Special Halloween Episode – Grace Sherwood: The Witch of Pungo

Virginia never succumbed to the hysteria that plagued Salem, Massachusetts, but she does have an infamous witch trial in her history.

Grace Sherwood’s story is one of a kind. She was the only woman to be tried and convicted for being a witch in Virginia.

In this special episode, I am joined by the historical re-enactors that form the group Shades of Our Past, who travel Virginia re-enacting various historical events and personages. We discussed the events surrounding Grace Sherwood and her life.

It’s a story that we only know in part, but what we do know has influenced the local landscape to this day. Take a moment, and learn about this fascinating woman who endured so much during her lifetime.

LINKS TO THE PODCAST:

LINKS FROM THIS EPISODES:

  1. Dalton, Michael. The Country Justice: Containing the Practice, Duty and Power of the Justices of the Peace, As Well in As Out of Their Sessions. 1618.
  2. Hudson, Carson O. These Detestable Slaves of the Devill: A Concise Guide to Witchcraft in Virgnia. Infinity Publishing, 2013.
  3. Ferry Plantation House
  4. Virginia Beach History Museums
  5. Shades of Our Past Facebook Page

 

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Grace Sherwood Statue, Virginia Beach

 

 

 

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author. The Featured Image is the Grace Sherwood Statue in Virginia Beach.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and Kevin MacLeod “Vanished” found on Soundcloud.

2 thoughts on “Special Halloween Episode – Grace Sherwood: The Witch of Pungo

  1. Grace Sherwood’s mother was a slave but unfortunately the historians of Virginia Beach continue to Whitewash her identity and hide the real TRUTH behind her persecution. Until her real story is told and her identity revealed as the maternal descendant of the Dogon Tribe whose ancestors were brought over to First Landing on a slave ship, a cloud will continue to sit upon our City whose descendants still live here. Shameful how they persecuted her for being 1/2 Black and covered up the truth by calling her a witch. Spectemur Agendo!

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    1. Hi Rachel, Thank you for your comment. I’m aware of W.C. Elam’s claim that Sherwood was persecuted for being “half-negress.” I’m also aware of extensive research done after his claim that appears to dispel his assertion. Other than Elam’s 1869 remark, which mind you appears to be more of an opinion than documented fact, I’ve been unable to discover any further evidence concerning Sherwood’s being born from a slave. Additionally, Elam himself doesn’t make the claim that Sherwood’s mother was a slave, he states that Sherwood descended from a “free nigger.” (His words, not mine).

      I’m not able to say that she was or wasn’t at least mulatto. Perhaps she was. I do have to question her being called a witch because of skin color, however. Our modern concept of race was not in any way prevalent during the 17th Century. Further there were other situations where 17th Century blacks and mulattoes fared well in Virginia both legally and economically. One that comes to mind is Elizabeth Keys, who won her case against enslavement.

      Regardless, Virginia’s black, white, native landscape was certainly undergoing changes during late 17th C and early 18th C after Bacon’s Rebellion – 1705 being the key date here. But none of that was the point in the episode on which you’re commenting. This episode discussed the known, documented evidence surrounding Sherwood’s case. As mentioned in the episode, we don’t have all of it, and in fact we don’t know the final outcome as that part of the record has been lost.

      Comparing other cases against what we have from Sherwood’s does at least raise one question that should raise doubt about Sherwood’s being at least half-black, namely that she was not mentioned as being black at all. This is interesting, because in most, if not all, other cases from the period, when a non-white was involved, they were described as being non-white. Perhaps that description was listed in a missing piece of documentation, but that appears to be highly doubtful.

      Still, I’m not arrogant enough to say that I know all relevant bits of information concerning this case. I’m very open to consider something I may have missed. Please, share your research! I’d love to read it.

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