On July 10, 2006, there was a memorial ceremony and statue dedication in Virginia, USA, for one of their most famous people. The ceremony was held on the 300th anniversary of the day that Grace Sherwood was convicted on suspicion of witchcraft. Grace received her pardon, posthumously, from Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine who officially pardoned her on the 300th anniversary of her conviction. Her lovely statue is a testimonial to a woman many people have come to love and admire. Although the trial of Grace was the last witch trial held in North America, today she is remembered and honored as a healer, herbalist, and a good woman with a kind heart.
Grace White was born sometime around 1660, to John White and his wife, Susan. James was a carpenter and small land owner. The White family lived in Pungo, which was a community in lower Norfolk County of Virginia.
Grace lived all her life in Pungo, which is in the areas of Virginia Beach. She grew up to become a woman who was true to herself and her beliefs. She was wise in the ways of nature and far ahead of her time. Grace was very attractive and seen as a non-conformist, strong-willed, and different. In those colonial days of the 1600s the qualities and gifts Grace had became a curse to her happiness in life. Even so, Grace had faith in herself and refused to let go of her love for nature, healing, children, and animals.
Grace knew herself, knew every herb in her area and how to use them for healing, cooking, teas, and remedies. It is evident that Grace felt her life work to be one of healing and helping others -- she was dedicated to this task, loyal to her self and the gifts bestowed upon her. She respected herself. She knew how to apply knowledge with wisdom and find balance and harmony with nature.
Grace married James Sherwood, a landowner and farmer, in 1680 (approx). Her father, John White, gave his new son-in-law fifty acres of land. When White died in 1681 the remainder of his estate went to James Sherwood. James and Grace had three sons, John, James, and Richard.
In 1698 there were some problems with neighbors of the Sherwood's and the outcome was that James and Grace sued John and Jane Gisburne, and Anthony and Elizabeth Barnes for defamation and slander. The Gisburnes and the Barnes had claimed that Grace had shown signs of being a witch. The Sherwoods lost both the cases.
James Sherwood died in 1701, leaving Grace with the heavy responsibility of the farming and raising her three sons. In 1705 there was more trouble with neighbors and Grace sued Luke and Elizabeth Hill for assault and battery. This time Grace won the case and received twenty pounds sterling in damages.
The following year, early 1706, Luke Hill charged Grace with witchcraft, which was a criminal offense per an act passed in Parliament in 1603/4.
Grace was arrested and her children were taken to a relative. After numerous delays, the trial started on May 2, 1706. Due to several accusations, and a search of her body by a jury of women for signs of a witch, which was positive, Grace was found guilty of witchcraft and had to submit to trial by ordeal -- she was to be tied cross bound and dropped in water "over the depth of a man's height". The concept was that since water is pure it would not accept the body of a witch and therefore the body would float. Grace was to go through this test. If her body sank and she drowned, she would be declared innocent and buried in consecrated ground. If her body floated, she would indeed be declared a witch and sentencing would follow.
Being tied cross bound is to tie the thumb of the right hand to the big toe of the left foot, and the thumb of the left hand tied to the big toe of the right foot. This is not an easy position for one to save themselves in deep water. Yet by sheer will-power and strength, Grace managed to float and save herself. She was taken from the water, unbound and back to court for sentencing.
In July 1706, Grace was sentenced to eight years in jail. When she was released, Grace's land, house and three sons were restored to her.
Grace lived the rest of her life on her farm until her death at the age of 80, in the Autumn of 1740.