Monday, July 10, 2006

'"Witch of Pungo" receives governor's pardon after 300 years

VIRGINIA BEACH -– So, after 300 years, she isn’t a witch. So says Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who today pardoned Grace Sherwood, known as the “Witch of Pungo,’’ three centuries to the day she was convicted of witchcraft. Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf read the announcement at Ferry Plantation House, shortly before proclaiming “Grace Sherwood Day” in honor of the famed woman. Belinda Nash, volunteer at the house and Sherwood champion for more than two decades, stood by, glowing, watching redemption finally come to passFor years, Nash has spoken to school and civic league groups, telling Sherwood’s life, of how the independent woman was misunderstood, and eventually tied and dunked in the

River to “test” her for sorcery. Nash appealed to the governor a few months ago, and last Friday, began calling his office every two hours for an answer before the anniversary.

“This is so exciting,’’Nash said. “You can’t believe how relieved I feel for Grace.’’ Nash latched onto Sherwood shortly after moving to
Virginia Beach in 1982 and hearing about “Witchduck Point” on the western branch of the

Lynnhaven River. She asked about its history and became intrigued. Sherwood had gone to trial not once, but several times. Years before the famous trial, neighbors accused Sherwood of such tricks as “blighting’’ their cotton crop, and she and her husband responded by charging them with slander and defamation. When Sherwood’s husband died in 1701, she did not remarry as many would have, but worked the land with their three sons. Sherwood lived near the water and could swim, Nash said. She often wore pants, which Nash believes was probably viewed as scandalous for the time. So, on July 10, 1706, Sherwood was cross-bound, her thumbs tied to her toes, and thrown into the river. The theory, Nash said, was that an innocent would sink, and the waters would cast out an evil spirit. Sherwood floated. Records show that Sherwood eventually returned to her land and lived a quiet life until her will was submitted to the courts in 1740. Nash is still working on a place to erect a statue she’s commissioned in Sherwood’s honor. She began the fundraising for it seven years ago in anticipation of the 300th anniversary, but groups have nixed it. Nash hopes the governor’s pardon will now make it easier to find Sherwood’s likeness a home

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home