Cherry Tree Commemoration – Monday, Feb. 17 @ 11:00 AM

The Col. Stephen Trigg Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR)will be sponsoring a unique commemoration on the national holiday, George Washington’s Birthday, next Monday, February 17.  Now popularly, though somewhat erroneously, referred to as “President’s Day,” the holiday was originally established to honor the first president of these United States.

1810 Edition of Weems' Book

1810 Edition of Weems’ Book

Many of us recall the story of George Washington and the cherry tree.  Originally recorded by the pastor and author Rev. Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825) in the fifth edition of his biography, A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington.  Weems wrote his book based upon years of interviews with people who knew Washington, as well as the president, himself.  According to the infamous story, the young George Washington used his hatchet to “bark,” or scrape, the favorite cherry tree of his father, Augustine Washington.  When confronted by his father, he chose to pursue honesty despite the consequences that a confession might bring.

For generations this story was used in schools, even in primers in the 19th century, as an example of honesty and as a proof of the integrity of our Founding Father and first president.  However, in the 20th Century, skeptics largely dismissed the story as a myth and in so doing attacked the character of Parson Weems.

19th Century Print Depicting the Story

19th Century Print Depicting the Story

In a recent study, author and historian Carl Anthony (http://www.carlanthonyonline.com) points out that these skeptics offer absolutely no tangible proof to dismiss this story which they claim is backed by no tangible proof.  Mr. Anthony points out two recent discoveries that lend credence to Parson Weems’ account.

The first is an ink-printed cloth made in Germantown, Pennsylvania, which depicts the events of the story.  There are only three known to exist, and all were produced at or before the time of Weems’ book.  But the most compelling piece of evidence is a piece of pottery known as the “Cherry Tree Mug.” This item, included in the reference book Pictures of Early New York on Dark Blue Staffordshire Pottery, confirms that the cherry tree story pre-dates Weems’ account by a minimum of 16 years. Its author Richard T. H. Halsey discovered the earthenware mug, made in Germany, which showed a young man standing beside a fallen tree along with a large hatchet marked by the date 1776 and the initials “G.W.” An expert on pottery of this sort, he dated it as being made no later than 1790, during the time of George Washington’s presidency!

The Cherry Tree Mug

The Cherry Tree Mug

Mr. Anthony claims that one other glaring fact may support Parson Weems and his story. He may have had the best, though perhaps anonymous source of all – George Washington himself. In a brief diary entry, the Father of our Country recorded the presence of an overnight guest at Mount Vernon on March 3, 1787, suggesting the potential of several solid hours together.  That guest was none other than the Parson Mason Locke Weems.

Ultimately, whether the entire story or at least some element of it may or may not be true, the story remains a rich part of the history and memory of the Father of our Country, George Washington.  It is for this reason that the planting of a cherry tree is an appropriate memorial on his holiday.

The entire community is invited to join the Col Stephen Trigg Chapter and attend the unveiling of the tree and its granite marker on Monday, February 17, at 11:00 AM.  In keeping with the educational focus of the SAR, the tree is being placed along the walkway in front of Trigg County Elementary School, 205 Main Street in Cadiz, so that future generations will be able to see the tree, taste its fruit, and experience a living memory of our first president.

To view Mr. Anthony’s entire article, please visit http://carlanthonyonline.com/2012/02/20/new-evidence-tells-truth-of-george-washingtons-cherry-tree-tale/.  For more information about the SAR or the Col. Stephen Trigg Chapter, visit www.coloneltrigg.org.

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