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Prince William County to get new state highway historical marker in Dumfries for “Parson Weems”

Among ten new historical markers approved for placement along Virginia roads will be ones to highlight Lynchburg’s ties to the “world’s first nuclear-powered merchant ship,” the African origins of the banjo and its emergence in mainstream American music, and George Washington’s early and influential biographer Mason Locke Weems in Dumfries.

Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825), a myth-making biographer of George Washington, will be remembered with a marker in Prince William County. Weems’s biography, later known as The Life of Washington, first published in 1800, “shaped the heroic image of George Washington in the mind of the American public,” the marker will read. In the book’s fifth edition in 1806, Weems tells the mythical story of Washington chopping his father’s prized cherry tree and later admitting, when confronted by his father, that he did so, responding, “I can’t tell a lie.” For Weems, Washington’s honesty was his key virtue and the foundation of his greatness.

Mason Locke Weems and George Washington
Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825), minister, bookseller, and writer, owned a half-acre lot here from 1798 until 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.

Sponsor: Mary Elizabeth Conover Foundation
Locality: Dumfries (Prince William County)

Proposed Location: 3944 Cameron St.

The Weems marker was one of ten highway markers approved for manufacture and installation along Virginia’s roads by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources during its quarterly meeting on Dec. 13, according to a press release from the Va. Board of Historic Resources.

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