Dictionary of Virginia Biography


Thomas Dowse (fl. 1619–1626), member of the first General Assembly, may have arrived in Virginia as early as 1608. A laborer named Thomas Dowse, or Dawse, came with the second supply ship that year. He quickly grew so discontented that some of Powhatan's men tried to enlist him and another laborer in a plot against the other settlers, but the two men disclosed the plan to Captain John Smith. Two years later a drummer named Dowse took part in a bloody attack on Indians at Kicoughtan and narrowly escaped a bloody attack by Appamattuck Indians. Other than the similarity of names, there is no documentary evidence to prove that the disgruntled laborer of 1608 or the drummer of 1610 was also the burgess of 1619. It is more likely that the literate Dowse arrived closer to 1619 than in 1608 or 1610 and that he was a well-supported agent of John Ferrar, an officer of the Virginia Company of London.

At the meeting of the first General Assembly from 30 July to 4 August 1619, Dowse, or Douse, as his name was also spelled in the official report, represented Henricus as a burgess and served on the first committee that the assembly ever appointed. The committee reviewed the colony's charter and recommended that the assembly request the Virginia Company to provide details about governors' authority to grant land to settlers. Some of them were fearful of losing their property and the improvements they had made to it.

Dowse, in fact, had received a grant of good land from Samuel Argall, who served as deputy governor from mid-May 1617 to April 1619, between Henricus and the falls of the James River, on property allocated to a proposed college. Dowse was there in the spring of 1620 but was evidently displaced not long thereafter as requested by one of the college's promoters. He may have returned to London for a short stay in 1622 and 1623. His name does not appear on the list compiled early in the latter year of the colony's inhabitants and of people killed in Opechancanough's 1622 attack. There is also a record in the summer of 1623 of a Mrs. Dowse—probably his wife, Ann, whose maiden name is not known—shipping to Virginia nine hogsheads of supplies weighing two and a quarter tons. By the beginning of 1624 Dowse and his wife were back in Virginia and residing in the Elizabeth City settlement. In the spring of that year Dowse, then described as a captain, granted a servant release from the final two years of a seven-year indenture.

A list of property owners recorded in 1625 indicated that Dowse then possessed 400 acres of land in Charles City. Sometime that year or early the next year, he and his wife traveled to Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland, where he sold £300 worth of tobacco and two days later ran away with another man's wife. Ann Dowse was suddenly penniless, but she had full power of attorney over all of his "goodes servants and estate" in Virginia. She returned to the colony at the expense of friendly merchants and shippers and in September 1626 took full possession of that property. The dates and places of the deaths and burials of Thomas Dowse and Ann Dowse, as the dates and places of their births and their marriage, are not known.


Sources Consulted:
Philip L. Barbour, ed., The Complete Works of Captain John Smith (1580–1631) (1986), 1:242, 2:191, 216; Mark Nicholls, ed., "George Percy's 'Trewe Relacyon': A Primary Source for the Jamestown Settlement," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 113 (2005): 252, 255–256; Colonial Office (CO) 1/1, fols. 139–154, Public Record Office (PRO), National Archives, Kew, Eng., with facsimile and transcription in William J. Van Schreeven and George H. Reese, eds., Proceedings of the General Assembly of Virginia, July 30–August 4, 1619 (1969), 12–13, 24–25, 26–27, 28–29; William Weldon to Sir Edwin Sandys, 6 Mar. 1620, and Michael Lapworth to John Ferrar, 26 June 1621, Ferrar Papers, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, Eng.; Feb. 1624 muster, PRO CO 1/3; Susan Myra Kingsbury, ed., The Records of the Virginia Company of London (1906–1935), 3:264, 4:257, 553; Henry R. McIlwaine, ed., Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia, 2d ed. (1979), 70–71, 113 (quotation), 131.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Brent Tarter.

How to cite this page:
Brent Tarter,"Thomas Dowse (fl. 1619–1626)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2018 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Dowse_Thomas, accessed [today's date]).


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