Mason Locke Weems, commonly known as Parson Weems, was born in 1759 in Maryland. He studied in England and was ordained as a minister in 1784. Several years later he became a traveling book salesman and author. He ran a mobile bookstore known as the “Flying Library,” which he took to various cities to sell books. He wrote sermons and religious tracts, but his claims to fame are his books on famous Americans from the Revolutionary period. He is best known for his book, The Life of Washington, written in 1800, a year after George Washington’s death. Although the book was extremely popular, Weems added an extra story in the 1806 edition to make it even more popular. His tale of young George Washington using his little hatchet to chop down his father’s prized cherry tree and admitting to the deed has often been called fiction, because of Weems’ frequent use of exaggerations and fabrications of facts. Weems is also considered to have originated the story of Washington praying at Valley Forge, another mythological account. The story of George Washington and the cherry tree is only one of the liberties Weems took with the truth. His book on the life of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, was criticized as being greatly embellished and full of erroneous statements. He also wrote books about Benjamin Franklin and William Penn. Weems’ book on The Life of Washington remained popular for several decades, outselling every book in the United States except the Bible.
From Jauflione Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution