Grace Sherwood of Colonial Virginia

Grace Sherwood of Colonial Virginia

Grace Sherwood is a name that many Americans haven't heard -- outside the state of Virginia, at least. That's because, when most people think about witchcraft in early American history, they more-often-than-not think of the Salem Witch Trials, which took place in 1692. However, there were quite a few other isolated witch trials throughout the United States following the iconic Salem Trials -- some of which ended in the deaths of the accused. Grace Sherwood escaped death, but she was convicted and imprisoned in the year 1706. She spent eight years in jail for practicing witchcraft, before she was ultimately released. She died at the age of 80, on her property in Princess Anne County, Virginia.

Prior to her 1706 conviction, Grace Sherwood was accused of witchcraft multiple times. First, she was accused of causing a bull's death by use of supernatural enchantment. This 1697 case ended in a dismissal, but she was again accused the following year by her neighbors, who accused her of cursing their livestock and cotton crops. She tried to sue her accusers for slander, but was unsuccessful. Luck, as it seems, was just never on this woman's side -- and even though she lived her life as a midwife and a healer, her legacy is that among countless women who were unjustly accused and wrongfully convicted. In recent years, the state of Virginia recognizes Grace Sherwood as a wrongly accused woman, and a statue of her even exists in Virginia Beach depicting her as she'd want to be remembered: As a healer and practitioner of herbal medicine (the statue is shown in this post's main image). Nonetheless, she is still remembered as the "Witch of Pungo," -- named for the area where she resided during her conviction.

Do you descend from Grace Sherwood, aka, the Witch of Pungo?

The genealogy of Grace Sherwood is easily researchable online, making it easy to prove that she has many living descendants today. Records from the 1700s state that she was married to a planter named James Sherwood. Prior to marrying James Sherwood, her name was Grace White -- the daughter of Captain John White. During the course of her marriage to James Sherwood, she produced three sons: John Sherwood, James Sherwood Jr., and Richard Sherwood. Even though history only makes mention of the three sons, documents indicate that Grace and James Sherwood also had two other sons named John Sherwood and Michael Sherwood (Sharwood), and three daughters named Elizabeth, Deborah and Mary Ann. It is very possible that some of these children were fathered by someone prior to Grace's marriage to James Sherwood, but documents do not exist to prove or disprove this theory.

***Richard Sherwood, born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1681; Named as executor for his mother's will in 1733. He had no known spouse or children (on paper).

***John Sherwood, born sometime after 1670, married a woman named Mary (last name unknown at this time). This marriage produced a daughter named Sarah. Sarah Sherwood was born in 1735 in Princess Ann County, VA. She married Captain Johnathan Whitehurst and had three children: Aaron Whitehurst, Frances Whitehurst and Simon Whitehurst.

** Simon Sheridan Whitehurst was born in 1755, and is remembered as a Revolutionary War soldier. He married Mary Ann Elizabeth Scott, producing several children: John Sheridan Whitehurst, Daniel Scott Whitehurst, Reverend Hillary Whitehurst, Asa Whitehurst, Levi S. Whitehurst, Lenora Whitehurst Nash, Newton Whitehurst, Anna Whitehurst Stewart, Diana Whitehurst Stewart and Susannah Whitehurst Sutton.

*Lenora Whitehurst Nash Married James Nash in Tattnall County, Georgia in 1811. They had approximately eight children.

( Surnames to look out for: Nash, Stewart, Sutton, Whitehurst)

As you can see, Grace Sherwood -- aka, the Witch of Pungo -- has many living descendants through the marriages of her children, grandchildren and so-forth -- and it would take a very long time to document each descendant of this once-convicted witch. If you can trace your ancestry to Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas during the 1800s, it's very possible to find a connection to Grace Sherwood as either a direct ancestor or another kind of distant relative. One of her formerly-surviving descendants, Belinda Nash, wrote about Grace and pushed for her to be exonerated of the historic conviction.