An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Weems, Mason Locke

(Oct. 11, 1759-May 23, 1825). First person ordained by the Church of England for the Episcopal Church after the American Revolution. Weems was born near Herring Creek, Anne Arundel, Maryland. He studied medicine in London and at the University of Edinburgh but never practiced. Weems was ordained deacon on Sept. 5, 1784, and priest on Sept. 12, 1784. This was made possible when Parliament passed the Enabling Act on Aug. 13, 1784, which enabled English bishops to ordain clergy for the American Church without requiring the loyalty oath to the English sovereign. He was rector of All Hallows' Parish, Anne Arundel County, 1784-1789, and of Westminster Parish in the same county, 1790-1792. For about two decades Weems preached at different Virginia parishes, notably at Pohick Church, where George Washington worshiped before the Revolution. This enabled him later to refer to himself as “Formerly rector of Mt. Vernon Parish.” Weems was a book peddler and writer from 1791 until his death. His most famous book was The Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington (1800). In the fifth edition, published in 1806, there appeared for the first time the anecdote of Washington and the cherry tree. He also published biographies of General Francis Marion, Benjamin Franklin, and William Penn, as well as numerous tracts designed to inculcate morality in the reader. He died in Beaufort, South Carolina. See Loyalty Oath to the English Sovereign.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.