Posted by: Barbara Evanhoe | October 22, 2010

Cry Witch!

Last night, as darkness fell and the almost-full moon rose over the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, news of an upcoming witch trial spread throughout the town.

Being commoners, we hurried to the Capitol building where all felony trials were held, in hopes that we would be permitted to stand by and witness the proceedings. The interim Royal Governor Jennings himself would be presiding over the case, which was to be tried by the Crown appointed attorney.

Excitement was building as we entered the candlelit courtroom, where the alleged Witch of Pungo’s fate would be determined that very night, in the year 1706. Grace Sherwood was accused by her neighbor, Luke Hill, of placing curses on farm animals, unborn children, and crops, causing them all to die.

Grace Sherwood had been the talk of the town for some time. Earlier in the year, there had been examinations and hearings on the accusations, and her home was searched for objects related to witchcraft. When the search produced no evidence, she was called to appear before the county court, which sentenced her to trial by water. When Grace floated and survived the trial by water, the court had no choice other than bringing her before the Governor on felony charges for witchcraft.

Oh yes, this was to be an exciting trial, and as the event began to unfold, we heard Luke Hill and his wife relate the story of their misfortune, followed by another neighbor who told how Grace Hill and the devil himself had come to her in a dream. The woman was hysterical from the nightmare, and could barely tell the story without falling to the ground in a faint!

Grace Hill brought no lawyer or witnesses to speak on her behalf. Throughout the trial, she claimed her innocence. Yet, when Governor Jennings gave her one last chance to prove her innocence by reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Grace fell to the floor, unable to utter the words.

Grace’s fate was sealed by this last event, and when the jury made their determination, she was convicted of being a witch, and was hastily escorted from the courtroom…screeching and wailing all the while that she was not a witch, but if she were, she would damn us all to hell!

That curse sent shivers down the spines of everyone in the room, and as we filed out of the courtroom into the dark of night, we couldn’t help but wonder…


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