Weems, M. L. (Mason Locke), 1759-1825

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Mason Locke Weems (October 11, 1759 – May 23, 1825), usually referred to as Parson Weems, was an American book agent and author who wrote the first biography of George Washington immediately after his death. He was the source of some of the apocryphal stories about Washington. The tale of the cherry tree ("I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet") is included in the fifth edition of The Life of Washington (1809 imprint, originally published 1800), a bestseller that depicted Washington's virtues and was intended to provide a morally instructive tale for the youth of the young nation.

Mason Weems was born on October 11, 1759, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He studied theology in London and was ordained in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1784. He worked as a minister in Maryland in various capacities from 1784 to 1792. Financial hardship forced Weems to seek additional employment, and he began working as a traveling book agent. Weems married Frances Ewell in 1795 and established a household in Dumfries, Virginia. He had a small bookstore in Dumfries that now houses the Weems–Botts Museum, but he continued to travel extensively, selling books and preaching.

After the death of his father-in-law, Colonel Jessie Ewell (1743–1805), Weems assumed the Ewell family estate, Bel Air, located in Prince William County, Virginia, to partially satisfy debts owed to Weems. In 1808, Weems and his family moved into Bel Air, where he lived until his death. While on travel in Beaufort, South Carolina, Weems died on May 23, 1825 of unspecified causes. He is buried at Bel Air.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Weems, M. L. (Mason Locke), 1759-1825. ALS : Dumfries, Va., to Jacob Johnson, Kimber & Co., 1815 Apr. 13. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Ford, Paul Leicester, 1865-1902. Papers : of Paul Leicester Ford, 1888-1905. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Skeel, Emily Ford, 1867-1958. Emily Ford Skeel papers, 1871-1958. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Wallace, Jerry, 1894-1982. Papers, 1844-1982, n.d, (bulk 1950-1970) Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
referencedIn Slaughter, Philip, 1808-1890. Letter : to an unknown recipient, 1887 April 29. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Lewis Gaston Leary Papers, 1790-1986 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
creatorOf Weems, M. L. (Mason Locke), 1759-1825. Letters to Isaac Wayne, 1809. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. Autograph note unsigned : Monticello, to Mason L. Weems, 1821 Oct. 27. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Weems, Mason Locke, ca. 1760-1825. Autograph letter signed : Dumfries, to Thomas Jefferson, 1821 Oct. 14. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Dreer, Ferdinand J. (Ferdinand Julius), 1812-1902. Autograph collection. 1492-1925 Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Wayne, Isaac, 1772-1852. Letters, 1797-1841. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Weems, M. L. (Mason Locke), 1759-1825. Letter to Thomas Cummings [manuscript], 1822 August 26. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Stanford University Press archival book copies, 1900-2012 Cecil H. Green Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Slaughter, Philip, 1808-1890. Letter [manuscript] : to an unknown recipient, 1887 April 29. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Emily Ellsworth Ford Skeel papers, 1871-1958 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Carey, Lea & Blanchard. Correspondence, 1823-1849. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Leary, Lewis (Lewis Gaston), 1906-1990. Lewis Gaston Leary papers, 1719-1986. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Sam Schaefler historical and literary letters and documents, 1674-1970s Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Benjamin Franklin Papers Part 8 -- Letters to Franklin, 1783 December-1786 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Scrapbook of book reviews and clippings relating to "Parson" Mason Locke Weems and publication of his book, The life of George Washington, 1919-1946. Princeton University Library
referencedIn Sprigg, Richard, fl. 1776-1788. Richard Sprigg : papers, 1776-1788. The Filson Historical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Carey & Lea. corporateBody
associatedWith Carey, Lea & Blanchard. corporateBody
associatedWith Cummings, Thomas G. person
associatedWith Dreer, Ferdinand Julius, 1812-1902, person
associatedWith Ford, Paul Leicester, 1865-1902. person
correspondedWith Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790 person
associatedWith Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. person
associatedWith Johnson, Jacob, 1771?-1819, person
associatedWith Leary, Lewis (Lewis Gaston), 1906-1990. person
associatedWith Schaefler, Sam, 1920-, person
associatedWith Skeel, Emily Ford, 1867-1958. person
associatedWith Slaughter, Philip, 1808-1890. person
associatedWith Sprigg, Richard, fl. 1776-1788. person
associatedWith Stanford University. Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Wallace, Jerry, 1894-1982. person
associatedWith Wayne, Isaac, 1772-1852. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Prince William County VA US
Beaufort SC US
Anne Arundel County MD US
Dumfries VA US
Map industry and trade
Literary Agent
Commercial agents


Birth 1759-10-11

Death 1825-05-23





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