The Cherry Tree Historical Marker Dedication

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Provided by Col. William Grayson Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution

Historic Dumfries and the Weems-Botts Museum commemorated the birthday month of George Washington with the dedication of an historical marker dedicated to George Washington and the Cherry Tree story.

The marker reads: “Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825), minister, book seller, and writer, owned a half-acre lot here from 1798-1802. Weems published the first edition of his most influential work, later known as The Life of Washington, in 1800. Widely distributed across the United States, Weems’s book shaped the heroic image of George Washington in the mind of the American public. The book’s best-known scene, in which a young Washington cuts his father’s prized cherry tree with a hatchet, appeared in the fifth edition (1806). In this mythical story Washington admits fault when confronted and says, ‘I can’t tell a lie,’ reflecting the virtue that, according to Weems, was the foundation of his greatness.”

Parson Weems wrote biography to amplify his subject. His subject was “… Washington, the hero, and the demigod.” Weems also wrote biographies of Francis Marion (The Swamp Fox), Benjamin Franklin and William Penn.

Dr. Lawrence Nelson’s Remarks

Dr. Lawrence Nelson, Director, Strategic Alliance, Conover Foundation, Inc. delivered remarks. “Historic markers serve a fundamental purpose because they tell stories that help bind us together. Conover Foundation, Inc. has sponsored the creation of an historic roadside marker dedicated to George Washington, the virtues he brought to make the USA great, and his selfless service to our Nation.

“In the big picture the legend about George Washington and the cherry tree is a story about who we are as Americans, how we behave with each other as Americans, and how we behave with the rest of the world as Americans. Lectures about honesty are less effective than legends. By telling our children this legend we can teach them several principles about human relations and family dynamics at several different levels of understanding. This marker is a focal point to tell the story of America and how one man, and one family, played such an important role.”

Other distinguished guests included Dr. Laura Galke, Chief Curator, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Dumfries mayor Derrick Wood, and the town council of Dumfries.

The Weems-Botts Museum is located in Merchant Park at the corner of Duke and Cameron Streets in Dumfries. The museum operates on a seasonal schedule. From May to October, the museum is open 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Tours are offered hourly with the last tour starting at 3:00 p.m. From November to April, tours are by appointment only.

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