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Grace Sherwood: The "Witch of Pungo"

300 Years After Her Conviction, Governor Restores Grace Sherwood's Good Name

Grace Sherwood Court Trial

 

 

 

 

 

On July 10, 1706, a forty-six-year-old Princess Anne County woman named Grace Sherwood faced an unusual legal procedure. Her hands were tied and she was about to be thrown from a boat into a river as a test to see if she was a witch. For several years neighbors talked of how the midwife, healer, and widowed mother of three had ruined crops, killed livestock, and conjured up storms. Then in January of 1706 Luke Hill formally accused Sherwood of witchcraft. The case passed from the county court to the attorney general of Virginia without any judgment. Finally, authorities in Princess Anne County ordered that the accused be "ducked" in consecrated water to determine her guilt or innocence. By this ordeal, if she sank she would be declared innocent, but if she floated her identity as a witch would be proven. A spot in the Lynnhaven River, off what is today known as Witchduck Point, was chosen, and Grace Sherwood was bound and thrown from a boat. She managed to untie herself and rise to the surface, proving to those present that she was a witch. As punishment for her crime, Grace Sherwood spent seven years in jail. After her release the so-called "witch of Pungo" returned to her home and lived peacefully until her death around the age of eighty.

On July 10, 2006, Gov. Tim Kaine restored Grace Sherwood's good name, three hundred years to the day since the "ducking" ordeal that condemned her for witchcraft. Learn more

 

Archibald Taylor letter Enter Fullscreen More information
Archibald Taylor letter about the Grace Sherwood trial
Letter, 1832 October 1, written by Archibald Taylor, Belle Farm, Glucester County, Va., to Jonathan Peter Cushing, Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney, Va., concerning the manuscript of the Grace Sherwood trial. Princess Anne County Court records of the trial of Grace Sherwood. (VHS call number: Mss4 P9354 a 1)
Grace Sherwood trial Enter Fullscreen More information
Grace Sherwood trial page 1
Copy made by J. J. Burroughs from the original in the courthouse of Princess Anne County, Va., 15 September 1832. Records, 1706 January 3-July 10, of the Court of Princess Anne County, Va., concerning the trial of Grace Sherwood for witchcraft based on charges made by Luke Hill. Princess Anne County Court records of the trial of Grace Sherwood. (VHS call number: Mss4 P9354 a 1)
Grace Sherwood trial Enter Fullscreen More information
Grace Sherwood trial page 2
Copy made by J. J. Burroughs from the original in the courthouse of Princess Anne County, Va., 15 September 1832. Records, 1706 January 3-July 10, of the Court of Princess Anne County, Va., concerning the trial of Grace Sherwood for witchcraft based on charges made by Luke Hill. Princess Anne County Court records of the trial of Grace Sherwood. (VHS call number: Mss4 P9354 a 1)
Grace Sherwood trial Enter Fullscreen More information
Grace Sherwood trial page 3
Copy made by J. J. Burroughs from the original in the courthouse of Princess Anne County, Va., 15 September 1832. Records, 1706 January 3-July 10, of the Court of Princess Anne County, Va., concerning the trial of Grace Sherwood for witchcraft based on charges made by Luke Hill. Princess Anne County Court records of the trial of Grace Sherwood. (VHS call number: Mss4 P9354 a 1)
Grace Sherwood trial Enter Fullscreen More information
Grace Sherwood trial page 4
Copy made by J. J. Burroughs from the original in the courthouse of Princess Anne County, Va., 15 September 1832. Records, 1706 January 3-July 10, of the Court of Princess Anne County, Va., concerning the trial of Grace Sherwood for witchcraft based on charges made by Luke Hill. Princess Anne County Court records of the trial of Grace Sherwood. (VHS call number: Mss4 P9354 a 1)
Grace Sherwood trial Enter Fullscreen More information
Grace Sherwood trial page 5
Copy made by J. J. Burroughs from the original in the courthouse of Princess Anne County, Va., 15 September 1832. Records, 1706 January 3-July 10, of the Court of Princess Anne County, Va., concerning the trial of Grace Sherwood for witchcraft based on charges made by Luke Hill. Princess Anne County Court records of the trial of Grace Sherwood. (VHS call number: Mss4 P9354 a 1)
Grace Sherwood trial Enter Fullscreen More information
Grace Sherwood trial page 6
Copy made by J. J. Burroughs from the original in the courthouse of Princess Anne County, Va., 15 September 1832. Records, 1706 January 3-July 10, of the Court of Princess Anne County, Va., concerning the trial of Grace Sherwood for witchcraft based on charges made by Luke Hill. Princess Anne County Court records of the trial of Grace Sherwood. (VHS call number: Mss4 P9354 a 1)
Grace Sherwood trial Enter Fullscreen More information
Grace Sherwood trial page 7
Copy made by J. J. Burroughs from the original in the courthouse of Princess Anne County, Va., 15 September 1832. Records, 1706 January 3-July 10, of the Court of Princess Anne County, Va., concerning the trial of Grace Sherwood for witchcraft based on charges made by Luke Hill. Princess Anne County Court records of the trial of Grace Sherwood. (VHS call number: Mss4 P9354 a 1)
Grace Sherwood trial Enter Fullscreen More information
Grace Sherwood trial page 8
Copy made by J. J. Burroughs from the original in the courthouse of Princess Anne County, Va., 15 September 1832. Records, 1706 January 3-July 10, of the Court of Princess Anne County, Va., concerning the trial of Grace Sherwood for witchcraft based on charges made by Luke Hill. Princess Anne County Court records of the trial of Grace Sherwood. (VHS call number: Mss4 P9354 a 1)
Archibald Taylor letter
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