Governor Sir Thomas Dale

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Thomas Dale, Gov. Sir

Birthplace: England
Death: Died in Machilipatnam, Krishna, Andhra Pradesh, India
Place of Burial: Machilipatnam, Krishna, Andhra Pradesh, India
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev. Edward Dale and Mary Dale
Husband of Elizabeth Dale
Brother of John Dale; Richard Dale and Isabel Gayner

Occupation: 1611-1616/ First Governor of Virgina Colony
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Governor Sir Thomas Dale

Thomas Dale

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.

From about 1588 to 1609, Thomas Dale was in the service of the Low Countries (Netherlands, England, Ireland, and France) with the English army originally under Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Because of his ability and ambition, he became friends with many people in positions of authority. In 1599 Thomas Dale was recruited by the Earl of Essex for England's army. After many years of training he was knighted by King James to become "Sir Thomas Dale of Surry" on 16 June 1606.

While Dale was still serving in the Low Countries, on the recommendation of the eldest son of King James, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, the States-General of the United Netherlands consented "that Captain Thomas Dale (destined by the King of Great Britain to be employed in Virginia in his Majesty's service) may absent himself from his company for the space of three years, and that his said company shall remain meanwhile vacant, to be resumed by him if he think proper."

Five years later, 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.[1] 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. [2]

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 Rebecca and their one year old 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 before returning to Virginia.

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.

  • Thomas Dale High School in Chesterfield County, Virginia is named after him.
  • The Dale Magisterial District of Chesterfield County is also named in his honour.
  • Due to the severity of his legal regime, Governor Dale appears as one of the "jury of the damned" in the 1937 short story, The Devil and Daniel Webster. The story alleges that Dale "broke men on the wheel".
  • Dale was voiced by Hugh Dignon in the Animated Hero Classics 1994 direct-to-video episode, Pocahontas.
  • Dale's Pale Archeological District includes the location of a defensive palisade built by him in 1613 around the original settlement at Bermuda Hundred.[2]
  • John and Rebecca/Pocahontas Rolfe's only son was named after him.



  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 13
  • Dale, Thomas (d.1619) by John Knox Laughton
  • DALE, Sir THOMAS (d. 1619), naval commander, was already well known as a soldier in the Low Countries, when, in 1609, he was sent out to Virginia as marshal of the colony, the government of which was then reorganised on a military footing under Lord De la Warr. In 1611 De la Warr's health broke down, and he was compelled to return to England. Dale was, at the time, absent, having been sent home for provisions and reinforcements. He soon, however, returned, and, finding the old anarchy threatening to break out again, assumed the post of governor. With a severity that was considered excessive, but appears to have been necessary, Dale speedily restored order, and under his rule the colony began to prosper. In August 1611 he was relieved by Sir Thomas Gates, whom he again succeeded in 1614, and for two years ruled the colony ‘with firmness and ability.’ In 1616, being ‘well satisfied with the results of his administration,’ he was able to return to England, taking with him Thomas Rolfe and his more celebrated wife, the ‘Princess’ Pocahontas. In 1618 Dale was appointed commander of a squadron of six ships, which the East India Company sent out in April, to maintain their interests against the aggressive policy of the Dutch and for the relief of Courthope [see Courthope, Nathaniel], reported to be beleaguered in Pularoon. Dale arrived at Bantam in November 1618, and on 23 Dec. engaged the Dutch fleet off Jacatra, the site of the modern Batavia. After a sharp action he put it to flight, and laid siege to the Dutch fort at Jacatra, in the swamps around which he seems to have contracted the sickness of which, in the course of the following summer, he died at Masulipatam.
  • [Gardiner's Hist. of England, ii. 60–2, iii. 156–80; Calendars of State Papers (East Indies).]
  • From:,_Thomas_(d.1619)_(DNB00)


  • Genealogical gleanings in England (1901)
  • SlR THOMAS DALE of London, knight, 20 February 1617, proved 15 January 1620. For the disposing of such worldly substance as it hath pleased God to bestow upon me, forasmuch as I do find the same to be scarcely sufficient for the convenient maintenance and stay of living of my dear and loving wife, Dame Elizabeth Dale, I do therefore give and bequeath all my plate money, household stuff, goods and chattels whatsoever unto my said dear wife &c. whom I do also make and ordain the sole executrix &c., and I do desire the Right Hon. Henry Earl of Southampton and my loving brother in law Sir William Throckmorton, kn't, and Bar't and my loving friends Sir Thomas Smythe, knight, and Sir William Cooke, knight, to be overseers. Dale, 1.
  • DAME ELIZABETH DALE, widow, late the wife and sole executrix of Sir Thomas Dale knight, deceased, her will made 4 July 1640, proved 2 December 1640. My will and mind is that out of my estate in the hands of the East India Company and out of my estate in Virginia my just debts shall be paid. To my niece Mrs. Dorothy Throckmorton five hundred acres of land in Virginia, with the appurtenances. To Edward Hamby, son of Mr. Richard Hamby all my land, with the appurtenances, in Charles Hundred in Virginia and all my estate and interest therein. To Richard Hamby, son likewise of the said Mr. Richard Hamby, all my land &c. in Shirley Hundred in Virginia. To Hanna Pickering, my old servant, one hundred pounds. All my lands and tenements, goods chattels &c. both in
  • England, Virginia and elsewhere, my debts and legacies being paid and performed, and all charges of prosecution and recovery deducted, shall be divided into two equal parts. The one moiety of the same I give to the children of Sir William Throckmorton, knight and Baronet deceased, and William Samborne, to be disposed at the discretion of my executors, and the other moiety I give to my worthy, deserving friends Mr. Richard Hamby and Mr. William Shrimpton, whom I do make and ordain sole executors. I give to my nephew the Lord Viscount Scudamore a ring of ten pounds price. Coventry, 162.
  • [Sir Thomas Dale, whose will and that of his widow are here given, was one of the early governors of Virginia. His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Throckmorton. For an account of Sir Thomas Dale, see Mr. Alexander Brown's Genesis of the United States, vol. 2, pp. 869-74. — Editor.]


Birth date uncertain, probably between c. 1560 and (no later than) 1570. No solidly supported information about his family other than that he had a brother Richard (and probably a sister Isabella Gayner), and married an Elizabeth Throckmorton (consensus is that she was the daughter of Sir Thomas Throckmorton, MP and Elizabeth Berkeley, and sister to Sir William Throckmorton, first Baronet). There were prominent Dales earlier in the 16th century, and he may have been a relative in some degree.

Knighted at Richmond (England) on June 19, 1606, as Sir Thomas Dale of Surrey.

Dale, Sir Thomas, high marshal of Virginia, and deputy governor from May 21, to August 1, 1611, and from March, 1614, till May, 1616. He entered the service of the Low Countries with the Earl of Essex [Robert Devereux, 10 November 1565 – 25 February 1601] in 1588 [also cited as 1587]. In 1595 he was sent by the Provinces into Scotland, where he became one of the retinue of the infant Prince Henry, who had a great affection for him. He remained in Scotland some years, but returned to the Netherlands probably in 1603. In 1604 Lord Cecil wrote to the English ambassador at the Hague to inform him of the king's gracious interest in the military advancement of Dale. On June 19, 1606, while on a visit to England, he was knighted at Richmond by King James as "Sir Thomas Dale of Surrey." He remained in the service of the Low Countries till February 1611, when he came to England and entered into the service of the Virginia Company of London. Dale was selected to head the expedition then preparing, and on March 27, 1611, he left Land's End with three ships carrying 300 people and also horses, cows, goats, fowl, etc. He reached Point Comfort or Algermourne Fort on May 22, 1611, and succeeded Captain George Percy in command of the colony. He found forts Charles and Henry, at the mouth of Hampton river, deserted, and his first labor was to restore them. Constituting James Davis as captain of all three forts, he sailed up the river and arrived at Jamestown May 29, 1611, where he landed and heard a sermon from Rev. Mr. Poole. After consulting his council, Dale set about many extensive improvements at Jamestown and determined to build a new town at Henrico, near the Indian town of Arrohatec. Fears of the intervention of the Spaniards had long disturbed the colonists and there was a great excitement in the colony when some Spaniards from ships sent to find out about the English settlement, landing at Point comfort, were captured and sent to Jamestown, where they were detained in captivity for a long time. He began the work of building the settlement at Henrico under the severest code of marital law, introduced by Gates, and which he ruthlessly enforced. Gates, who arrived August 1 and became Dale's superior officer, endorsed his policy. After Gates' departure for England in 1614, Dale was again chief magistrate in Virginia. While he has received praise for his administration of affairs it appears to have been in large measure undeserved. The men were given food not fit for hogs, and mutinies repeatedly occurred, which were suppressed by the most atrocious cruelties. when Dale left Virginia in 1616 there were only 300 settlers living in the colony, and the frail habitations at Henrico, which he had built in blood, were decayed and ready to fall. He took with him to England Pocahontas and several other Indians, who attracted much attention and lent a glamour to his return. The states general of the Low Countries paid him £1,000 for the period when he was in Virginia, though during that time he rendered no service. A voyage was intended for the East Indies, and Dale was selected to head it. His fleet arrived near Java on December 23, 1618, and in conjunction with Captain Martin Pring he made an attack on the Dutch fleet. It was "a cruel bloody fight" and both sides claimed the victory. He arrived with his fleet at Masultipitan July 19 and he died there "August 9, 1619, after twenty days of languishing sickness.


  • Sir Thomas Dale (d. 1619)
  • Contributed by Brent Tarter and the Dictionary ofVirginia Biography
  • Sir Thomas Dale served as deputy governor of Virginia (1611–1616) and member of the Council of State (1612–1616), and is best known for issuing strict military and civil regulations designed to bring order and discipline to the Jamestown settlement. Fluent in English, Dutch, and probably French, Dale began his lifelong military career serving the Netherlands and by 1594 was a captain in the English army. After being knighted by James I, Dale was recommended for a three-year post in Virginia by the king's son and Dale's friend, Prince Henry. He took charge of the colony's discipline, erecting forts, and fighting Indians. In 1611, he issued military regulations that, combined with earlier civil orders, were printed with the title For The Colony in Virginea Britannia. Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall, &c. (1612). The codes effected martial law on the colony, bringing order to a fractious and inefficient colony. In 1611, Dale founded the City of Henrico, or Henricus, in honor of Prince Henry, and in 1614, as acting governor, he assented to the marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. His successful campaigns against the Indians, his discipline, and his husbandry of the colony's resources helped to make Virginia largely self-sufficient. He left the colony with Pocahontas and Rolfe in 1616 and died three years later leading an English force on the east coast of India.
  • Dale may have been a member of the Dale family of Surrey County, England, or of an Anglo-Dutch family. No known documents record the date and place of his birth, the names of his parents, or any details about his education. He wrote equally well in English and Dutch, was probably fluent in French, knew at least some Latin, and was a deeply committed Protestant. Dale stated late in 1617 that he had begun his lifelong career in the military as a common soldier in the service of the States General of the Netherlands about thirty years earlier, at which time England and the Netherlands were at war with Spain. By 1594 he was a captain in the English army. Dale may have volunteered without a commission to fight against the Spanish, as young gentlemen seldom served in the ranks, and men from the laboring and yeoman classes seldom became officers. He may also have made a socially and financially advantageous first marriage about which nothing is now known.
  • In 1598 and 1599 Dale commanded an English company in Ireland under Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, and was briefly detained two years later after the earl was charged with treason. Dale was personally known to Henry IV, the king of France, on whose recommendation the States General appointed him captain of a Dutch infantry company in August 1603. England's James I knighted him on June 19, 1606. Dale was evidently close to King James's young son and heir, Prince Henry, who early in 1611 requested that the States General grant Dale a three-year leave of absence without pay to serve in Virginia. Dale married Elizabeth Throckmorton before he departed for Virginia in the spring of 1611; they are not known to have had any children.
  • The Virginia Company of London, in which Dale owned shares, appointed him the colony's marshal, or the army officer in charge of discipline and order. The company also designated him deputy, or acting, governor in the event that both the governor, Thomas West, baron De La Warr, and the lieutenant governor, Sir Thomas Gates, were absent from Virginia. Dale and about 300 well-armed soldiers reached the colony in May 1611. He immediately issued orders to erect palisades at the James River settlements to secure them from attack. With De La Warr and Gates both out of the colony, Dale was acting governor until Gates returned in August 1611. Dale was a member of the governor's Council after March 1612 and was acting governor again from March 1614 to April 1616.
  • On June 22, 1611, Dale issued military regulations under which his soldiers were to act while in Virginia. They supplemented civil orders that De La Warr and Gates had promulgated in 1610 at the company's direction. In 1612 the combined orders were printed in London with the title For The Colony in Virginea Britannia. Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall, &c. The civil orders prescribed severe corporal punishment or death for many infractions, as did Dale's military code. Although sharply criticized for governing Virginia by brutal martial law, Dale did not hesitate to impose the severe penalties specified by the codes, including forced labor, capital punishment, and condemning a man who stole food to be tied to a tree and left to starve to death as a warning to others. The civilian and military regulations, harsh as they were, were not notably more severe than the orders that other English officers imposed in Ireland and elsewhere, and by the standards of the time the soldiers and many of the residents of Virginia were not all entitled to the protections of the common law.
  • Dale's imposition of discipline and his directions for organizing necessary work converted the fractious, inefficient colony into a reasonably well-run military and commercial outpost. As soon as he arrived, Dale ordered men to sow grain and tend the large stock of cattle and swine that the company had sent to Virginia. In June 1611 he attacked and defeated the Nansemond Indians and burned their towns. Later in the summer he marched against Indians farther up the James River and established a settlement on a bluff that he called the City of Henrico, or Henricus, in honor of his patron Prince Henry. In December, Dale attacked the Appamattuck towns in that vicinity and later founded on their land the settlement known as Bermuda Hundred. After Samuel Argall, later deputy governor of Virginia, captured Pocahontas early in 1613, Dale held her as a guarantee of peace with her father, Powhatan. Dale and Alexander Whitaker, the minister at Jamestown and Henricus, directed her conversion to Christianity, and in 1614 Dale assented to her marriage to John Rolfe.
  • The first professional military man in Virginia to command a large and properly equipped force, Dale succeeded where previous commanders had failed and earned commendations from company officers, the king, and some of the surviving colonists. His campaigns against the Indians were the concluding actions in the First Anglo-Powhatan War and allowed the colonists to live in comparative peace for nearly a decade. Dale fended off a Spanish incursion into Virginia and reportedly threatened to hang some French Jesuits who, en route to New France, were driven into Virginia during a storm. His stern enforcement of discipline and careful husbandry of the colony's livestock and other resources helped make Virginia largely self-sufficient within five years and marked the end of the repeated failings that had plagued the colony's founding. Dale sent samples of iron to England, established a fishing settlement and saltworks on the Eastern Shore at a site called Dale's Gift, and acquired property near Henricus.
  • When his three-year leave of absence expired in 1614, Dale was more than ready to leave Virginia and resume command of his Dutch company, but he stayed on, and the king himself requested that the States General extend his leave of absence. Dale finally left Virginia with John Rolfe and Pocahontas in the spring of 1616, having had primary responsibility for the colony's military affairs and a major role in its governance for more than half of its nine-year history. He returned to England with a cargo showing what the colony could produce: pitch, potash, sassafras, sturgeon (and caviar), and tobacco, among other commodities. The cargo and the condition of the colony presented vivid contrasts to Virginia's desperate straits at the time that the company had recruited Dale to take charge of its defenses. Safely home in England, he boasted that he had "returned from the hardest taske that ever I undertooke & by the blessing of god have wth poor means left the Collonye in great prosperitye & peace contrarye to many men's expectation."
  • Late in 1617 Dale petitioned the States General for full pay for the whole time of his absence, which with the assistance of the English ambassador he received. Rather than resume his career in the Netherlands, he took command of another large-scale and important enterprise, an English force that the East India Company sent to the Indian Ocean to counter the commercial influence of the Dutch East India Company. Dale wrote a short will on February 20, 1618, leaving to his wife his estates in England and Virginia, which his widow still owned at the time of her death in 1640. En route to India, Dale almost drowned in an accident at Penguin Island, off the coast of modern-day Namibia. In December 1618 he engaged Dutch forces in heavy fighting off the coast of Java, where he occupied Dutch trading posts. The following summer Dale sailed to Machilipatnam, or Masulipatam, on the east coast of India, where he became ill and died on August 9, 1619. He was buried there in a tomb erected for the purpose.
  • .... etc.
  • From:


  • Sir Thomas Dale, Knight[1, 2, 3, 4]
  • Died 1619 [3]
  • Notes IDENTITY: Colonial governor of Virginia.
  • Family Elizabeth Throckmorton, d. 1640
  • Married Feb 1611 [2]
  • CONDITION: This couple had no children. [2]
  • Sources
  • 1.[S372] Genealogies of Virginia families : from the William and Mary College quarterly historical magazine, Dorman, John Frederick, editor, (5 volumes. Baltimore [Maryland] : Genealogical Publishing Company,1982), FHL book 975.5 D2gvw., vol. 1 p. 303.
  • 2.[S114] #972 The Berkeley Manuscripts: the Lives of the Berkeleys, Lords of the Honour, Castle and Manor of Berkeley, in the County of Gloucester, from 1066 to 1618... (1885), Smyth, John, (3 volumes. Gloucester: J. Bellows, 1885), FHL book Q 929.242 B398s; FHL microfilms 496,546 i., vol. 2 p. 181.
  • 3.[S22] The royal descents of 600 immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States : who were themselves notable or left descendants notable in American history, Roberts, Gary Boyd, (Baltimore [Maryland] : Genealogical Pub. Co., c2004), 973 D2rrd., p. 261.
  • 4.[S49] #2058 The American Genealogist (1932-1965), Jacobus, Donald Lines, (32 volumes in 11. New Haven: D. L. Jacobus, 1932-1965), FHL book 973 B2aga, D25aga., vol. 12 p. 81.
  • From:



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Governor Sir Thomas Dale's Timeline

August 19, 1619
Age 59
Machilipatnam, Krishna, Andhra Pradesh, India
Machilipatnam, Krishna, Andhra Pradesh, India