Virginia Beach has a very colorful past. Considering that so much of our nation’s history has taken place in this part of the country, it is no wonder that the area is of interest to history buffs and the imagination of children of all ages. From origins of the Jamestown Settlers to Old US Coast Guard Station, the Virginia Beach area is full of history. One of the many stories surrounding the area include that of Grace Sherwood and the naming of Witchduck Road.
In the 1700s, Virginia Beach area farmers found themselves in the midst of various unfortunate events. The cotton fields were wastelands and the cows had dried up. Not to mention the fact that an excessive amount of men were being unfaithful.
There didn’t appear to be any sort of rhyme or reason to these ill-fated incidents. So, the blame was placed on the shoulders of Grace Sherwood. According to the local women, Mrs. Sherwood’s familiarity with herbs and her pretty looks were a bad combination, and they deduced that she must be a “witch.” To that end, Sherwood was sentenced to be tried as a witch by “ducking.” This event is responsible for the name of Witchduck Road to this day, as it led to the area where Sherwood’s thumbs were tied to her big toes and she was ducked into the Lynnhaven River on July 10, 1706. Sherwood was the first person to be tried as a witch via ducking in the state of Virginia.
Grace Sherwood freed herself from her ties and swam to shore in an effort to save her life. The town concluded that an innocent person would have simply sunk and would not have been able to escape. She was confirmed as a witch and was sent to jail for several years. When she was released, she lived out her days with her three sons on her Pungo farm. She died at the age of 80 in 1740.
In 2006, Grace Sherwood was exonerated of her crimes by Governor Timothy Kaine. A bronze statue was erected in her honor at the Sentara Bayside Hospital. Additional tributes to Mrs. Sherwood include Witch Duck Bay, Witch Duck Point, Sherwood Lane and Witchpoint Trail.
Legend has it that each year, Grace Sherwood revisits her ducking point each July in the form of a mysterious dancing light that hovers over the waters of Witch Duck Bay.