Thomas Dale

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Sir Thomas Dale (d. August 19, 1619) was a British 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 progressive but ill-fated development at Henricus.


[edit] Early career

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 June 16, 1606.

[edit] Leading the Virginia Colony

Five years later, the Virginia Company of London sent Sir Thomas Dale to act as deputy-governor or as high marshall for the Virginia Colony under the authority of Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr (Lord Delaware). Sent with three ships, on May 19, 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. Sir Thomas Dale immediately called for a meeting of the Jamestown Council, and established crews to rebuild Jamestown.

He served as Governor for 3 months in 1611, and again for a two year period between 1614 and 1616. 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.

[edit] Upstream: a better environment than Jamestown

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 formalized. (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.

[edit] Eastern Shore: salt works, Dale's Gift

In 1614, Governor Thomas Dale sent 20 men, under Lieutenant William Craddock, to the area 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. [1]

[edit] Return to England, publication, death

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 Pocahontas, and their baby son, Thomas Rolfe. Queen Anne and others were reportedly charmed by Pocahontas, and investment in the Virginia Company was enhanced. However, soon after leaving London, as John Rolfe and his wife sailed down the Thames River, Pocahontas became very ill and died on March 21, 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 trip to the West Indies, he became sick and died at sea on August 19, 1619 of a fever.

[edit] Legacy

  • The Dale Magisterial District of Chesterfield County is also named in honor of Sir Thomas Dale.

[edit] References

[edit] External links

Preceded by
George Percy
Colonial Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
Thomas Gates
Preceded by
Thomas Gates
Colonial Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
George Yeardley