The Witch Of Pungo

The Witch Of Pungo

Grace Sherwood

The witchcraft case of Grace Sherwood is one of the best known in Virginia.  She was accused of bewitching a neighbor's crop in 1698.  Allegations grew over time until the Princess Anne County government and her accusers decided she would be tested by ducking, since water was considered pure and would not permit a witch to sink into its depths.  Sherwood's accusers, on July 10th, 1706 at ten of the clock, tied her thumbs to big toes cross-bound and dropped her into the western branch of the Lynnhaven River near what is now known as Witchduck Point.  Sherwood floated, a sign of guilt.  She was imprisoned, but was eventually released.  Sherwood lived the rest of her life quietly, and died in 1740.  Was she really a witch or was Grace a woman before her time?  She was a healer, a midwife and a friend to the children and animals. 

Grace Sherwood history courtesy of Belinda Nash

The Trial of 1706

At Witchduck Point, 10am July 10th 1706 Grace Sherwood, the daughter of a carpenter and the wife of a planter in the county of Princess Anne, was accused by neighbors of witchcraft.  Grace was tried in the second Princess Anne County Courthouse, found guilty and consented to the traditional trial by water.  Grace was tied crossbound and dropped into water above man's depth.  If she were to sink and drown she was innocent and could be buried on holy ground.  Grace did float, thus was guilty as the pure water was casting out her evil spirit.  She was incarcerated in the local jail, just beyond this statue.  After her release, Grace paid the back taxes on her property in 1714, returned to her farm, and worked the land until her death at age 80 in the autumn of 1740.  Grace Sherwood, Virginia's only convicted witch tried by water, she lays claim to Witchduck Road.  Her legend lives on as "The Infamous Witch of Pungo".

 

Virginia Governor Pardons Grace Sherwood

"I am pleased to join the Mayor of Virginia Beach in extending best wishes as you work to promote justice in the 1706 "Witch Ducking" case of Grace Sherwood.  With 300 years of hindsight, we all certainly can agree that trial by water is an injustice.  We also can celebrate the fact that woman's equality is constitutionally protected today, and women have the freedom to pursue their hopes & dreams.  The historical records that survive indicate that Ms. Sherwood, a midwife and widowed mother of three, survived her "trial by water" in 1706.  Those records also indicate that one of my predecessors, Governor Alexander Spotswood, eventually helped her reclaim her property.  The record also indicates Ms. Sherwood led an otherwise quiet and law abiding life until she died at the age of 80.  Today, July 10, 2006, as 70th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I am pleased to officially restore the good name of Grace Sherwood.   Sincerely, Timothy M. Kaine, Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia"

Grace Sherwood is known today, 300 years belated, as the only deceased person in Virginia to be exonerated.

Statue of Grace Sherwood     The statue of Grace Sherwood, Virginia's only convicted witch tried by water, was unveiled on Saturday, April 21, 2007 at 10 a.m. on the lawn at Bayside Hospital, 800 Independence Boulevard, Virginia Beach, VA 23455. The statue was placed near the corner of Independence Boulevard. and North Witchduck Road.  She stands within two tenths of a mile of the old second Princess Anne Courthouse of 1706, the court that tried Grace many times.  The statue is one mile west of her ducking point in Witchduck Bay.  Grace lays claim to Witchduck Road, Witchduck Point, Sherwood Lane and many local streets and sites.  After 300 years to the hour, at 10 a.m., Grace Sherwood was exonerated by Governor Timothy Kaine.

 

    Grace White Sherwood
    Born 1660  Died 1740
    Husband James Sherwood
    Sons James, John and Richard
    Sculptor Robert Cunningham
    Placed on these grounds this 21st day of April, 2007
    with the overwhelming consent of the Governing Bodies of 
    Sentara Bayside Hospital who called Grace "one of our first healers". 

 

Bricks may be placed at the base of the Grace Sherwood Statue in an individual's Memory or Honor.  If you would like to purchase a brick or make a donation to the cost of the Statue please print and return the Donation Form

Donations may also be made by sending a check to: Ferry Plantation House, 4136 Cheswick Lane, Virginia Beach, VA 23455. Include "Grace Sherwood Statue" in the memo section of the check. 

Grace Sherwood Statue information courtesy of Belinda Nash

The Testing of Grace Sherwood

The witchcraft case of Grace Sherwood is one of the best known in Virginia.  She was accused of bewitching a neighbor's crop in 1698.  Allegations grew over time until the Princess Anne County government and her accusers decided she would be tested by ducking, since water was condiered pure and would not permit a witch to sink into its depths.  Sherwood's accusers on 10 July 1706 tied her hands to her feet and dropped her into the Western Branch of the Lynnhaven River near what is now known as Witch Duck Point.  Sherwood floated, a sign of guilt.  She was imprisoned, but was eventually released.  Sherwood lived the rest of her life quietly and died by 1740.

Department of Historic Resources, 2002






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