2024-02-12 – Jim Bish – How Genealogy was Used to Discover the Sources for I Can’t Tell A Lie: Parson Weems and the Truth About George Washington’s Cherry Tree…

Home » 2024-02-12 – Jim Bish – How Genealogy was Used to Discover the Sources for I Can’t Tell A Lie: Parson Weems and the Truth About George Washington’s Cherry Tree…

Date: February 12, 2024

Less than a year after Washington’s death in 1799, biographer Mason L. Weems completed The Life of George Washington. It includes what may be the most famous anecdote in American history: at about the age of six years, George Washington was made the wealthy master of a hatchet. One day George’s father, Augustine, found his beautiful young cherry tree terribly barked. Later, Augustine asked “George, do you know who killed that beautiful little Cherry Tree yonder in the garden?” George cried out, “I Can’t Tell a Lie, I did cut it with my hatchet.”

Phillip Levy wrote in his 2015 work, George Washington: Written Upon The Land, that “Nothing exists to hint that Weems had special access to Washington’s thoughts or stories from his past.” Levy summed up what historians have been saying about Weems for over one hundred years: that the stories you have all heard were false.

You may want to rethink those conclusions. Learn how genealogy was used to discover the sources for Weems popular biography of Washington.

Jim Bish’s book, I Can’t Tell A Lie: Parson Weems and the Truth about George Washington’s Cherry Tree, Prayer at Valley Forge, and Other Anecdotes,
forms the basis for this presentation. It is the winner of the 2023 National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Stephen Taylor Award given to the book which has made the greatest contribution to the preservation of the history of the Revolutionary War and its Patriots.


Speaker: Jim Bish

Jim Bish is a Nebraska native and a Sun City West, Arizona snowbird from Virginia. Jim received his B.A. in Education from the University of Nebraska – Kearney and an M.A. in History from the University of Nebraska – Omaha. He later attended the University of Maryland in their Ph.D. in American History program but did not complete his doctorate. Jim taught U.S. and Virginia history for more than 30 years for Prince William County, Virginia Schools. He spent the final two years of his teaching career as the Teacher in Residence at the National Museum of the Marine Corps before retiring in 2015.

Jim has been involved with local history organizations most of his life. He served for eight years as a member of the Prince William County Historical Commission which advises the Prince William County Planning Office. In 1989 he helped organize the Prince William County Historical Society which is known as Historic Prince William. Jim was the organization’s first president and continues to serve on the Board of Directors. He currently volunteers with many Virginia and Arizona museums including the Museum of the Sun Cities in Sun City and the Museum of Culpeper County, Virginia where he serves on the Board of Directors.

Jim owns and operates History Happened Here Tours and works with the Americans in Wartime Experience Voices of Freedom Project. His recently completed book, I Can’t Tell A Lie: Parson Weems and The Truth About George Washington’s Cherry Tree, Prayer at Valley Forge, and Other Anecdotes, recently received the 2023 National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Stephen Taylor Award and forms the basis for this presentation.


In-person meetings are held at the First Presbyterian Church located at 12225 N. 103rd Ave., Sun City, AZ. (click here for map) – will open in new tab in your web browser)

Please arrive after 12:30 pm to sign up for classes, SIGs, or the 2024 Seminar, ask questions of a Board Member or Committee Chairperson, etc. Note: We will not be offering coffee at this time.

The short business meeting will start at 1:00 pm sharp followed by our featured speaker.


West Valley Genealogical Society