Location: Canal Zone
Dispensation Granted By: Charles C. Dame
Charter Date: never chartered.
Precedence Date: 1866
Current Status: No longer listed on the roster of lodges in 1908. Massachusetts lodges established in the Canal Zone beginning in 1912.
FROM NEW ENGLAND CRAFTSMAN, 1941
William B. Little
From New England Craftsman, Vol. XXXVI, No. 12, August 1941, Page 239:
THE FIRST MASSACHUSETTS LODGE IN PANAMA
By Brother Roger C. Hackett.
In local Masonic circles it is not generally known that the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, which has enjoyed virtually exclusive jurisdiction in the Canal Zone since 1912 when Sojourners' Lodge vas founded (under dispensation), granted dispensations to two earlier lodges on the Isthmus. Each was named "Isthmus Lodge," both were located on the Pacific side, each lasted just about one year, and neither was ever chartered (by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts).
The first Massachusetts Isthmus Lodge (incidentally, the name was incorrectly spelled Isthmas Lodge in the records) was founded in 1866 in Panama City. Its establishment ended a period of 11 years in which no lodges had existed in the capital city. The chief founder of this lodge was Brother William B. Little, a native of Boston, who was the United States consul at that time in Panama City. He was probably the Master of the lodge also, although there are no records attesting to this. In fact, for reasons explained hereinafter, there are no contemporary records of the lodge, or copies of them in existence at all, hence knowledge of it is decidedly fragmentary.
Apparently most of its members were Panamanians, however, for when Brother Little died a few months after the lodge was founded, the dispensation was surrendered and the lodge secured a charter from the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, Grand Orient of New Granada (Colombia), in Cartagena, under the name of Isthmus Lodge of Panama No. 28. This was the same grand body which had chartered the last preceding lodge in Panama City, Franco-Granadina No. 15 (1854-1855), and it is reasonable to assume that many of the members of this subordinate lodge had become members of Isthmus Lodge.
It is not known that Isthmus Lodge did any work while it was under the Massachusetts Dispensation. If so, the work was presumably reported, in accordance with the Massachusetts By-Laws in force at that time, to the Deputy for Massachusetts then functioning in Peru, and the report never reached the Grand Lodge from him, or if it did it was probably among the papers which were destroyed by a fire in the Grand Lodge-Temple in 1867.
Isthmus Lodge of Panama No. 28 came under its new Cartagena jurisdiction on condition that it be allowed to work in the York Rite, in which it was originally instituted, instead of the Scottish Rite practiced by the Supreme Council of New Granada. Very little is known about its subsequent history except that it continued to work until 1872 when, on account of some regulation of the Supreme Council which was resented by the brethren, it surrendered its charter rather than conform. Probably many of the members who did not object to the regulation in question affiliated with a new lodge which had been founded in Panama City under the same Supreme Council in 1870, or with another under the same grand jurisdiction, founded in 1875. The first was La Estrella del Pacifico Lodge No. 33 ("Star of the Pacific"); the second Isthmus Lodge No. 36. They continued to exist until 1844 and 1885, respectively. Thus, in a sense, the work initiated zy the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1866 continued to bear fruit for nearly 20 years.
The foregoing meager narrative of the first Massachusetts lodge in Panama and its successors is based mainly on a brief account in the printed Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for 1866, together with some amplifications of it in a historical article devoted to Panamanian Masonry by Most Worshipful Brother Melvin Maynard Johnson which appeared in the Proceedings of the same Grand Lodge for 1917. (Most Worshipful Brother Johnson, one of the leading Masonic scholars in the United States, was at that time immediate Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and his article was published in connection with the formal recognition of the Grand Lodge of Panama by his Grand Lodge. This occurred early in 1917 and was largely brought about by Most Worshipful Brother Johnson. A subsequent article in this series will be devoted to this event.)
Efforts to discover more about Isthmus Lodge, U. D. and its chief founder have proved fruitless. With regard to the latter neither historical nor genealogical societies in New England or Nevada (from which state he was appointed to the consulship) could contribute any information, nor could several great libraries, including the Congressional Library in Washington. And all that the State Department records reveal is that Brother Little was appointed to the Panama City consulship by President Andrew Johnson on October 3, 1865, from the state of Nevada, as just mentioned, and that the last dispatch from him was dated September 18, 1866. It is reasonable to assume that he had not been living in Nevada long at the time of his appointment, since that state had been admitted to the Union only about 11 months before that time and the discovery therein of the famous Comstock Lode of silver (and some gold), which led to its peopling, had been made only 5 years before that. Under the circumstances, when it came to organizing a new lodge in Panama, rather naturally he would have felt a loyalty toward his home state Grand Lodge, in one of the subordinate lodges of which he presumably held membership (although in which one it has not been possible to determine), rather than to the new Grand Lodge of his residence state which had been organized only a short time before he must have left there for Panama.
Neither the date of the death of Brother Little, nor the place where his body was interred, seem to be on record either locally, including the files of the Star & Herald and its Spanish section La Estrella de Panama, or in the Department of State. Almost certainly, however, his death occurred in Panama City during the last 15 weeks of 1866 and his body was most probably returned to the United States for interment.
- William B. Little, Memorial
REFERENCES IN GRAND LODGE PROCEEDINGS
- Petition for Dispensation: 1906
- 1907 (Correspondence regarding the lodge, 1907-34)