After the South Sea
bubble in England
had collapsed, one of the speculators who had been ruined went to Smyrna
to mend his fortunes.
He was a friend of Pope
, the poet, and sent him a box of figs.
In the box Pope
found the twig of a tree.
He had just established his villa at Twickenham
He planted the twig (fortunately) by the shore of the Thames
, not knowing of what tree it was. It grew, and was a weeping-willow, such as the captive Jews wept under on the banks of the rivers of Babylon
That twig was planted in 1722.
In 1775 one of the young British officers who came to Boston
with the British
army brought a twig from Pope
's then huge willow, expecting, when the “rebellion” should be crushed, in a few weeks, to settle in America
on some confiscated lands of the “rebels,” where he would plant his willow.
John Parke Custis
, son of Mrs. Washington
, and aide to General Washington
, at Cambridge
, going on errands to the British
camp, under a flag of truce, became acquainted with the owner of the willow twig (which was wrapped in oiled
silk). The disappointed subaltern gave the twig to Custis
, who planted it near his home on his estate at Abingdon, Va.
, where it became the progenitor of all the weeping-willows in America