for services performed. Pretty's Albany house was used for government business and he also quartered officers there. His marriage produced no children. But in 1674, the couple had contracted to raise Johanna Hans's daughter for eight years.

In 1690, he was identified as a "gentleman of the city of Albany" and about fifty-three-years-old. Living in New York, Richard Pretty died in mid-1695. His modest estate was held in a chest and was valued at just over three pounds. Some old guns and a sword in England were worth eight pounds and of small consolation to his creditors.


The career of Richard Pretty is CAP biography number 6446.

In 1690, Pretty occasioned the disdain of the Albany city fathers when he welcomed Jacob Leisler's lieutenant to Albany. However, he was not appointed sheriff by Leisler in 1691. Discredited, he was unable to re-establish himself in the sheriff's office in the years that followed. He retired to New York where he died.

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