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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Life and Times of Grace Sherwood

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Grace Sherwood The Witch of Pungo


What would you call someone who had been claimed to go sailing in an eggshell, to leave rooms through a keyhole, and even fly? A freak? A ghost? Delusional? How about a witch? Well, that’s exactly what the residents of Princess Anne County called Grace Sherwood just a couple of centuries ago. Today, I hope to provide you with some information on the life of Grace Sherwood, some of the various accusations made against her, and finally some of the folklore that surrounds her to this very day. By the end of my presentation, I hope that you’ll see how Grace turned from a regular everyday citizen into the Witch of Pungo.


I. Life of Grace Sherwood


A. Grace Sherwood was born around 1660 (no specific date is given) to John and Susan White in Princess Anne County (modern day Va Beach). Her father was a planter in the summer and carpenter in the winter.


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B. When Grace was just 14 years old their family received a land patent of 15 acres near what is known as Muddy Creek.


C. By the age of 0, Grace married James Sherwood and 50 acres of her father’s land was given to them. They had sons John, James, and Richard


D. She was known throughout the town as very attractive, very strong-willed, and very eccentric. For example, she never wore dresses, which was typical in colonial times. Instead, she wore men’s pants. (This type of behavior could have been the start of trouble for her and her family.)


II. Accusations made against Grace


A. In 167, a neighbor, Richard Capps, accused Grace of casting a spell on one of his bulls, causing it to die. The dispute, however, was settled out of court.


B. Just one year later, the Gisbourne family claimed that Grace bewitched their cotton, nipped all the buds, and caused a bad crop for their family.


C. With her reputation in decline, she was accused yet again, this time by Elizabeth Barnes. Barnes claimed that Grace entered her room in the middle of the night, jumped on her back, and rode and whipped her to the point where she couldn’t make a sound. She then left the room through the keyhole in the door. (Case was dismissed)


D. Finally, Grace brought suit against Elizabeth Hill, claiming that Ms. Hill assaulted, maimed, and beat her because she had allegedly put a hex on Ms. Hill. The Hill’s could not believe what was happening and soon brought formal charges of witchcraft up against Ms. Sherwood.


E. In those days, people thought witches carried an unusual mark on their bodies as a sign of the devil. It was claimed to have looked something like a third nipple. A 1 women jury, including Elizabeth Barnes, was asked to examine Grace’s body where they found two mysterious marks. Grace was then ordered for ducking. (Explain the process) “Not one of ye will see me ducked, but I’ll see all of ye ducked.”


F. Grace stayed in jail for over 8 years until the “witch hunt” phenomenon had faded and she was released. She lived the rest of her life in her family home until she died at the age of 80.


III. Folklore surrounding Grace Sherwood


A. Even after her death, people still made up some wild stories about Grace.


B. One story that is often told says that while Grace was in prison she asked a boy to bring her two unwashed pewter plates. She convinced the guard to let her out of her cell to show him something he’d never seen before. Once out she placed a plate under each arm and flew away from her capturers.


C. The strangest story deal with one of Grace’s alleged modes of travel an eggshell. There was a picnic in the area for all the locals. Someone asked Grace if she was going. She replied, “Want to go with me in my egg-shell?” Thinking she was crazy, the neighbor left her alone and went with a couple of friends. When they arrived there was an eggshell tied to a tree near the shore and Grace sitting in a tree laughing at them. Whether you believe it or not it was plain to see that Grace had a sense of humor about her situation.


While there are many preposterous stories about Grace Sherwood, her memory still lives on in many visible ways. The site where she was ducked for being a witch is now known as Witchduck Point and that can be found off of Witchduck Road. A wild blue lupine found near Pungo is known to this day as the Witch’s flower in honor of Grace Sherwood. Every year at Pungo’s Strawberry Festival Parade, a town local is chosen as the honorary Witch of Pungo. So if you’re ever visiting Virginia Beach, you might want to go check out some of the historical sites that I’ve mentioned to you. And while you’re there, if something strange happens to you, it might not be a coincidence. You may be getting a visit from the most famous resident of Virginia Beach Grace Sherwood, the Witch of Pungo.


Bibliography


Burr, G. L. (168). Narrative of the witchcraft cases, 1648-1706. New York, NY Barnes & Noble.


Harland, D. T. (176). Witches and witchcraft. The beach A history of Virginia Beach, Virginia (pp. 7-0). Virginia Beach, VA Virginia Beach Public Library.


Kyle, L. V. (188). The witch of Pungo. The witch of Pungo (pp. 41-5). Virginia Beach, VA Four O’Clock Farms.


Nash, B. Grace’s Place. 1 May 18. http//www.geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/616/


Taylor, L. B. Jr. (10). The (not so) wicked witch of Pungo. The ghosts of Tidewater and nearby environs (pp. 16-17). U. S. A. Progress Printing Co.


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