Provided by Prince William County
The Weems-Botts House is one of the oldest surviving structures in the Town of Dumfries, according to the marker that was recently unveiled in a ceremony just behind the house at the corner of Duke and Cameron streets.
The small, original two-room house, built in 1747, served as the Quantico Church vestry until it was confiscated by the town during the American Revolution.
Parson Mason Locke Weems bought the house in 1798. Weems was the first biographer of George Washington and authored the famous cherry tree story, but the fable of the cherry tree didn’t appear in print until the fifth edition of Weems’ book, according to Karleen Kovalcik, the Weems-Botts Museum executive site manager.
Benjamin Botts acquired the house in 1802 and used it as his law offices while he defended Aaron Burr during Burr’s treason trial. Botts owned the house until he died in the Richmond Theater Fire of 1811.
The house passed through several owners after Botts died. The Merchant family bought the house in 1869 and built a two-story addition in the 1870s. Their descendants lived in the house until 1968. In 1974, the house was slated for destruction, but local residents got together to save the building and opened it as a museum in 1975.
During the unveiling ceremony for the marker, Ronald Smith of the Prince William County Historical Commission, said it was appropriate to mark the building where so much history occurred. “The Weems-Botts House is a living piece of the county’s rich heritage in the Town of Dumfries.”
Kimbrall Brace, the chair of the Prince William Historical Commission, said there are 95 markers at historic Prince William County sites and the commission is always looking to place more. “One of my goals is to have as many markers as we can. It would be terrible to lose the history. We need to mark it.”