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 cherry tree. ("I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet.") The Life of Washington, Weems' most famous work, contained the story.
Although the story is often retold as if Weems had been trying to deify President Washington, in its context Weems seems rather to have been trying to praise Washington's father, and to make a point about enlightened parenting.
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.
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.
Weems died on May 23rd, 1825 in Beaufort, South Carolina of unspecified causes. He is buried on the grounds of Bel Air Plantation near the extinct town of Minnieville in Prince William County, Virginia.