Thomas Dale, Gov. Sir (c.1540 - 1619)

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Birthplace: England
Death: Died in Masulipatam, Malaysia
Occupation: 1611-1616/ First Governor of Virgina Colony
Managed by: Randall Bruce Robinson
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About Thomas Dale, Gov. Sir

Sir Thomas Dale (died 19 August 1619) was an English naval commander and deputy-governor of the Virginia Colony in 1611 and from 1614 to 1616. Governor Dale is best remembered for the energy and the extreme rigour of his administration in Virginia, which established order and in various ways seems to have benefited the colony. He is also credited with the establishment of Bermuda Hundred, Bermuda Cittie (sic), and the ill-fated development at Henricus.


the Virginia Company of London sent Sir Thomas Dale to act as deputy-governor or as "Marshall of Virginia" (a new position) for the Virginia Colony under the authority of Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr (Lord Delaware). Sent with three ships, on 19 May 1611, he arrived at Jamestown (named after King James) with men, cattle, and provisions. he found the conditions unhealthy and greatly in need of improvement. Dale immediately called for a meeting of the Jamestown Council, and established crews to rebuild Jamestown. He served as acting Governor for 3½ months in 1611, and again for a two year period between 1614 and 1616. In the interim, he served as the Marshall of the colony, initially serving directly under Deputy Governor Sir Thomas Gates. Effectively, for five years, he was the highest ranking law enforcement officer in Virginia. He exhibited a certain stern efficiency which was perhaps the best support and medicine that could have been devised. It was during his administration that the first code of laws of Virginia, nominally in force from 1611 to 1619, was effectively tested. This code, entitled "Articles, Lawes, and Orders Divine, Politique, and Martiall" (popularly known as Dale's Code), was notable for its pitiless severity, and seems to have been prepared in large part by Dale himself.

Perhaps Dale's most lasting reform was economic. In 1613, without stockholder consent, Dale abandoned the communal agriculture which had proved unsatisfactory and assigned 3-acre (12,000 m2) plots to its "ancient planters" and smaller plots to the settlement's later arrivals. Measurable economic progress was made, and the settlers began expanding their planting to land belonging to local native tribes. Not only did food production increase markedly, but the following year John Rolfe succeeded on his plot in raising the first hybrid tobacco: the key to the colony's future. Seeking a better site than Jamestown, Thomas Dale sailed up the James River (also named after King James) to the area now known as Chesterfield County. He was apparently impressed with the possibilities of the general area where the Appomattox River joins the James River, and there are published references to the name "New Bermuda" although it apparently was never formalised. (Far from the mainland of North America, the archipelago of Bermuda had been established as part of the Virginia Colony in 1612 following the shipwreck of the Sea Venture in 1609). A short distance further up the James, in 1611, he began the construction of a progressive development at Henricus on and about what was later known as Farrars Island. Henricus was envisioned as possible replacement capital for Jamestown, and was to have the first college in Virginia. (The ill-fated Henricus was destroyed during the Indian Massacre of 1622, during which a third of the colonists were killed). In addition to creating the new settlement at Henricus, Dale also established the port town of Bermuda Hundred and "Bermuda Cittie" (sic). He began the excavation work at Dutch Gap, using methods he had learned while serving in Holland. In 1614, Governor Thomas Dale sent 20 men, under Lieutenant William Craddock, to the area across the Chesapeake Bay from mainland Virginia now known as the Eastern Shore to establish a salt works and to catch fish for the colonists. They intended to make salt by boiling down the sea water. They settled along Old Plantation Creek at a place named "Dale's Gift" on the mainland, but established the salt works on Smith Island, which is located adjacent to the southern portion of the Eastern Shore in present-day Northampton County near Cape Charles. Governor Dale sailed back to England in the spring of 1616 aboard the Treasurer. Accompanying him on what was considered an investor-relations journey were John Rolfe, his wife Lady Rebecca and their baby son, Thomas Rolfe. Samuel Argall commanded that ship. Queen Anne and others were reportedly charmed by Rebecca, and investment in the Virginia Company was enhanced. However, soon after leaving London, as John Rolfe and his wife sailed down the Thames River, Rebecca became very ill and died on 21 March 1617 while still in England. Although Dale and Pocahontas were destined to never to return to Virginia, he wrote A True Relation of the State of Virginia, Left by Sir Thomas Dale, Knight, in May last, 1616. On a new military assignment, during a subsequent expedition to the East Indies, he became sick and died at Masulipatam on 19 August 1619 of a fever.

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Governor Sir Thomas Dale's Timeline

February, 1611
Age 71
Cleawell, Gloucestershire, England
August 19, 1619
Age 79
Masulipatam, Malaysia