The year was 1898 when 13, English-speaking Master Masons assembled in the city of Colon were granted a charter from the Grand Lodge or Scotland to be known as Sojourners Lodge #874.
Six years later, in 1904, the building of the Panama Canal would bring many more English-speaking free-born men into Sojourners
On July 1912, 14 years after being chartered, Due to Scottish and American ritualistic differences, the long distance required for communications with Scotland, and the desire to belong to a jurisdiction nearer home, 330 members would vote in favor of surrendering their charter to the Grand Lodge of Scotland and petitioned the Grand lodge of Massachusetts, the oldest U.S. Grand lodge, for recognition. And so began the forming of the Panama Canal District.
Soon after, in November of 1912, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts granted dispensation for brethren on the Pacific-side of Panama to work as Canal Zone Lodge.
As early as 1914 the term “CANAL ZONE DISTRICT” was already recorded in proceedings, and was said to include the two Lodges.
1915 saw the birth of Army Lodge in the city of Empire, a town that was erected for the sole purpose of housing the builders of the Canal near the Gaillard Cut.
1917 was a very important year for our district. Grand Master Leon Abbot commissioned Past Grand Master Melvin M. Johnson to make a visit to Panama.
The results of this visit were the following:
1. Maj.Herbert A. White, first master of Army Lodge, was installed as District Grand Master for the CANAL ZONE DISTRICT
2. Delivered a new dispensation for Isthmian Lodge to work in Paraiso.
3. Delivered a new dispensation for Darien Lodge to work in Balboa
4. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts became the first Grand Lodge to recognize the newly formed Grand Lodge of Panama.
5. A treaty was negotiated with the Grand Lodge of Panama regarding jurisdiction and protocol.
In 1918 Sibert Lodge was chartered
In 1921 Chagres Lodge is chartered
In 1925 the District Lodge of Instruction starts operating, and over the next 40 years the total membership of its 7 lodges more than doubled (250%) reaching its peak membership of 4,036 Brothers in 1962.
Soon after the District celebrated their 50 year anniversary, and due to the migration of many brothers back to their native lands, many Lodges opted to merge with other Lodges so all members could keep their affiliation.
In 1977 Canal Zone Lodge merged with Isthmian Lodge to form Canal Zone Isthmian Lodge, who in turn would merge with Chagres Lodge in 1982 to form the current Ancon Lodge.
In 1981 the district was renamed to be “PANAMA CANAL DISTRICT” to be later shortened to “PANAMA DISTRICT” in 2003.
In 1983 Army Lodge and Darien Lodge would merge to form Balboa Lodge, who would then merge with Sibert Lodge in 1995 to form today’s Gatun Lodge.
In 2010 our District’s Masonic heritage would be even further enriched when our district was honored to include three distinguished Lodges from Chile:
• St John’s Lodge which has been working in Concepcion since 1884
• Huelen Lodge in the capital, Santiago, healthy since the year 1876
• and Bethesda Lodge, operating in Valparaiso since 1853, which is currently the oldest English-speaking Lodge on the west coast of South America.
We give thanks for the contributions of our past and present members of the District Grand Lodge and the many contributions that they have been made to our community. In celebration of this milestone we will build on the traditions of our past to make the next 100 years even better.
RW George O’Masta Jr.
District Grand Master
District Grand Lodge at the Panama Canal
(Welcome Address delivered during the start of the 100 year Anniversary Gala on February 10th, 2017)