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Virginia Beach, Virginia

The Witch of Pungo Statue

This statue is dedicated to Grace Sherwood, the last person in Virginia to be convicted of being a witch. 

This statue, off a busy road in Virginia Beach is dedicated to Grace Sherwood, aka the “witch of Pungo.”

The last individual known to have been convicted of witchcraft in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Grace White was born around 1660. She married a man named James Sherwood and had three sons. A neighborly spat boiled over into the courtroom in 1698, when the Sherwoods sued two couples for slander. The couples had alleged that Grace not only “bewitched their piggs to death and bewitched their cotton,” she also came “one night and rid [rode] her [neighbor] and went out of the key hole or crack of the door like a black Catt.”

After her husband died, Grace’s fights with her fellow townsfolk continued. She sued Luke and Elizabeth Hill and won. A year later, they charged her with witchcraft. Although she was charged with witchcraft several times, she was only brought to trial in 1706 for allegedly bewitching Elizabeth Hill and causing her to miscarry. Two “witch’s marks” were found on Grace’s body, and the colonial court ordered that Sherwood’s guilt or innocence be determined not by her peers but by a trial by water.

This “ducking” took place in the Lynnhaven River on July 10, 1706, near an area now known as Witchduck Road. It was believed that if innocent, she would sink, and if guilty she would float. Grace floated and was thus convicted of witchcraft. However, a second trial was ordered, although the results of the trial are lost to time. It seems she probably spent some time in prison, but by 1714 her land was returned to her, and she lived until around 1740 on her large farm in Princess Anne County.

Today, there is a statue of her standing alongside a raccoon (representing her love of animals) and holding a basket of rosemary (representing her nursing skills) by Sentara Bayside Hospital, near the site of the local jail in which she was probably incarcerated. The nearby Old Donation Episcopal Church also has a commemorative marker to her memory. In 2006, Governor Tim Kaine gave Grace Sherwood an informal pardon, 300 years after her trial by water.