Trial of Grace Sherwood - The Witch of Pungo
Grace Sherwood, the daughter of a carpenter and the wife of a planter in the County of Princess Anne, was accused by her neighbors of witchcraft. Grace was tried in the second Princess Anne County courthouse, found guilty, and consented to the traditional trial by water. At Witchduck Point, July 10th 1706 at 10am, Grace was tied cross-bound and dropped into water above a "man's depth". If she were to sink and drown she was innocent and could be buried on church grounds. If she floated, the pure water was casting out her evil spirit. Grace was able to unbound herself and swim to the surface. Once ashore, she was examined for witch's marks. A jury of women finds two marks and she was imprisoned.
After seven years she was finally released. Grace paid the back taxes owned on her property in 1714, returning to her farm and working the land until her death at age 80 in the autumn of 1740. Grace Sherwood was the only convicted witch ever tried by water in the state of Virginia. Her legend gives claim to name Witchduck Road in what is now Virginia Beach.
Belinda Nash (Ferry Plantation Founder), petitioned three governors for over 20 years to have Grace Sherwood formally exonerated. On July 10th, 2006 at 10am (300 years to the day), Grace's good name was restored by governor Timothy Kaine.
A bronze statue of Grace Sherwood, sculpted by Robert G. Cunningham, now sits in front of Sentara Independence Hospital in Virginia Beach. Belinda Nash also co-authored A Place in Time (image right). A novel detailing Grace's trial and the how the times played their part in her conviction.