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Encyclopedia > Parson Weems
Parson Weems' Fable by Grant Wood (1939)

Mason Locke Weems (October 11, 1756 - May 23, 1825), generally known as Parson Weems, was an American printer and author known as the source of some of the best-known stories about George Washington, "the Father of his Country," including the famous tale of the cherry tree. ("I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet.") The Life of Washington (1800), Weems' most famous work, contained the story. Parson Weems Fable by Grant Wood, 1939 This work is copyrighted. ... Parson Weems Fable by Grant Wood, 1939 This work is copyrighted. ... American Gothic (1930) in the Art Institute of Chicago Stained glass window in Cedar Rapids, Iowa 2004 Iowa state quarter Grant Wood, born Grant DeVolson Wood (February 13, 1891 – February 12, 1942) was an American painter, born in Anamosa, Iowa. ... is the 284th day of the year (285th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1756 was a leap year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... is the 143rd day of the year (144th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1825 (MDCCCXXV) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian Calendar (or a common year starting on Thursday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... A parson is a member of the Protestant clergy. ... George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799)[1] led Americas Continental Army to victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), and in 1789 was elected the first President of the United States of America. ...

Weems was born on October 11th, 1759 (1756, by some accounts) in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He studied theology in London and was ordained in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1784. For a time he was rector of Pohick Church, part of Truro Parish, in Lorton, Virginia, where both George Washington and his father Augustine served on the vestry. This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. ... This article is about the Episcopal Church in the United States. ... The Pohick Church is a church near Lorton, Virginia. ... Truro Parish was founded as a colonial parish of the Anglican Church in northern Virginia. ... Lorton is a census-designated place (CDP) in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States. ... Augustine Washington (circa 1694 - 1743) is the father of George Washington. ... A vestry is a room within or attached to a church which is used to store vestments and other items used in worship. ...

Financial hardship forced Weems to seek other employment, leading to his second career as a book agent and author. He had a small bookstore in Dumfries, Virginia that now houses the Weems-Botts Museum. Other notable works by Weems include Life of General Francis Marion (1805); Life of Benjamin Franklin, with Essays (1817); and Life of William Penn (1819). He was also an accomplished violinist. Dumfries is a town located in Prince William County, Virginia. ... // Weems-Botts Museum is a small, professionally directed museum that features the history of Virginias oldest chartered town (Dumfries, VA) and two of the more colorful personalities to have lived there: the Reverend Mason Locke Weems and attorney, Benjamin Botts. ... For the Anne Rice novel, see Violin (novel). ...


Historical reliability

Weems' name would probably be forgotten today, had it not been for the tension between the liveliness of his narratives, contrasted with the "..charge of a want of veracity [that] is brought against all Weems's writings".[1] The cherry-tree anecdote illustrates this point.

The exaltation of Washington

The exalted esteem in which George Washington was held by 19th century Americans seems quaintly exaggerated to their 21st century counterparts; but that that he was so regarded is undisputed. The acme of this esteem is found in on the ceiling of the United States Capitol Building in the form of Brumidi's fresco The Apotheosis of Washington. Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... 20XX redirects here. ... The south facade of the United States Capitol Capitol Hill redirects here. ... Constantino Brumidi Constantino Brumidi (July 26, 1805 in Rome, Italy-February 19, 1880, Washington, DC), was an Italian-American historical painter, best known and honored for his fresco work in the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Parentage and early life Brumidis father was a native of Filiatra (in western... For other uses, see Fresco (disambiguation). ... The Apotheosis of Washington The Apotheosis of Washington (also known as The Apotheosis of George Washington) is a fresco painted by Constantino Brumidi in 1865 atop the rotunda of the United States Capitol. ...

Weems' A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington,[2] was a biography written in this spirit, amplified by the florid, rolicksome style which was Weems' trademark. According to this account, publicly his subject was "...Washington, the HERO,and the Demigod...;" furthermore, at a level above that "...what he really was, [was] 'the Jupiter Conservator,' the friend and benefactor of men.' With this hyperbole, Weems elevated Washington to the Augustinian level of the god "Jupiter Conservator [Orbis]" (that is, "Jupiter, Conservator of the Empire", later rendered "Jupiter, Savior of the World"). For other persons named Octavian, see Octavian (disambiguation). ...

Weems also called Washington the "greatest man that ever lived". This degree of adulation, combined with the circumstance that his anecdotes cannot be independently verified has led to the fact that they are now seen as confabulations and parables. Look up confabulation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... // For a comparison of parable with other kinds of stories, see Myth, legend, fairy tale, and fable. ...

The cherry-tree anecdote

Arguably the most famous (or infamous) of the exaggerated or invented anecdotes is that of the cherry tree, attributed by Weems to "...an aged lady, who was a distant relative, and, when a girl, spent much of her time in the family...," who referred to young George as "cousin".[3]

The following anecdote is a case in point. It is too valuable to be lost, and too true to be doubted; for it was communicated to me by the same excellent lady to whom I am indebted for the last.

"When George," said she, " was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet! of which, like most little boys, he was immoderately fond, and was constantly going about chopping everything that came in his way. One day, in the garden, where he often amused himself hacking his mother's pea-sticks, he unluckily tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English cherry-tree, which he barked so terribly, that I don't believe the tree ever got the better of it. The next morning the old gentleman, finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by the by, was a great favourite, came into the house; and with much warmth asked for the mischievous author, declaring at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him anything about it. Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance. "George," said his father, " do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? " This was a tough question; and George staggered under it for a moment; but quickly recovered himself: and looking at his father, with the sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all- conquering truth, he bravely cried out, "I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet."--"Run to my arms, you dearest boy," cried his father in transports, " run to my arms; glad am I, George, that you killed my tree; for you have paid me for it a thousand fold. Such an act of heroism in my son is more worth than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver, and their fruits of purest gold."


Weems died on May 23, 1825 in Beaufort, South Carolina of unspecified causes. He is buried somewhere on the grounds of Bel Air Plantation[1] near the extinct town of Minnieville in present day Dale City, Prince William County, Virginia. The precise location of his grave and the accompanying cemetery were lost in the mid 20th Century. Beaufort is a city in Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States, situated on the Beaufort River. ... Minnieville is an extinct unincorporated town that was once located in Prince William County, Virginia. ... Dale City is an unincorporated place located in Prince William County, Virginia. ... Prince William County is a county located in the state of Virginia. ... This article is about the U.S. state. ...

Primary sources

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Parson Weems

Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Wikiquote is one of a family of wiki-based projects run by the Wikimedia Foundation, running on MediaWiki software. ... Project Gutenberg, abbreviated as PG, is a volunteer effort to digitize, archive and distribute cultural works. ...


  1. ^ www.FamousAmericans.net
  2. ^ http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CAP/gw/chap1.html CHAPTER I: An Introduction
  3. ^ http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CAP/gw/chap2.html CHAPTER II: BIRTH AND EDUCATION

  Results from FactBites:
Parson Weems Biography and Summary (254 words)
Parson Weems's claim to a small place in American literary history has often seemed to rest on his having retailed the fabulous story of George Washington and the cherry tree.
Mason Locke Weems was born in Anne Arundel County, Md., on Oct. 1, 1759.
Mason Locke Weems(1756 – 1825), generally known as Parson Weems, was an American printer and author known as the source for almost all of the half-truths about George Washington, "the Father of his Country," including the famous tale of the cherr...
North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts (817 words)
Parson Weems' Fable was painted nine years later and was to be the first in a series of paintings portraying American historical myths.
In Parson Weems' Fable, the viewer sees a young George looking not noble or dignified, but a bit worried, as he faces his father who is demanding that he hand over the hatchet.
Parson Weems was a bookseller, itinerant preacher, and the creator of the cherry tree legend which he wrote in the fifth edition of his book Life of George Washington, the Great.
  More results at FactBites »



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